saturday ramblings

I've been wrestling with my computer all morning.  It's so slow, so forgetful, so horribly wonky--and truly it's been like that for months.  I've tried everything I can do to save her life, but I'm going to give up on her. Over the months I've had a ton of encouragement from my kids and my husband to pull the plug, but the time never seemed right--until NOW! Still, it kills me to spend the money and the time on a new one, plus it's just hard for me to imagine that something so new is actually obsolete.  Still, I vow to see you next week with a new computer!

These are pictures from a few weeks ago.  I remember the day was beautiful and sunny so we sat outside for drinks.  In fact it was so pretty, I felt like shifting the table setting from indoors to an outdoor table, but then suddenly a whoosh of cold wind blew upon our little group and we came inside.  That's spring for ya!  

The magnolia in the first picture is from a large magnolia tree in our front yard.  This time of year I'll pick one blossom every few days.  They don't last long and turn caramel colored within a day, which is a fanciful way of saying they go brown, but gives me a reason keep them around for another day. And the fragrance!  They smell like you've just baked a lemon pudding cake.  I can't describe it any other way, but a combination of lemon, sugar and vanilla.  I'll bring the blossom into the bedroom at night and it will fill the entire room with it's lovely fragrance.  So nice.

Aren't the candles funny?  They were given to me years ago and I was always afraid to burn them and ruin them.  I've changed my ways now and rarely save anything for "good", believing that now is good enough.  Can you tell they are little hyacinth bulbs in different stages of growth?  I used tiny clay pots as candlesticks, lit them, and within an hour they were a puddle on my tablecloth.  The tablecloth is a vintage Le Jacquard Francais beauty.  It's a soft chartreuse color that looks so pretty in my house with the dark walls.  The border has a pattern of flatware and serving utensils, with the inside a melange of cabbages, gourds, grapes and other garden goodies. The plates and soup plates are Arte Italica that I purchases for 75% off this winter when a local shop went out of business.  I bought 12 of each and gave them to me for Christmas.  A bowl of key limes as a centerpiece finishes off my pretty table.  On the menu was lobster bisque to start, and because that is so rich, we had lighter fare for dinner--wedges of iceberg with egg, blue cheese, cherry tomatoes, bacon and chicken.  For dessert I passed a platter of chocolate dipped figs, apple slices and homemade cookies.  

Tonight, my son and his girlfriend and a few other friends are walking overnight in the San Francisco Out of the Darkness walk to honor loved ones, raise awareness, and raise funds for suicide prevention.  I lifted this from their site:  In the United States, a person dies by suicide every 13.3 minutes, claiming more than 39,500 lives each year. It is estimated that an attempt is made every minute, with close to one million people attempting suicide annually. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. among adults 18-65, the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults, and individuals ages 65 and older account for 16 percent of all suicide deaths. This is a public health issue that does not discriminate by age, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. I'm certain that most of my readers have been touched by suicide at sometime and I grieve with you.  I know this will be an emotional experience for my son, as he is especially thinking of a childhood friend lost last year to suicide.

xo Kristen

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Best Friday of the Month

Last night was the May gathering of of our Best Friday of the Month Group -- we meet every second Friday for a pot-luck dinner that always results in good food, good wine and great fellowship. This month Casey and Jack are our hosts. On Monday we received this email:

Good-MORNING, Chums. We'll be dining a la Vietnam on Friday--6 pm in our backyard (so bring a wrap). In the spirit of a communist country where some are more equal than others, I'M going to dictate the menu. Choose
from the following and I will send the corresponding recipe to you later today.

The Menu:

Prawn spring rolls--Casey (via Tour Eiffel; I've been warned that rolling those puppies is a job for the pros)
Mini-dumplings--Casey (via Ranch 99; see warning above)

Marinated and grilled chicken with dipping sauce.--Casey
Jasmine rice--Casey
Wok-charred eggplant --Casey

and now for the rest of you, make your claim:

Spicy cashews

Sublime noodles

Stir-fried green beans (I think these will work done ahead and served at  room temp--my cooking facilities at the pool house are limited)-recipe to come

Large green salad with whole herb leaves--more info to come

Fruit skewers--papaya and other exotica welcome if available, but strawberries in the market are lovely right now.

Small butter cookies with currants--recipe to come.

xxx Madame Chairperson

I quickly claimed the salad hoping that my garden would be able to supply the ingredients, then waited for my instructions.  Two days later I received this email:

Hi Kristen:

Salads in Vietnam are similar to French-style mixed green salads although they tend to feature the softer lettuces (I never saw romaine there, for example) but the big difference is that they always include whole herb leaves--especially mint and basil--in generous quantity.  For a dressing: just a simple vinaigrette with rice wine vinegar, not too acid.

xx Casey

Whole leaves of herbs?  This sounded like the salad would be way too strong, but I do as I'm told and went around my garden for baby kale, mint, basil, marjoram, chive flowers and nasturtium leaves and flowers.  The rest of the soft lettuces would be purchased at the store: baby spinach, a mix of Asian lettuces, and butter lettuce.  My dressing was simply rice vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Readers, this salad was a hit--I loved it so much, and by the look of the empty salad bowl at the end of the evening, everyone else felt the same.  If you recreate this salad at home, please don't be shy with the whole leaves of herbs.  Springtime is the perfect time for this as the herbs are very tender and mild.  This is going to be our new, every-night salad.  Here's a snippet of another email from Casey:   We learned at a cooking class in VN that they eat a lot of greens as it's pretty much their only source of calcium as they don't eat any dairy. So salad like this is always on an entree plate and at one restaurant the waiter gently scolded us for not wrapping pieces of our omelet around some greens.

Another note: the eggplant and green bean recipes are from the beautiful new "Slanted Door" cookbook--a lovely record of the food served at the wildly popular San Francisco restaurant in the beloved Ferry Building.  If you ever find yourself in SF, don't miss a chance to visit the Ferry Building and have a bite at the Slanted Door.

At the end of dinner, my tablemates and I cut into the pretty centerpieces of dragon fruit and exotic melons.  Besides being very pretty, they were very light and we all agreed, very delicious too.  Our California weather can only hold out so long, so we ended up in the pool house for coffee and fruit kebabs topped with a chocolate truffle!

Californians love to eat outside whenever possible.  Most spring, summer, and fall parties are held outside.  We know to bring sweaters and wraps, even coats to prolong our time outside--only rain or high winds will bring people in.

Above, one of the many giant ancient live oaks on the property.  The common live oak is an evergreen that is native to Northern California (and other mild climates) and dot our neighborhoods and cover our hills.  In the foreground is one of several blood orange trees they have.  The two blood oranges below were the last of the season and flavored the champagne.  Lovely.

Poolside tables were first lined with Asian newspaper then topped with Chinese paper banners to act as place mats.  Take-away containers held Sublime Noodles and colorfully-wrapped chopsticks and little sauce dishes stood at each setting to hold dipping sauces for the chicken.

The last rays of the sun shimmer on the walls of the pool house.

Buffet was served in the pool house, but we were able to eat outside as the weather was lovely.

The dragon fruit was very mild.

This melon tasted a bit like a crisp honeydew.  It was delicious and worth seeking out.

I loved the clever idea of topping fruit kebabs with chocolate truffles. 
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xo, Kristen


summer poetry/cotton poetry

I loved my last Poetry so much I decided to make another one for summer.  You might remember the original, from Rowan Magazine 56 and designed by Marie Wallin, was knit in Kid Classic and made a great wintery sweater.  But since I ended up wearing it so much I knew it would be a fabulous summer sweater knit in the great Rowan Handknit Cotton with it's similar gauge and drape.  Handknit Cotton has worked out so well for me in the past--it's very soft but manages to take multiple trips to the washer and dryer and still behave like a trouper.  White HKC is especially nice as it washes up bright and white no matter how dirty I get it or how often I wash it.  Plus it's very easy to knit; definitely one of the easiest cottons on the market.  Cotton yarns sometimes get a bad rap for being difficult to move on the needles and hard on the hands, but not this one.  I'm a fan.  It's not a yarn that is needle fussy, but I did prefer using my pointy Addi Lace needles.  The pattern is well written, quickly made and fun to wear--although I have been stopped on the street by people asking me (with a wink) if I just might have my sweater on backwards!  In fact, the back is one of the reasons why I like this sweater so much!

is part of the Rowan core line and an excellent value at ~$6.50 for 92 yards.
You can find it at your local Rowan stockist or at Jimmy Beans, Webs, and Deramores.

You can queue Poetry here.

I made some simple mods that you can read about on my Rav. project page.

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(The pink pants are from Gap; I bought another in charcoal.  Love them.)


Seis de Mayo Fiesta

The last dozen years or so, every May my husband has gone on a golf trip to the mountains with a group of guys that we met 30 years ago when we all had children in nursery school.  The men spread out between a few homes and meet up each morning for golf and again each evening for dinner. They seem to take little more than golf clubs, scotch, cigars and steaks, but I'm sure it's more than that as I hear they always eat well.  They go mid week and arrive home late afternoon on Friday.  I expect my husband to walk in the door any minute.  The guys take a quick shower then we head to someone's house for dinner, usually a potluck or Chinese take-out, just whatever seems easiest for the hostess.  Today it's at my house and since yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, and since we Californians love our Mexican food, I decided to make it a Mexican Fiesta potluck.  I'm providing the main course of chicken enchiladas (a super easy and delish recipe from my daughter) and a platter of cookies and everyone else is providing the rest.

We will be twenty and since it's raining today, we'll be eating inside.  I cannot possibly fit 20 around my tables, so it will be buffet style in the kitchen and finding a spot where you can--some at tables and some on sofas.  Luckily, the menu is fork food, so it makes eating on your lap easy enough.   All my roses above are from one big beautiful David Austin rose called The Pilgrim.  It's hard to choose a David Austin favorite, isn't it, but anyone who knows The Pilgrim knows it's magnificent!


White Sangria and Mexican Beer

Guacamole and Chips
Cowboy Caviar

Green Salad
Mexican Rice
Mexican Potatoes with Onions and Chilies
Black Beans


I'm feeling a burst of blog energy coming on.  Yay, finally!  I've missed being here!  I have three new sweaters that need modeling, then they'll make it into the blog.  Perhaps this weekend.  Also, I'm putting the finishing touches on my rose post which was a bit daunting as I had over 300 photos to winnow down to much, much less!  I went a bit overboard.  I really think that the thought of going through all of them put me off blogging for the last month!

I must go now as there's always a few things to do before the guests arrive.  Plus, I have to mentally prepare myself to hear a ton of golf stories ;)  

Adios muchachos y muchachas, let the fiesta begin!

what has my attention and a winner revealed

Apparently what doesn't have my attention is my blog!  I apologize for not coming back last week and announcing a winner for the skein of Rowan Softyak DK.  No excuse except to say that my blog is a hobby, a very beloved hobby, but like all hobbies, I only work on it when I have the interest.  Usually my bloggy interest is high, but these last few weeks--not so much.  It's happened many times over the years, and now when it happens, I just go with it and don't try to push it.  But I felt a little burst of blog energy coursing through me so I jumped on it!

Here's what you came for:  the winner of the skein of Rowan Softyak DK in the color Steppe is knittingdancer from Alabama!  I've contacted you on Ravelry, and as soon as I get your address, I'll zip it off in the mail to you.  Congratulations, I'm certain you'll love the yarn, and thank you to the rest who entered my giveaway.

Just because I've been dragging my heels with my blog doesn't mean I've been lazy about the other things I love, mainly gardening, knitting and the San Francisco Giants.  As for the former, our garden is looking terrific but is the most demanding mistress; and for knitting, well, you can see below what has my attention; and as for the Giants, we've been to one game so far and for the most part watch the rest of the games on TV--while knitting, naturally.

I'm fickle as anything about my knitting, bringing projects in and out of rotation as my whimsy dictates.  These 4 projects are receiving the most attention at the moment!

A brand new Crackerjack in The SF Giants colors:  four rows of linen stitch for each game played.  So fun.

One of my favorite sweaters from last year was Marie Wallin's Poetry knit in Kid Classic.  This time I'm making a Summer Poetry in the beautiful Rowan Handknit Cotton.

Rayeurs is a knit-in-the-round stripy cowl using fingering weight baby wools; Dale Garn Baby Ull and Rowan Pure Wool 4-ply.  This basket is kept by my desk and is grabbed when I have a phone call.  I never have to count or think about what row I'm on. 

I've had this gorgeous Rowan Yorkshire Tweed DK in a beautiful medium silver for a decade at least.  A few weeks ago while at the Make Wear Love retreat I purchased Carrie Bostick Hoge's book, Madder 2.  I could knit everything in that book, but the first thing I'm making is the Lori Shawl.  It's my meeting and movie knit, a garter stitch no-brainer.  There's no need to look at it or think about it, just let the fingers fly!  I recently took this to a ball game and it was perfect.  I could jump up to cheer, sit back down and know right were I was: garter all the way!