I scored a kombucha scoby (otherwise known as a mother, starter, what have you) at the last Cville Swaps.   Edie has been interested in brewing it, which translates to I should be interested in brewing it for her, which is how I came to acquire this.  The first batch I brewed, the mother never floated to the top – I thought for sure I’d killed it or done something wrong.  A few worried emails were sent to my friend Stephanie, who talked me off the ledge and told me what to look for – if there was scum on the top or any tentacle like thing floating,  I was in good shape.  Sure enough, there appeared to be a small jellyfish floating and so spurred on by my success, I went for batch number two. Continue reading

Adventures of a few different sorts.

Remember how last year it was freakishly warm super early last spring?  Strawberry season came & went in the blink of an eye with that heat.  This year, the opposite has happened – it’s just not warm enough for strawberries to ripen at many area berry patches, including the one in my own yard.   Some of the berry patches have yet to open for the season – including my favorite, Middle River Farms, outside of Grottos.   Considering it’s over in the Shenandoah Valley, which is always just a little bit behind us in the harvest, it’s not that much of a surprise.  I’ve been chomping at the bit to pick some strawberries this year though.  Maybe it’s the result of last week’s canning class, with it’s successful jam that Edie said was “almost as good as Daniel’s“.  High Praise indeed.  Or maybe it’s that we finished up the last of the freezer strawberries last week.  Or maybe, it’s that it’s mid-May and I want fresh strawberries every day, because this is the time of year for them.

Whatever the reason, I decided to check out a new berry patch I’d heard about south of town, Seaman’s Orchard, outside of Roseland.  Which is more than a little south of town – it’s south of Lovingston and closer to Lynchburg than it is Charlottesville.    Price wise, their pick your own is more expensive than Middle River Farms, but still cheaper than Chile’s.  And the view?


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In progress.

Now that the canning season is winding down, I’ve been able to move out of the kitchen somewhat and onto other projects.  First up, a check on the progress of Pat’s sweater.

 From that angle, it doesn’t appear as if much progress has been made, but really, it has.

 See?  That’s a few inches there.  There’s 360 stitches per row.  The first few rows took me about an hour each, but I’ve managed to pick up some speed and can now do a row in 30-45 minutes.  I’ve completed the armpits and am now starting to shape it, heading up to the shoulders. I had Edie help me with the math and I think I have about 60 rows or so until I can start the collar.  If I sat and did nothing else for an entire work week, I might get it done by Christmas.  I think I’ll shoot for his birthday towards the end of January.  That seems do-able as well as gives me a project for those lazy days after Christmas when I like to sit around, watch tv and eat cake.

I also went ahead and bought another cone of yarn, ensuring that the last of the two cones I had on hand for this will be enough. Whenever I get nervous and go out and buy more yarn to finish a project, I ensure myself leftovers.  I haven’t decided what I’m doing with the leftovers yet.  Thoughts?

I’m also whipping up a pair of fingerless gloves for the lucky coworker that my husband drew in his office holiday gift exchange.  She had fingerless gloves on her list of suggested gifts.  I’m using some merino from the stash that I inherited when the university students moved out last spring.  Someone left two large boxes of yarn out by the curb that my friend Eddie found and dropped off here.  There was a mix of acrylic and really nice stuff (like this merino), but most of the nice stuff was in some weird colorways.  I kept some for myself and shared some, just for projects like this.  This yarn is from a local farm and is dreamy to work with.  The pattern is a slightly altered one from Knitty called Fetching– they are quick and easy.  I knit the left handed one seen there in a night’s worth of television watching. 

 Also on my needles is a poncho for Edie.  I’m trying to surprise her at Christmas, which means working on this when she’s not around.  Which means outlasting her at bedtime.  Thankfully she’s got a sleepover this weekend, so I’m hoping to make some real progress, because outlasting her at bedtime is really hard.
  I’m basing her poncho on the poncho I knit for myself several years ago that was only slightly based on a pattern.  Her poncho involves a good bit of counting stitches, looking at my poncho and math.  Oh math.  How I don’t like you.
The yarn for Edie’s poncho is also from the stash, some of it from the discarded stash Eddie dropped off.  I’m hoping I have enough and am resisting going out to buy more until I really have to. Really.
This last project is something for me.  I found this yarn (which I can assure you does not glow like this in real life) for $2/ball at the Fiber Festival last month.  I had gone telling myself I was not going to buy myself anything unless of course, I found a deal too good to pass up and especially if it involved orange yarn.  Clearly the yarn gods were listening.  I want to do a lacy scarf with this, but I’ve had the hardest time finding a pattern I can work without having to rip it out and restart it 4 times.  These two have passed the test, but I’m not sure about committing to either one.
Yes, this one is lovely and open, not to mention knits up incredibly fast and easy,  but I just knit myself an orange zig-zag scarf last fall.
 And while one can have multiple black velvet pants, black wool pleated skirts and black cardigans, how many orange zig zag scarves can one really have?
And while I like this pattern, something about it says Old Lady Acrylic Sweater to me.   I like it, but I’m not sure I want to commit to it.  I’m starting to think that maybe I should knit a cowl out of the orange yarn but I’ve yet to find a pattern I really like, so I’ve started pondering the idea of maybe just making one up.  I know, it’s a huge, HUGE step for me, poncho not withstanding.  For what I have in mind and from what I’ve read, I think I can do it.  I am starting to see the appeal of a cowl, and I want something new & orange to go around my neck, so why not?
I have not completely abandoned the kitchen though.  Currently sitting on my counter are two hot pepper ferments:
On the left is a roasted poblano ferment.  My friend Kathy brought some to last Sunday’s swap and it was quite tasty.  I swapped her for a jar of it, in addition to her recipe, as I still had a few gallon bags of poblanos sitting in my fridge, waiting to be dealt with. (Also, it was soooo good, I wanted to make sure I had a supply before eating it all!)  I had a goal of getting a few more jars of pickled peppers, another batch of fermented peppers and at least one batch of chili rellenos out of what I had grown this year.  I can report complete success – I got two more pints of pickled peppers, a batch of Kathy’s roasted ferment AND I have exactly enough good sized peppers to make chili rellenos for the fam for dinner soon.
The ferment on the right is a mix of chili peppers from my friend Cynthia, some of Grandpa Jack’s habaneros and my jalapenos.  They’ve been sitting there about a month or so now.  I’m not exactly sure what my next step with them is going to be, as it’s an experiment, but I can tell you that when you open the jar, your sinuses totally open up.  I read that fermenting chilis was the key to a good flavorful hot sauce (Tabasco is fermented), so in my quest to make a good hot sauce, I thought I’d try it.
I haven’t totally stopped canning, but it has been winding down.  I did several batches of applesauce and apple butter from a few bushels of apples I got out at Henley’s orchard. I came to the realization that I could make a batch of applesauce in my stock pot in a fraction of the time (45 minutes) it took me to make it in the crock pot (about 4 hours), although with the crock pot, I can come & go and not have to keep an eye on it.  I also get nervous about burning the bottom of my pot, as I’ve done with things in the past.  So far so good, I even did a batch of cranapple butter on the stovetop, which took less than 2 hours on low (vs. overnight on low in the crockpot).  I’m not totally giving up the crockpot, as it makes far less of a mess than doing it on the stove and I can leave it unattended, but it’s nice to know I can put up a bushel or two of apples in no time flat on my stove top.
 The cranapple butter came out tasting like cranapple juice –  you mostly taste the cranberries, but they are sweet thanks to the apples. I threw some cranberries and a bit of water in a pan, cooked it for about 10 minutes, then threw it in with the applesauce, about a half cup of sugar and cooked it down until it was the right consistency. Edie has a big thing for cranberries and claims to be ‘over’ apple butter, so I thought she’d like this.  The freezers got a few apple pies while I was at it.  My two basement chest freezers are now at capacity, I’m out of half pint jars and down to my last half case of pint jars.  I might try a small batch of pickled cranberries before I completely call it a season until strawberries come back around, but as you can see, I have some knitting to knock out in the next few weeks.

Something new?

I’m bored with my clothes right now.  I have no good transition pieces for this time of year.  I feel it’s too early to break out the wool and velvet, too chilly for linen, I’m not quite into wearing cords yet and I really hate all my jeans right now.  This morning I remembered I still had a balance on my Marshalls gift card that my girl scout troop gave me as a thank you for leading the troop last year, so I took myself shopping.  I spent an hour wandering around, trying things on and left with this:

A new black cardigan.
Black cardigans have been a staple of my closet since high school.  This would be black cardigan number Five in my closet currently,  not to be confused with the black velvet blazer collection.  Thankfully, both work with the black wool pleated Talbots skirt collection and the black velvet pants collection I’ve got going on.   
I wear a lot of black. And the same styles, clearly, if you are familiar with the demin skirt (as seen above) that my college girlfriends have pointed out I’ve worn since at least 1992. Although the one I’m wearing there is a newish one, acquired this summer while thrifting.  Edie has taken to calling me ‘goth mom’. Apparently, she didn’t get the memo that my style hasn’t changed since 1986, despite adding some charcoal grey in the form of cardigans and at least one wool pleated Talbots skirt and the occasional pink shirt as seen above.
The lines of this new one are divine.  And it’s cashmere.  And the price was just right.  Ultimately, both Edie & Betty highly approved my purchase, even if it’s yet another black cardigan.
I did try something new in the kitchen today though.

Fermenting peppers. 
I’m on this quest to make a good hot sauce.  Something more interesting than just peppers and vinegar.  I’ve read that fermenting is the key to Tabasco, so why not try that as my first step?  Pat’s dad, Grandpa Jack, brought me a grocery bag of habarenos that I combined with various chili’s.   I can already tell you that you need eye protection when opening the jar the fumes are so hot.  Should be good stuff.
But of course while trying something new, I had to go with what I know. 

Pickled peppers.
We opened a jar of last year’s batch a few weeks ago to eat on some nachos and they were so good we ate the entire jar. I think I used this recipe in making that batch (I used like 3 different pickled pepper recipes last summer and this one I identified by the spices in the bottom of the jar, I think.) so I went with that one again.  There are some baby pablanos in there, some jalapenos that had turned red that Grandpa Jack shared with us and then a boatload of jalapenos from our garden in there.
It’s worth noting that I finally remembered to wear gloves.  Although I did cut into the first habareno, rub my lips and then realize I should put some gloves on.  The tingling wasn’t nearly as bad as last time though.
This something new kick started the other day when I brought some beets home from the farmer’s market.  We like the idea of them, but I never seem to make them.  So I set about fixing that. You know what?  We still only like the idea of them.  The reality is, they taste like dirt. We are still willing to try some pickled, but we, as a family, may be quite willing to declare ourselves beet free.
As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  In our house, that clearly applies to things like beets, pickled peppers and black cardigans.  Did I mention the new one was cashmere?