Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Wee Bit of Baking

I don't know if I've told you this, but Jane Brocket's "The Gentle Art of Domesticity" is like my Home Bible. Not in a religious way, but in a this-book-is-everything-I-love-about-being-a-homebody-and-inspires-me-to-do-everything-I-love-in-a-creative-and-fascinating-way.

I'm sure that I've already mentioned that I savored every page of this book at night while a cup of tea and curled up in my bed, with a warm, little guy by my side (not Ian, Ben). I marked pages for recipes, added movies to my queue on Netflix that she recommended (all SUPER so far!), reading books that were listed as awesome (which, again, have been wonderful!) and got so inspired by all of her not-complicated, but beautiful quilts, that I've started one of my own.

I dragged my ironing board out from the laundry room, bought a new blue, floral cover for it and brought my iron out of hiding. I set the whole thing up (along with all of the new cotton, quilt fabrics I bought from Purl Soho) in my bright (although not on the day of this photo) yellow and white kitchen. After washing my fabrics, I set about ironing them...and everyone seemed to gather in the kitchen with me! Ben took out his watercolors and quietly started to paint some pictures, Tim and Mike came in to chat with me (teen alert!) about random things and have a snack, and even the cat came to sit on the windowsill. All the while, I'm ironing in a very relaxed way. It was almost like a meditation and everyone got sucked in!

Push, push, smooth, readjust, push, smooth, fold.

Since THAT went so well, I decided to try one of the recipes from her book. Now, I'm not at all a baking type of mom. I can put self cut cookie shapes on a baking sheet and bake them and make a mean apple pie, but that's about it. I have made a loaf of bread or two, but nothing fabulous. When I saw the recipe for "Natural Lemon Cake", I knew I had to make it. I LOVE lemon anything. Yummmmmm.

After carefully procuring and adding the ingredients, I got this:

A very thin and soupy batter. Everything was measured with extreme precision (at least as far as it's possible in anyone's kitchen), so I'm not sure if it was MEANT to be this liquid-y or if the ingredient amounts were wrong. It only called for 1/2 cup of flour for the entire cake and I thought, wow....that's very little flour.

But, I kept going, hoping that it would all work out.

Here is the cake right out of the oven...

Smelled very good, but about 1/3 of the size I thought it would be...compared to the picture of it in the TGAOD book.

When it cooled, I took it out of the pan and found it to be even thinner than I'd thought. I've taken a picture here with a half of a lemon for comparison:

I frantically checked online to see if anyone else had made this cake and found a couple of bloggers who had the same thing happen to them. I was relieved that it wasn't me, but a bit sad that the cake was so tiny.

Later on, I mixed up the frosting...with real lemon juice...(I could have smeared some on anything and it would have tasted good! Well...almost anything) , spread it on top of the mini-cake, and arranged it nicely on a white ceramic plate. (forgot to take a pic...ugh)

Though the cake was less than the beautiful, huge mountain of lemony-goodness that I'd hoped for, it was eaten with no less enthusiam - we drooled, licked out lips and gobbled that cake up in a matter of hours. (a slight exaggeration, but barely)


Now, before you ask if I'm still knitting, I will let you have a peak of what I've been working on, but I want to save the final sharing of it when I'm finished.

Can you guess what it is? (Manchvegans cannot guess...they've seen me knitting it for the past week) Can you guess what yarn I'm using?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Afternoon Tea & Knitting

I have to admit that, despite my love of dirty talk and inappropriate topics, I'm a bit old-fashioned. I've always felt that I was born in the wrong century. I love the idea of Victorian times (with the exception of perhaps the bathroom situation). I love fancy, embroidered dresses, kid gloves, sitting around the parlor with a book or hand work (like knitting, embroidery, etc.) and afternoon tea.

Yes, you can have afternoon tea anywhere, but I think atmosphere makes a huge difference.

So, it's very convenient that I have a very beautiful tea room, Antiquiteas, about 5 minutes from my house. Though why I've never gone there, is beyond me.

Today was the day to change all that.

After a month or so of planning, I managed to recruit 9 other knitters to come with me to afternoon tea. I spent a large amount of time trying to find something wonderful to wear, but ended up maybe the least nicely dressed there. Ugh...the large bust was not in fashion in Victorian times! (and the dresses that I could fit were WAY beyond my financial means)

It was a truly wonderful experience. Everything that I had hoped it would be.

The quaint, clean, prettily decorated tea room...complete with bone china of various lovely designs:


The scrumptious finger foods....the best tuna sandwich I've had in a while, chicken salad with cranberries, cream cheese/cucumber, fresh fruit, dried apricots with bacon (very strange, but delicious), savory egg salad cup, and desserts - fresh gingerbread sponge, angelfood cake, cheesecake, raisin scones, butterscotch cupcake-ish-thing, etc. Oh, I was happily stuffed after lunch.

The delicate cups of tea (such a pleasant taste!) with a little milk and sugar cubes (love cubes!): (as observe my knitting...a seed stitch scarf with 2 colors of Classic Elite Lush)

And, last, but not least, excellent company...Melissa, Gigi, Mary, DonnaH, Rebecca, Maureen, Caroline, Jackie, and Ericka...see above.

After the tea, we happened to go downstairs to the Antique store/tea store and, OMG, it was like heaven! Only a yarn store or book store could have made me more thrilled. There were gorgeous old dresses, gloves galore, tons of lovely costume jewelry- (it was like shopping in my grandmother's bureau!), old magazines, tea pots, teas, kitchen accessories, hundreds of hats (I LOVED the ones that Caroline and Maureen found), and, of course, tea cozies. Actually, a whole ROOM full of tea pots and cozies.

I spent many, many minutes trying to figure out which cozy I wanted (with the patient help of Jackie, Gigi and Maureen) and here is the one I ended up with:

A white tea pot with cozy of blue and red cabbage roses. Lovely. And, now, I have the perfect teapot for making cozies for. I have the pattern already queued on Ravelry - with the yarn, too! (Strangely enough, one is going to be pink and the other a bluish/purple)

I also picked up this very interesting looking Autograph book:

I can't tell you how much I lurve old books...especially ones that are older than 1930 and are leather bound. I found this and knew I had to have it. It was only $7, so it was a steal, really.

Inside, there are only two autographs, but they are so sweet and quaint, that I have to share them with you. Here is the first one:

"Once again I dream of the place I long to go. Back to the hills of sunshine and my friends so we can spend all our happy hours together so we will all be happy and never be lonesome or blue." John F. Keating, January 16, 1934.

The second is shorter:

"To Linnie:

When the golden sun is setting;
And your heart from care is free,
Remember, oh remember that
Bessie often thinks of thee.

With Best Wishes,
Bessie E. Michelson
November 8, 1933."

Such a marvelous surprise find, don't you think?

After such an interesting and uplifting day, I had to give little awards to the people that put up with me accompanied me to tea...

Best Dressed
First Prize: Jackie (where the heck is that picture I took of her?)...in her slender, red linen dress and handknit black bolero with the red trim and knitted rose.

Second Prize: Rebecca with her awesome huge, black hat and lovely shoes (her shoes are always so nice).

Third Prize: Melissa...who had the most authentic Victorian-ish hat/hairstyle and aura of "afternoon tea with friends".

Most Prompt

First Prize: Mary, who arrived a full 30 minutes early to tea...the first to arrive and must be applauded.

Second Prize: Ericka, who arrived not long after and wore very hot pumps and a glorious, newly knit Clapotis.

Third Prize: Gigi, who always knows exactly the right time to arrive someplace and gives our get-togethers a feeling of firm authority and interest (not sure if that makes sense, but it's the feeling I have).

Most Surprising

First Prize: DonnaH- who I'm NOT saying doesn't ever look nice (because she does) but, man, she cleans up! Loved the earrings, outfit and all-over look. Snazzy and spectacular!

Second Prize: Maureen -again, not an insult....but I loved her bell earrings (she promised she'd be there with bells on..and, by god, she did!), her blouse was fabulous with such bright colors and designs, and cool (and also comfortable, she said) pumps.

Most Essential

The only prize....goes to Caroline...who I feel is an integral part of any group outing, knitting or otherwise. No one else can lend that combination of friendliness, interest in any topic, down-to-earth attitude and enthusiasm that Caroline can.

An absolutely awesome day....and I can't wait to do it again!!!! (must remember to put aside a good hour after tea for another look in that antique shop! No one buy those pink gloves!) LOL

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Quick Quack Catch Up

It's been for-e-ver since I've blogged. I could make excuses like...I was sick (which I was), I was tired (which I definitely was), I was in transition with the kids going back to school (which is also true) and that I'd knitted very little so didn't have much to share (which is somewhat true, but sad, too)....but I will just say that...well, at least I'm blogging now : D

Since it's late, I'll be blogging semi-short and quick. So, here we go!

1. Fabric

I made a very guilty purchase from Purl Patchwork a couple of weeks ago and bought some gorgeous cotton fabrics for making my very first quilt (in my eyes, the tiny ones I've made for my kids toys don't really count). These fabrics are not only incredibly cheerful, but I think will blend perfectly together for a unique and fun-to-create quilt. I was lucky to receive some truly helpful advice from a talented quilter at my local library and, now, all I need are the necessary tools...and TIME.

2. Pumpkin Hat

A very belated knitted hat for a daughter of a friend of ours. She is one of only a few little girls I can knit for and her mom actually has her wear the things I knit, which makes them both very knit-worthy. I knit a little dress, Berry Hat and Mittens set and other things for her so far. I thought this was the right season to send a cute, Pumpkin picking hat. View my details of the project HERE on Ravelry.

3. Ravelry Visit

I was extremely lucky to be working one Sunday at the Yarn and Fiber Co. with some of my best knitting pals and...who should walk in to the store?????

Jess, Casey and Bob of Ravelry!!!!

There was much squealing, laughing, giggling and jumping up and down (don't know what everyone else was doing, though...) and it was the greatest pleasure to sell Jess some skeins of Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool.

Bob ran around the store like a maniac and did his best to look utterly cute and adorable. Casey sat with us at the knitter's table and we talked with him and a couple of friends of theirs about the website and things like that....I can't remember much now...my mind was in a daze and I was smiling like a maniac.

BEST SUNDAY EVER! is all I can say.

4. Boston Duck Tour with Family

After the first week of September being a crazy, stress-filled I might jump off a cliff school transition week and the second week finding Ian and I sick with horrible end-of-the-summer death warmed over on sticks colds, we were happy (and relieved) to wake up on Sunday feeling better. Ian's aunt from Arizona called us and asked if we'd like to meet them in Boston for a Duck Tour.

Believe it or not, we've NEVER done this and we were excited to. We drove down to Boston (I remembered my knitting and Ravelry bag!), shopped at the Prudential building mall (or whatever it's called...I went to Sephora!!!), and then met up in the later afternoon for the tour.

It was SO much fun!!! Ben loved seeing all the skyscrapers and parks (and quacking when prompted by our driver)...while Tim was thrilled because he actually got to DRIVE/STEER the boat in the Charles River!!!! He even got a sticker for doing it. That was the highlight of his day....take a look at him!

I've only met Ian's aunt once, so this was a great time to get to know her and we talked a lot. She was a wildlife biologist and traveled all over the world rescuing animals. Extremely exciting work!! What an interesting lady and very different from Ian's mom, who is very quiet and shy.

After our boat tour, we had a nice dinner together and came home with just enough time to get the kids off to bed. But, wow, what a great day. It's funny how we never do things that are "tourist-y", even though they're things that should, if not must, be done...and they're so close by, really. Ian and I promised ourselves that, for our next anniversary or whenever we get someone to watch the kids overnight, we're going to spend the whole weekend in Boston - stay at a fancy hotel, go shopping, go for walks in the botanical garden, visit the churches (for the gorgeous architecture) and library....I can't wait!!!

And, so....before I sign off...QUACK QUACK! that means 'Happy Knitting' in duck-ese