July 31, 2013

Crochet Bobble Bag

There's a reason I claim to be a 'luggage lover'. I've always had a thing for bags -- ever since I can remember. Luggage of course, is essential for frequent travelers. I think my love of luggage runs deeper though. For years, I didn't own any furniture. I lived in places where of course I used furniture, but it wasn't mine. The only thing I owned were my suitcases, bags, purses, and the contents therein. 

I shopped for luggage and handbags as fervently as an interior designer does for furniture and decor. Like a turtle, I carried my 'home' with me, inside that luggage. Certain trips, countries and events gave me excuses to use different styles of bags.  

While the Sailor and I have accumulated our own furniture over the years, it's no surprise that I still have a soft spot for luggage and handbags. My own mother used to joke that I should someday open a bag shop. One day, I may still surprise her. 

If I did have a bag shop, this crocheted one would definitely make it to the window display for the summer. I gave you a glimpse in the last post; the mailman finally delivered the hardware needed to finish the project.

It's not too late to make yourself one for the rest of the summer! You can find the pattern for sale here, on Mon Petit Violon's blog. (Even if you don't crochet, check out the site -- her blog is beautiful!) 

Since I made my bag so late into the summer, I decided on yellow since I think it'll transition nicely into fall. I used Berroco Weekend worsted weight in Squash. The pattern called for linen or at least cotton yarn. Berroco Weekend is only 25% cotton, but while my Local Yarn Store had some beautiful linen and cotton yarn -- they didn't have a color I favored for a bag, so I purchased the Berroco instead.

I had a fabric remnant of giraffe print that proved to be a perfect fit for the bag, especially when I remembered I had a little gem of a keychain to go with it. 

I found the giraffe key-chain years ago at an airport in South Africa. I'm pretty sure it was after the Sailor and I went on a safari, and I wanted something to remind me of the giraffes. I have a leopard too, but he'll have to wait for his own bag. Both the bag handles and rings are from this Etsy shop.

I'm already dreaming up places for this bag and I to travel to! In the meantime, the crochet bobble bag is reminding me of past South African safaris and being wowed by the giraffes at sunrise. 

July 28, 2013

Crocheted Bobbles

I know I said that knitting and crochet are generally equal in my book in this recent post. When it comes to bobbles however, in my world, crocheting them wins hands down. I knit the sheep bobbles, but they seemed to take forever to me, compared to crocheting them. Maybe they're easier to knit for some people.

Here's a sneak peak of the crochet bobbles I've been working on lately:

I'm anxiously awaiting a package in the mail so that I can finish the last little bit. I will share the pattern source and the finished project with you in a forthcoming post, but in the meantime, here's another pic to keep you guessing: 

 Any guesses as to what I'm making?


July 25, 2013

Peach Chutney

I had never tasted chutney until my 20s, when I ordered curry at an Indian restaurant in the UK. I always associated chutney with Indian food from then on. I had no idea what else you could do with it.

Then I married the Sailor and he introduced me to a whole new world of chutney-related items. Earlier this month, I mentioned that my go-to roast these days included a bottle of Mrs Balls Chutney. I still haven't found Mrs Balls Chutney locally. 

What I did find was my mother-in-law's recipe book. Years ago, in a bid to learn more Afrikaans, and to help the Sailor's mother, I typed out her recipes and bound them together in a book. There are numerous typos (really, I didn't know any Afrikaans when I set out to do this project... and most of the recipes were scraps of paper written out by hand). I still need the Sailor's help to translate a number of the recipes, but the book is a wonderful reference. 

It's peach season where we are and it reminded me of South Africa. My father-in-law cultivates amazing peach trees -- you can read more about those peaches here and see another photo here from our last trip to the Southern Hemisphere. The Sailor reminded me this week that there is a peach chutney recipe in that book.

I've been wanting to try my hand at preserving food for a long time now, plus, I needed an excuse to use the giant stainless steel pot I recently scored at a thrift store.

I started off with a very small manageable batch -- only six jars worth. 

While the chutney simmered, the Sailor breathed in deeply and said it smelled like his family's house. It certainly did. When we left  South Africa earlier this year, my mother-in-law tried desperately to send us home with jars full of chutney. Baggage handlers and breakables don't usually go well together, so we declined the offer, but our taste buds regretted it the moment we got back to America. 

I'm beginning to realize how significant it is to carry on cooking traditions from both sides of my family. In January, I wrote a post on Family Kitchen Mergers -- you can read that here, in case you missed it. When I sent my mother-in-law a photo of the chutney cooking, her response implied she was over the moon. I think most families love to see a little of their history getting passed along.

We may have turned down importing my mother-in-law's stash of chutney, but I think she's just as pleased that we learned to make it ourselves. As per her instructions, we need to wait at least a week to sample the goods. Rest assured, I'll let you know the canning results.

July 22, 2013

Spring Blossom Score

We've been here over a month now, and every time I open the cabinet and see my vintage Pyrex I smile. (See more here.) Our last location barely had space for normal plates, let alone vintage pretties. 

Within a week of moving here, I began scouring the local thrift stores to see what was on offer. (You didn't actually think I was done collecting, did you?!

The first store yielded nothing (and was in fact quite a dump in general....) I began to wonder if I'd find any Pyrex, or if I left it all at my old thrifting haunts.

At the second store though, I saw this Spring Blossom Cinderella bowl (the pattern is often mislabeled as Craisy Daisy) -- lonely and on its own for only $3.


There IS Pyrex here. 

You can read more of the story here at the Pyrex Collective III site, where I'm one of many bloggers. We buy Pyrex, we use it, we rearrange our displays, and in general, we swoon over vintage glassware. 

July 19, 2013

Knitting versus Crochet?

One of the best things about moving somewhere new is trying out the local flavor of everything. I was pretty stoked to discover a Local Yarn Shop (LYS) within a few miles of my new home. 

Previously, my LYS was about a 30 minute drive away. Admittedly, I usually purchased yarn at Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and Joanne's, which were all within a three-mile radius of my old home. I also ordered yarn online, on occasion. Every now and again though, I'd drive all the way to the LYS. The last time I was in there, I brought a friend. She wanted me to make a gift for someone else and we needed time to think about the yarn. (Read: we needed to browse -- without distraction.)

The owner would have none of it. She hemmed and hawed and hovered -- flat out telling me I was in the wrong section of yarn for what I planned to make (despite my pleas that I was simply BROWSING...) She carried on with telling me that no pattern would have me make anything out of two different weights of yarn (Oh really? Tell that to the sheep.) 

At this point, I had about $50 worth of yarn in my hand. It wasn't even for the project I  planned to make -- it was for myself! We still planned to buy the yarn for my friend's project. But the LYS was so bent on telling us what we couldn't make, that in the end, I got so annoyed with the woman, I pulled my friend aside, threw the yarn back on the shelf, and told her we were leaving.  

To this day, I've never been back there. (Note to LYS owners: please let customers browse.)

Thankfully, my new LYS is a little friendlier and they appear to be less bossy. I've been in the store several times already, and my wallet knows it. This week, I went in looking for yarn to crochet a bag. The older lady was super helpful -- offering me a range of yarns, and sensing my hesitation over the price, actually convinced me to purchase a cheaper range -- and then she let me continue to browse the rest of the shop. 

As I continued browsing, however, she and her young colleague embroiled themselves in a discussion over the merits of knitting versus crochet. I can't be sure, but I think what set them off was a knitting magazine that published a crochet pattern. 

Heaven forbid. 

Knitting versus crochet is a long-standing debate. They both serve their place in my crafting world. I'm always thankful that I know how to do both. (If you could see the ladies at my previous knitting club... some of whom had knit for YEARS, struggling to crochet, you'd understand.) 

But the young thing casting on what appeared to be a lace shawl, vehemently slagged off crochet, right as I stood behind her eyeballing the yarn for my bag. (Did I mention I was CROCHETING a bag?!) She made accusations that crochet garments are ugly (occasionally true... if you're looking at a 1970s magazine, but nowadays often false), you can't do cables with crochet (false), and that crochet takes up twice as much yarn (false - it takes up slightly more yarn than knitting, but twice as much is a gross exaggeration). 

While the conversation annoyed me, I can kind of understand. I made up my mind to relearn crochet before I ever wanted to knit. Frankly, knitting scared the pants off of me -- all of that talk about dropping stitches... and wielding two or even FOUR sticks? No thank you... I was going to crochet ONLY.  

My anti-knitting campaign was short-lived. I found a set of knitting needles at a thrift store only a few months later, and somehow I was so mesmerized by the thought of knitting that I decided to buy them on a whim. 

Knitting versus crochet? I couldn't tell you which I prefer. It depends on the season, the item I'm making, and even the yarn. Right now I'm knitting a shawl and crocheting a bag. Both give me pleasure (although the shawl less so at the moment simply because I messed up on it and it's taking me forever to figure out where the mistake happened.) 

But back to the LYS. The girl was actually so rude that I thought she must just be a visitor sitting there knitting with the employee, so I excused her behavior. However, she rang out my purchase! 

I almost said something to her. I almost said she should watch what she says... she could lose some valuable crochet customers. I've heard of LYS stores who are quite rude to crocheters -- and I don't understand why. Why would you alienate a craft that could easily spend more money than your average knitter on yarn? (You've already substantiated the claim that crocheting takes more yarn than knitting... so clearly we crocheters may end up plonking down more cash!) 

But I bit my tongue, made my purchase and smiled as she told me she liked the color I ended up choosing. I thought the next time she's working, I hope she'll notice my cool crocheted bag. Maybe I can teach her to crochet cables in the future.

July 16, 2013

Wellington Wishes

Ever since my 19th birthday, I have spent nearly every summer abroad. I was fortunate to attend a college that offered overseas programs -- I've never looked back since. Those programs opened the doors to summers in Scotland, Ukraine and England. After college, various other European outposts opened up, until I eventually ended up in Africa.

No matter where I found myself for the majority of the summer though, I usually made it to Scotland either before or after my travels. There, on the shores of Loch Lomond, friends and I converged for several weeks at a summer camp for teenagers. We worked hard. We laughed a lot. We ate pie. We drank. We sang. And more often than not, I cried when I had to say goodbye. 

Campers and staff alike refer to the place as magical. I don't believe in magic, but one night during my first summer there, several of us sat around a campfire, chatting. At some point, someone ran down the hill, and breathlessly asked us to help herd a few of the sheep back into their fenced-off area. 

We proved a sight. Arms flailing, a half dozen of us ran around a sheep field in the dark, trying to round up a few of the dumbest animals on the planet.

Later, my sophisticated and well-traveled older dorm-mate sat near me by the fire and said something poignant -- I don't remember exactly what -- but in that moment I do remember thinking, 'It's true... this place is magical.'

Year after year I returned to that sheep field. Rain, mud and midgie bites couldn't keep me away. I skipped a summer now and again when I was on board a ship, and I remember missing part of a summer because a boy I liked happened to be traveling through London in the middle of camp. 

But for the most part, I continued to spend at least a few weeks in Scotland, every summer.  

The wellies always changed, but the view never did. 

In 2009, the Sailor and I arrived from Cape Town to America to visit with my family during his study break. He returned to South Africa alone; I spent the next six weeks keeping a close eye on my mother, who had a few health issues at the time.

I had already made up my mind that I wouldn't be able to go to Scotland that summer; I figured I'd be spending the remainder of the summer with the Sailor in a wintry Southern Hemisphere. Instead, I spent the next six weeks hovering over my mother, driving her slightly crazy.  

She couldn't understand why I was so batty myself. She thought I just missed the Sailor, but in truth, we spend half of our life apart. I always miss him, but this time, I was also missing Scotland. I felt displaced.

On the night that my friends arrived in the sheep field, I toasted them from far away with a double shot of single malt, and I found myself feeling a little homesick for Scotland -- or indeed anywhere in Europe for that matter. 

It turns out it was the first summer since 1994 that I spent in America. Even when I missed camp in previous years, I was at least in Europe for the summer.

It wasn't terrible. But it was strange. I found myself looking at my cold-weather wardrobe a little wistfully. While locals lamented the rain that pelted Pennsylvania, I found it comforting. I wanted to wear my wellies, sit by a fire and listen to someone strumming a guitar. I learned to knit and the first real project I made turned out to be a sweater that I envisioned myself wearing on the sheep field. 

I made it back to Scotland in 2010, but the sweater didn't come with me. The sleeves turned out to be a little too short, and increasingly lower baggage allowances meant I left behind anything big and bulky -- except my wellies, of course.  

In 2011, I traded camping on the shores of Loch Lomond with boat camping on Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho with college friends. They had all been to Scotland at some point with me, yet despite their company, I couldn't help but feel a little nostalgic about missing the Bonnie Banks again. 

Last year, I made elaborate plans to return to Scotland. Afterwards, my itinerary included Ukraine for a writing project. When my brother took a turn for the worse, I cancelled all travel plans and wrote my regrets to friends I wouldn't be seeing again for a long, long time. Even after my brother recovered from his infection, and once he started to improve again, I was thankful I stayed. It turns out it was the last summer I'd have with him. No regrets, but I was still a little wistful about missing out on a summer in Scotland. 

I knew early on this year that I wouldn't make it to Scotland this summer. We just relocated to a completely new city. It seemed a little crazy to pack for camp in the midst of our moving melee. I told friends that the excitement of moving to a new place has slightly taken the sting out of not being in Scotland this year. The truth is though, I'm still going to miss it. 

So to all of my friends already there in that field, and to the many who have yet to arrive: Enjoy your summer... cherish the friendships you'll make and the memories you will create. Laugh (loudly) for me. I will be toasting you from across the pond, and wishing you well, in your wellies. 

July 13, 2013

Pyrex Casualty

My vintage Pyrex collection survived a 700 mile road trip (with a few extra days crammed in a moving truck, to boot). 

Tonight, I had my first casualty. I dropped a bowl. I have two more in this pattern so it wasn't a complete disaster - but I did find myself staring at the floor in a slight state of shock for a moment. 

I never need a reason to check out a thrift store... the hunt for unexpected objects is a thrill itself. But I suppose now I can add 'find replacement bowl' to the shopping list. 

July 10, 2013

Sauerbraten Success

Late last night, the Sailor and I feasted on the marinated sauerbraten, salted boiled potatoes and red cabbage.

Here's the basic recipe, adapted from my thrifted copy of The Art of German Cooking, by Betty Wason. (More on this fascinating lady later. First the food.) 

I marinated my two-pound chunk of meat in a beer mixture for the Bavarian style of sauerbraten (apparently there are several ways to make this dish -- the main thrust is that the meat needs to marinate in a vinegar type mixture, including wine or even buttermilk). In addition to a few cups of Belgium dark beer, I added water, a bay leaf, lemon, tomato, onion, and several whole cloves and whole peppercorn and let it sit in the fridge for two days, turning the meat several times. 

After two days, I strained the marinade, dredged the beef in flour, and then browned it on the stove top in butter.

Next, I added one cup of the strained marinade, a sliced lemon, a little sugar and some salt and then simmered the roast for two hours, turning the meat halfway through cooking. (Next time, I'll add more of the strained marinade -- I didn't think there was enough liquid in the pot while it was cooking.

Of course if your roast is larger, it will probably take longer to cook. I think my own sauerbraten could have simmered even longer, even though the meat was already falling apart.

For gravy, I skimmed the juice and mixed it in with a little sour cream... just in case the rest of the sauer / sour ingredients aren't enough for you!

The recipe called for potato dumplings and red cabbage to go with the sauerbraten... and while I'm ambitious and wanted to have as authentic a German meal as possible, I simply didn't have the energy to make dumplings.

I made salted potatoes instead. 

The potatoes were nothing fancy... but the red cabbage was probably the hit of the meal. I'll post that recipe later, but here's a sneak peak: 

While the Sailor and I agreed that our usual standard roast with chutney was slightly better, the sauerbraten got accolades all around. I knew it was definitely better than average when we both reached for seconds of everything.

I suspect my high school German teacher would have been proud of the sauerbraten success. (Probably more so had I actually translated the recipe from German... Ja?)

July 7, 2013

Menu Planning

About a week ago, after I'd cooked probably five different dishes in the span of two days, the Sailor looked at me and said he was surprised I wasn't cooking up a storm in the new spacious kitchen. 

Apparently he missed the whirlwind going on behind him (the kitchen island is strategically located near enough to the TV that I can still watch whatever is on, even when I'm cooking, but the Sailor can't see me.) 

So this weekend, I decided to cook up another storm, but first I needed to plan the menu. Every so often, I go through my countless cookbooks to figure out what I can either make with the ingredients on hand, or to make a shopping list for the future menu.

This week, roasts were buy one get one free at our local grocery store. My go-to recipe involves Mrs Ball's Chutney, which is particularly hard to find in this hemisphere. It might be a while until we can find a store that stocks it, so I knew I needed to find another roast recipe in the meantime. 

I perused a used copy of The Art of German Cooking that I picked up at a thrift store a while back. German food is something the Sailor gets excited over, so I figured I might find something worth cooking in this 1967 volume. 

The cookbook didn't disappoint. I found a recipe for Bavarian Sauerbraten -- a giant rump of beef marinated in beer, lemon, tomato, onion, cloves, peppercorns and a bay leaf. 

Say no more. I knew this had potential to be the recipe. 

It needs to marinade for 2-3 days, but in the meantime, I'm salivating. 
I'll let you know how it turns out. I'm hoping this won't end up as Kitchen Disasters III.

Fingers crossed.

July 4, 2013

Red (Rug), White, and Blue

The local Fourth of July fireworks seem to have been postponed here, and downpours all day put a stop to any sort of barbeque or picnic plan. That's okay though, because I managed to finish the red rug for the bathroom, while the Sailor and I spent the day watching old movies. 

I'm not normally in the habit of taking photos of my bathroom, much less posting them, but this rug is too fun to keep a secret. 

While the pattern is only available from the July/August 2010 back issue of Crochet Today, you can view the original rug here on Ravelry. The rug is a basic spiral, crocheted in the round. It's worked in two layers -- a base layer and then a layer of pom-pom yarn.

Besides untangling the Citron Shawl, this rug is the first project I've started and completed in our new home. Before we moved, I found a few skeins of Spark-a-Doodle yarn for only 99 cents each, and I scooped them up, knowing I had to make this rug for our new bathroom. I made mine a few rounds smaller than the original pattern, but it's still super soft and plush.  

Since my rug is only one patriotic color, I'll leave you with a few random photos to make up for the lack of white and blue yarn -- the blinds and our globe. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!