Archive for October, 2011

October 30, 2011

Trick or Treat

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The weekend before Halloween. People are dressing up in costumes and planning for Halloween parties and fun. Zombies seem to be everywhere this year.

Mother Nature planned her own Trick or Treat.

With little warning, just the weatherman predicting a few early snowflakes, Mother Nature pulled her own trick dumping over 18 inches of snow on the ground Saturday.

Having not been to the country for two weeks, I was bound and determined to get there this weekend. Jeff (our friend and caretaker) had called to report that beavers had taken up residence in our pond. It must have been the heavy, heavy rains in late summer and fall. We haven’t had a problem with beavers since before Alex was born. I really wanted to get up to see the situation.

Jim, on the other hand, was not so motivated. He had piles of work to do and had just gone through an extremely exciting and yet challenging work week. He demurred about heading up Friday night and Saturday morning was no more inclined to go. So I packed up the cats and Dakota and headed up in the Subaru myself.

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October 8, 2011

The Electric Kool-Aid Yarn Test

I was checking out of my local Stop&Shop. There was a big corrugated dump bin of Kool-Aid on sale. Five packets for a buck. I have wanted to try dyeing wool with Kool-Aid for years. Suddenly it seemed the moment had come. Who could resist this kind of kismet?

I bought five packages and headed home with a sense of high anticipation.

Several years ago Knit Picks came out with what they called Bare Yarn. The idea was to buy undyed yarn and have some fun dyeing it and knitting something truly original. It became my Christmas present to a couple of my friends and I, of course, had to buy a skein for myself. This is what I planned to use with my newly-purchased Kool-Aid.

Saturday was gloomy, but I was in fine spirits. Just after lunch, I cleared the table in the kitchen in the country and began disaster-aversion preparations. Jim’s dubiousness at the potential mess I was going to make was only matched by his impatience at my constantly talking about dyeing my yarn with Kool- Aid. He actually rolled his head and groaned at one point. Time to be quiet, Jen.

I had read several blog posts and watched a YouTube video on the process so I was pretty clear. After spreading one sheet of plastic on the table followed by a layer of paper town and another layer of plastic, I constructed a dike of paper towels around the edge of the table for spillage. I don’t know what cascades of indelible color I had in my mind, but I was bound and determined not to make one of my usual messes. Especially not in our gorgeous still-feels-like-new kitchen.

After thoroughly soaking my skein of sock wool in tepid water, I wrung it out and laid it on the table. In retrospect I wish I had re-tied the skein into a long snake of yarn, but I can do that next time. Ought to be able to really make a tangle doing that.

I used a kitchen knife in an attempt to demarcate colors. I would pour some Kool-Aid, massage it into the wool and hold the knife to keep the colors from commingling. I had on plastic gloves and carefully rinsed my hands between colors. This was a high degree of precision compared to my slap dash tendencies.

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After applying the colors and massaging them through the yarn, I wrapped it in saran wrap. I wasn’t sure if the colors would bleed onto each other so I wrapped it so sections wouldn’t touch. To set the color I placed the yarn wrapped in saran into a pyrex dish with cover and microwaved for two minutes, let it rest, another two minutes in the wave, a rest and one last zap in the wave. Then I let the whole thing sit and cool. Amazingly, when the yarn has absorbed the color all of the water is clear. I carefully rinsed the yarn in tepid water and there was no color bleeding whatsoever. After gently wringing out the water and rolling the yarn up in an old towel, I hung it to dry.

Considering that I adore color and I adore yarn, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I absolutely adored dyeing my yarn with Kool-Aid. My finished result has that tie-dyed look to it. I could have used more Kool Aid for better color saturation, but I like the way it looks. I like the bits of undyed white and the mottled color. I would like to try using different colors and the grape section is my least favorite. I can’t wait to try it again. I really can’t wait to start a pair of socks and see how it knits up!!

October 6, 2011

Mountain Day

Once a year at Smith comes a magical day…Mountain Day!! The chapel bells ring early in the morning, classes are cancelled and all Smithies head out to hike, pick apples and enjoy the days of fall.

http://alumnae.smith.edu/cms/?smithstories=mountain-day-with-the-notables

Of course, like Christmas, the best part of Mountain Day may be the expectation. Excitement builds day by day as Smithies try to guess when the big day will come. Endlessly discussed at meals, in dorm rooms, before and after class, speculation builds around certain “rules.” Mountain Day can’t be a Friday because then it would just be a long weekend. Mountain day can’t be a Monday, but, wait, wasn’t there a Mountain on a Monday several years ago? The weather forecast enters in to the calculations, too. The weather has to be good or no one could go apple picking. And Mountain Day has to take place before the fall break at Columbus Day weekend.

The endless handicapping eventually translates into action. No one is exempt most especially the decision-maker.

Poor Carol Christ has her dog running loose, is standing in her pajamas facing a crowd of excited and rather rowdy women. It is all part of the fun of Mountain Day.

Mountain Day doubles as a much-beloved tradition and a great way to let Smithies blow off some steam and release tension as they dig into the new school year.

Wednesday was Mountain Day this year. My own Smithie called me even as the bells were pealing and her friends were shouting. It was fun to be on the phone and experience the hilarity and excitement. Ellie did go apple picking and sent me some photos from the field.

Mountain Day is so beloved that the alumnae association sends an email out to all alums announcing that it is THE DAY. Every year when I get that email, the fond memories of those days return.

I think there should be a Mountain Day in everyone’s life. A time to kick back and just enjoy a gorgeous day and live in the present with no thoughts or cares of yesterday or tomorrow.

October 5, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes

I expect I am in very good company when I say that I have always been enchanted by Fannie Flagg’s FRIED GREEN TOMOATOES AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFE. I have loved that book since I first read it and have always been fascinated by the idea of fried green tomatoes.

WIth the cooling temperature and the unprecedented rains, I have ended up with a large amount of green tomatoes which will never ripen. So, I decided to satisfy my curiosity and made fried green tomatoes for dinner.

I downloaded a recipe from allrecipes.com, harvested a bag of tomatoes from the garden and we headed to the country for the weekend. Friday’s dinner was steak with fried green tomatoes and baked potatoes.

The hard green tomatoes were quite beautiful when sliced. There were subtle shadings of lighter green and tinges of red through some of them. The green color was gorgeous. I bit into one and it was hard and had an unpleasantly sharp taste.

Pinwheels of color

Mostly making fried green tomatoes consists of a bath in flour, egg wash and a mix of bread crumbs and corn meal. Throw that into some oil and that’s the game. The recipe called for vegetable oil, totally appropriate, but I went for olive oil because I just like it better. So, I guess these are fried green tomatoes Yankee style.

Corn meal with breadcrumbs and egg wash

Dipping anything into egg and breadcrumbs is one of my least favorite sensations. I try to use a fork or something and keep my fingers clean, but if that isn’t working then slowly the coating builds up and starts to make me really unhappy. Half way through Jim stepped in to save me. But don’t the slices look beautiful all piled together?

Discs of brilliant green

As the breaded tomatoes fried, they softened and the smell was a wonderful mixture of the tang of the tomato, the warm olive smell of the oil and things looked pretty promising indeed.

Browning nicely

Basically Jim and I agreed that pretty much anything breaded and fried tastes good and fried green tomatoes were no exception. Jim ate his with sour cream. This is very much the same recipe I learned from my friend, Tom Scanlon, when I lived in Vienna. He used eggplant and that has always been a favorite with the Frost offspring. I’ll have to try this on them as well. Given Peter’s violent dislike of tomatoes, it could be an interesting test.

So, my curiousity is satisfied. I have enjoyed fried green tomatoes. May have to re-read the book now. A happy outcome as well.

October 3, 2011

Summer memories

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This summer seems to have come to an end. Suddenly the temperature has fallen and the leaves are beginning to color. It is hard to think of all the things I love about summer coming disappearing. It was a good summer with lots of warm, sunny days. Good food from the garden and the farmer’s market. The relaxed Saturday mornings we spent at the Norfolk Farmer’s Market and Craft Fair. The evenings in the country with fresh vegetables, bread and good wine in one of our favorite places on earth. I hate to see it all conclude.

The farmer’s market was a very pleasant place to spend Saturday mornings. As the weeks passed, we got to know our neighbors at the fair and became part of the group. We had our favorites. Chubby Bunny Farm was our favorite name and they seemed like a nice family with little kids and a puppy along with parents and grandparents manning the booth. There were many others and I loved saying hello and chatting with them. Some weeks were hot and sunny and sitting in the warmth made me so sleepy I could barely keep my eyes open. Other days were less sunny, but we avoided any major rain outs. That was lucky.

We got into a rhythm and process for the morning. Up early, we would load the car about 8 and head to Norfolk around 8:30. My booth was almost always in the same spot and we could pull close in to unload and get out in time before we blocked our friends from Chubby Bunny. Jim came with me almost every week. One week I did it alone, but usually I had a helper. Peter came a couple of times. Lifting the table was tough. It is very heavy and bulky. I can do it, but it was nice to have someone else do it.  The most time-consuming part of set up was putting the earrings on the racks. Jim got pretty good at it and having his help certainly cut down on the time.

It always felt a bit like the circus in the morning as people arrived on time or a little late and began the process of unpacking and setting up. About 9:30 things were really bustling with everyone intent on the tasks at hand. By 10 we were open for business and people were arriving. It always seemed they came in waves. Busy moments alternated with quiet times. After a couple of weeks you could recognize the people and their dogs and it was fun to see them week after week. Sitting at the booth watching people go by, chatting with customers and then listening to snippets of conversation made for relaxing entertainment. There was always some sort of live music and it could become quite dreamlike at times.

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