We don't do things small here in the Wild West. It's go big or go home. So I got me a biiiiiig buncha books.
I just got home. I was going to sit down and read one of these but instead I got the urge to knit a bunny. So weird when that happens (when you're about to read but then you find yourself knitting a bunny). I know you know what I mean.
Miss Bridget Paulson has come to keep me company today. I get very excited whenever the Bee comes to hang around the studio. I want to start fussing: show her all my favorite fabrics, bring her cookies and orange juice, play the good songs. But that's the wrong tack to take with the Bee. You must play it cool around the Bee. She's about as cuddly as a ticket stub, and would just as soon punch you in the nose as let you ruffle her downy-soft headfeathers. If you try, just use your index finger, very lightly, right between the ears . . . tickle . . . tickle — whoosh! There she goes. Gone. Eleven years of living with the Bee has taught me to take her on her own terms. Be faux-oblivious. When she comes in the studio and hangs out on my cutting table like this (it's very rare) I'm all, "Oh, is someone else here? Hmmm? Doo-dee-dee, I don't see any cats here." Just the Bee, half cat, half fairy, half hobgoblin. Half baby bird. I love my kitty.
Yes, you. I love you and there is nothing you can do about it.
So, who knew the readers of this blog were major historical pioneer fiction buffs?????!!!!! NICE. Very nice. Thank you for all of the recommendations. Thank you thank you. I was going to go to Powell's today and peruuuuuse, but the day's already half over, so, tomorrow. I have had a tough time reading this past year, and really miss it. If you have any other suggestions (for historical pioneer fiction), please put them on yesterday's post, so they're all together for anyone to find. Today I am trying to make two inset pockets with flaps and welts and linings (blech — not my best work). I did it, but I still have no idea how I did it.
OH. THE BEE DID IT.
Oooo, I have a bunch of finished knitted things around here. It's taking soooo long for things that are blocking to dry. Winter-time. I'd say four or five or even six days on the blocking board before they are ready. Smells like a wet barn. Clover's ears flicker. Is there something to herd?
I have been knitting a lot lot. I should get back to work, I know. I learned a long time ago to just kind of let January go. Even if I had an idea, I'd probably mess it up, somehow. I give myself a break these days. I didn't used to, but I do now. I do have two ideas, actually. One for a little hat and one for an embroidered alphabet sampler. But neither of them are knitted. Can I knit the taxes? 'Cause that's what I really need to be working on. But that's not fun.
The Curry Vest came off the needles in a day. That's probably nuts. I just have about, oh, four or five million things I want to make. That's all. Andy and I have been lucky enough to have a few weekends where we just sit around, watch movies, chop wood (him) and stoke the fire (me), make things to eat (both), knit (both — yep, he knits too), play Oregon Trail (not as good as the original, but still fun) and Words with Friends, and pet the pets. I said, "This is a lot like college. Just with better food and more animals. And a nice fireplace. Oh, and cable. And no homework."
I think we have all been kind of tired. It is so unusual not to have things outside the house lined up to do, but we haven't lately. So nice to not be careening from one place to another for a bit. I'm starting to feel very partial to January after all. This ain't bad.
Oh — question: Anyone have a recommendation for adult historical pioneer fiction (other than Little House on the Prairie — already read it)? Preferably a long book or a series of books?
The first three cookbooks I ever owned were The Silver Palate Cookbook, The Moosewood Cookbook, and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Remember those? My copies are so ragged and stained now. I've had them since about 1990 or so — around the time I moved off-campus and had my first real kitchen. All three of them are illustrated with the most delightful black-and-white drawings, and the Moosewood ones are handwritten. I really, really love that simple line art. I wonder if there are any cookbooks being published right now that have illustrations and type design like that. All of the cookbooks I've bought or been given recently are so gorgeously photographed and amazing and I love them. But it's funny how the little drawings in these older cookbooks still inspire me just as much as the pretty pictures in my new books. Makes me want to draw something with a fine-tipped black marker.
Every few weeks I've been roasting four bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (like Ina taught me). I shred the meat and freeze it in separate portions, then make stock from the bones to freeze, as well. I have become someone who has homemade stock in the freezer now. And shredded chicken, ready to go. This has been a really welcome addition to the pantry (the frozen pantry) on nights when I couldn't be less inspired to cook. It's also kind of nice when you when you're somewhere in between: craving something, but feeling lazy. The original recipe for the Silver Palate curried cream of chicken soup has you cooking a whole chicken, waiting for it to cool, etc. This is my version of that, which relies on freezer-pantry stock and shredded chicken. It gave me time to bake another loaf of the no-knead bread.
Curried Cream of Chicken Soup
4 tablespoons butter
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
5 cups chicken stock
1 handful of parsley, chopped
1/2 cup long-grain brown rice
1 cup (or so) of shredded chicken
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup half-and-half
Melt the butter in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, carrots, and curry powder and cook over low heat, covered, until vegetables are tender. Add the stock, parsley, and rice. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, and cover; simmer until rice is thoroughly cooked, about 30 minutes. Pour the soup through a strainer and be sure to save the stock. Put the solids back into the soup pot, add 1 cup of the stock, and puree everything together with a hand-blender. (If you don't have one you can run it all through the food processor in batches.) Add the remaining stock to the puree along with the shredded chicken and peas and heat everything through. Add half-and-half, heat through again, and season with salt and pepper.
We're having a corgi play-date and Andy's making Edwardo's stuffed pizza tonight. I just asked him if he would do a blog post about the pizza and he said yes!!!
I finished this little vest over the weekend and then whipped out a little dress (like this one but smaller) that looked a snow flurry to go with it. When I uploaded all of the photos from the big black camera (which by some miracle, yes, came home all in one piece) I found this one from Timberline, which was pretty much exactly the scene I'd had in my mind, just from memory, the whole time I was knitting and sewing:
Speaking of photos, how cool was that rainbow picture yesterday? He said he couldn't even see what was on the screen when he took the photo because he was holding the phone down really low. Awesome. (And thank you to those of you who mentioned Audrey, too. I was very touched by that.)
The whole idea of vests is pleasing me very much lately. I was looking at some kids' knitting patterns from the 1950s through the '80s and it was kind of interesting to see how differently the sizing works based on general fashion trends. Sleeves from the '80s were crazy huge — armholes so big, and sleeves so bulky, with so much fullness built in (mimicking shoulderpads or something, I'm guessing). They all looked really uncomfortable. This vest has armholes that look quite small to me — smaller than several of the other sweaters I've made that are supposed to be this size. But I don't know. In general I just make things exactly as the patterns says to, and make the size that corresponds to how much yarn I have. I like the wooden flower buttons for the vest so much. I picked them because they reminded me of all of the carved banisters at Timberline.
That's the back. I wish you could feel how soft this little knit is. It's so cuddly. Alpaca is so, so nice.
Almost forgot — here is my Ravelry page for this :-). I'll definitely be doing more of this one.
There were so many poignant reflections in Friday's comments — thank you for all of those. They carried me through the weekend (which was terrarium warm) and made me remember things. I remembered us sledding with my dad in the forest preserve a few blocks from our house — that strange gravel field near the railroad tracks bordered by a ring of tree-covered embankments, how incredibly cold and white it would be on those Sundays, how big and black and bare the trees were, Arthur Rackham trees, the bright sleds and snowsuits, how our shouts and laughter would carry through the quiet woods. You could hear every word.
Do you like curry? Some people don't. I don't think anyone in my family likes it. Turns out, I love it. I love almost every type of curry, green, red, yellow, massaman, Thai, Indian. It's all good. This is curried sweet potato soup (and goat cheese biscuits) from Joy the Baker. I really think that this soup would appeal to everyone, even people who don't like curry, because as Joy says, it's not really curry-y. It's just delicious. I made it exactly as her recipe said to. It's sweet and spicy and savory, and topped with a sprinkle of goat cheese and served with the goat cheese biscuits? Every bit as good as she said it was going to be. Gotta love when that happens.
Goat cheese is a taste that I like in very small bites. A little goat cheese, in my opinion, goes a long way. Here, paired with the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, it is wonderful, and balances everything out. And nothing's easier than a drop biscuit. This one is like a savory cloud, but crispy on the outside. Anyway, you should make all of this. I should make it again, 'cause it's all gone.
It's certainly not as "bad" as winter in most of the rest of the country right now (snow, snow, snow in every state except Florida — wow), but winter in Portland, Oregon, comes with its own challenges, I think. Since there is generally no snow, it seems extra dark because it's muddy: Without the whiteness of snow, the light has nothing to reflect off of, and the mud and wet pavement seems to absorb what limpy little light there is. Mud and rain outside make it quite dark inside the houses and buildings. There is green grass, in a way, sort of a weird grayish-green. But the sky is often really dark, and it's a solid sort of gray, and can hang very low and too close. It can feel rather . . . like you're in a sink of cold, dirty dishwater (says Andy, when I just asked him to describe it). Yup. Like that.
People respond to winter so differently, really. Some people will tell you that winters in Portland are easy. Relative to the frequent blizzard conditions of my childhood, that seems true. Ish. I grew up in Chicago and went to college in western Illinois, where snow plows and salted sidewalks and shoveling out (and skating ponds) were ubiquitous and routine. When Andy and I moved to Montana in 1994 I didn't own a car, and walked every day through miles of snowy streets, or through the woods, or down the path along the Clark-Fork River. One night, when Andy and I had just started living together in our little studio apartment in Missoula, we got in a fight about chocolate sauce. I can't remember the details, but I know there was a jar of chocolate sauce heating in a pan of furiously boiling water on the stove when I walked out the back door. I walked in the dark down to the river path — basically, the woods. It was incredibly quiet. As I got to the river it started to snow in huge, floating flakes. It was the first snow of the season. It was so, so beautiful. I was too mad and stupid to go back and get Andy. I cried because I was so mad and stupid and lonely. I've never forgotten that feeling — that no-chocolate-sauce loneliness, those falling flakes lit by streetlights on my cold walk home, the shame of my lonely self-righteousness burning my cheeks.
Lesson learned: Go back and get him.
When we moved to Portland, I have to admit that I honestly did not realize that it doesn't snow here. "Wait, we moved here, but it doesn't snow here?" "Yup." "Wait, but there's a pine tree [pointing desperately] right there. It doesn't snow here?" "Nope." I still feel like it's all just some big misunderstanding. It snows here, in town, but only very rarely, and when it happens it's a Big Deal. Portlanders will tell you, "Oh, but you can just go to the mountain if you want snow!" So we do that when we can, yes. But somehow I never stop missing snow here. Right here. Snow in the yard, on the sidewalk, in the birdbath. Snow on the woodpile and the porch. Snow on the street and the stairs. Snow in the city. I try not to long. Instead, we keep the fireplace going, we get a big stack of mystery novels to read, we have way too many cable channels, we go to movies, we sit in bookstores and drink really good coffee, we drink really good coffee almost every other place you can imagine, we make big pots of hot soup, (we do have really good bread here in Portland, too), we get good rain gear and keep it right by the front door, we get to the mountain when we can, we wear wool, and we knit (things the color of curried sweet potatoes and glowing embers and winterberries) like machines. This is the Winter in Portland sweater.
Okay. Time to get back to Soup School here before I forget how I made the soup. This one was soup-er! If I do say so myself. If you think I blather on soupishly here, you should hear me at home. "Oh, nice. Oh, this is good. You guys [to Clover and Violet], this is good. [They appear nonplussed.] Guys, really! Really! Good!" And then Andy gets home. I hear front door open and shut: "Honey did you have the soup yet?" Him: "Dude I just walked in the door!" Me: "I know, but . . . "
[Knit knit knit. Detect kitchen-y noises. Wait for pending compliments on soup.]
"This is awesome!!!"
[Smile smile smile. Polish knuckles on nightgown.] "You know that's right!"
I need very little encouragement, in fact. Now that the kitchen is all cleeeeeeeean. And the winds are all hoooooowling. And the rain is all cooooooooooold. Roasted roots are an antidote for winter weather, don't you think? Here's how I did them.
Roasted Root Soup
(A modified version of Joy the Baker's Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Soup)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced into 1" rings (wash them well)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
3 cloves of garlic, in skins
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups chicken stock, warmed
1 tablespoon fresh sage (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/4 cup cream or half-and-half
Preheat oven to 375 degres F. Spread squash, leeks, sweet potato, and garlic out on a half-sheet pan or large baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss everything with your hands to make sure it is all coated with oil. Roast in the hot oven for about 20-25 minutes until squash is soft when poked with a fork. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with brown sugar and nutmeg. Let cool a bit. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skin onto the other vegetables (and discard garlic skins).
Scoop everything into a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Add 3 cups of chicken stock and puree vegetables with a hand blender. (You can transfer everything into a regular blender in batches, too, but a hand blender is perfect for this.) Once it's almost at the consistency you like (I like it thick), add the last cup of stock and sage. Simmer over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes. Add cream and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with garlic bread — here's my super-quick method: Toast thick slices of bread in regular toaster until just barely golden. Slice one (peeled) clove of garlic lengthwise and rub cut side of garlic all over one side of the hot toast. Drizzle with a little olive oil or spread a bit of butter. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and pop it all under the broiler for about a minute (watch it — it sizzles quickly). Serve hot!
Today I'm going to take time out of my busy Words with Friends–playing schedule to actually do some work. When the work involves wool I don't know if it can really be classified as work, but that's my story and I'm stickin. The camera and other knitting my two security blankets found their way home yesterday. They shipped everything without any padding in a box that had two big holes, one on each side, for handles; when I picked up the box there were circular knitting needles sticking right out of one of the holes. I'm sure there are stitch markers somewhere all over Highway 26.
My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com
Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.