Monday, August 29, 2016

Perfect Summer Recipe for Winter Eating

Fresh tomatoes are abundant in the Summer, so it's a perfect time to make Thaddeus' Roasted Tomato Soup in great quantities to freeze for long, cold Winters.



Recipe - Roasted Tomato Soup

This recipe makes about 2 gallons of tomato soup, and it is an incredibly rich, satisfying soup during the Winter.

Preparing this soup is equipment-intensive, so make sure you have the necessary equipment before starting this recipe...but it's worth it...year after year, having hot, full-flavor tomato soup to enjoy over the Winter is incredibly satisfying.

The recipe can use any kind of fresh tomato from your local farmer's stand.  Thaddeus has recently found a place that will sell us 25 pounds of heirloom tomatoes for $30...we keep some of the best tomatoes for excellent Summer eating, and use the remainder for soup.  Many farm markets will sell you "seconds"...the slightly overripe or bruised tomatoes they can't sell...these work very well in the recipe as well.

Recipe - Makes about 2 gallons of Soup
About 20 pounds of fresh tomatoes
2 large white onions
1 head garlic (peeled)
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika (either sweet or hot is fine...whichever you prefer)
2 Teaspoons Seasonella (an Italian seasoned salt that useful in all cooking, but not for topical use)
Optional: Vegetable or Chicken stock if the soup is too thick

Equipment:
Large roasting (with high sides)
2.5 gallon (or larger) stock pot
Heavy-duty blender (Vitamix)
Foley Food Mill
Freezer storage containers (in a size convenient for reheating portions for you or your household)

Directions:
Drizzle olive oil on bottom of roasting pan, and layer coarsely chopped onions and garlic on bottom of pan. Cut tomatoes in quarters and put into large roasting pan on top of onions and garlic cloves until roasting pan is completely full.

Put the roasting pan in the oven at 300º Fahrenheit for about 5 hours.



In batches (never fill the blender over two-thirds full of hot tomatoes), pulverized the roasted tomatoes and onions and garlic in the blender.



Pour the pulverized/roasted tomato mixture into the Foley food mill, and mill the mixture over large stock pot (removing pulp, skin and seeds that didn't get pulverized).




Add Seasonella and smoked paprika to resulting soup and simmer on low heat for an hour.




Enjoy some immediately and freeze the remainder for a lasting memory of the Summer's tomato harvest!

Current Knitting

I finished the Bias Scarf and started a second one because I loved how it turned out so well.



I love this design...especially using the Superfine alpaca.  The resulting scarf is luxuriously soft and very lofty and warm.  I'll look forward to wearing this scarf all Winter.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Conveying Drape

Photos and words of knitted or other hand-crafted garments just don't seem to convey the texture, heft and/or drape of the fabric.

Critical Factor in Garment Design

When I'm design a sweater or a scarf or any other garment, the drape of the resulting fabric is an important factor to how the garment turns out.  A stiff shawl or a clingy, drapey sweater might be considered a disaster...especially if it was unintended.

When I publish a pattern, like the Cross Stitch Scarf, I try in as many ways as possible to make sure knitters who purchase the pattern can imagine correctly what the fabric will be like.  But photos and words seem inadequate to convey the resulting fabric.

So, I thought I'd put together a brief video to see if that was any better at communicating fabric structure.

Current Knitting

As noted in the video, I've started a new wide scarf project.


I love this scarf pattern and it's all in garter stitch on the bias.  Not sure where I found this pattern, but I enjoy doing very subtle color combinations like the gray and the green at the bottom of this scarf.

I also swatched up all that yarn I got from Pioneer Fiber Mill:


I have to say, I love this man's yarns...they are beautiful and somewhat rustic.  If I can find the greenish mix of wool and alpaca on his site, I will look to try and get more of that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Selling Knitting Patterns

I'm not a very prolific designer, but I have "published" a few patterns for knitters and crocheters, and I have been more than thrilled with how easy it is to publish and sell patterns on Ravelry.

Being a Ravelry "Pro"

Back in 2012, I realized that I could sell my knitting and crochet patterns on Ravelry and once the pattern is in their database, they do all the work.

Ravelry lets knitters and crocheters search for my patterns, browse my patterns, search on tag words in my patterns, look for specific features in a pattern and also lets them purchase the pattern and charges them for it via PayPal.  But most of  you know this already.

Other features that I love:
  • When I make a change to a published pattern, Ravelry notifies everyone who has ever purchased/downloaded the pattern so they can get the revised version
  • I get an invoice each month for Ravelry's tiny commission on pattern sales
  • Ravelry users set up as yarn stores, are allowed to purchase patterns (if I allow) at wholesale price
I just updated the pattern for the Cross-Stitch Scarf and for everyone that's ever purchased it, they will be notified of the change and be able to download the most updated version.  And any new purchaser will get the most up-to-date version automatically.

Ravelry definitely makes my life as a designer/pattern publisher MUCH easier.

Current Knitting

I did finally finish my latest Cross-Stitch Scarf and it came out beautifully!





FYI, for those that got the update, this is using the alternate stitch definition that I just added.  The resulting scarf is a bit less lacy and more "solid", but it still has the loose drape of the original design.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Blush Worthy

It never ceases to amaze me when folks consider a compliment from me as more important than from someone else.

Who Is Blush-Worthy To You?

Marie posted a beautiful beaded Peacock Shawl she made with Sock-Ease (my favorite solid color) and I noted what nice work she does and she replied with a ::blush:: (I hope you don't mind that I stole your photo from Facebook).

It made me realize how much value in certain people's opinion about my work.

There are a number of amazing knit-designers who's opinion I highly value...especially in their field of expertise.  Just as an example (since there are LOTS of designers who could make me blush), if Ron Schweitzer were to compliment a Fair Isle design of mine, I would be beyond thrilled.

Who does that for you?

Current Knitting

Work has been incredibly busy this week and has really cramped my style when it comes to knitting.  I was able to get some work done on the Cross-Stitch Scarf done in two colorways of Sock-Ease (one of them is the same that Marie used).


Readers' Comments/Questions

In an e-mail from Gretchen, she asks, "Do you have a pattern to recommend for a knitted scarf? Variegated worsted wool yarn; roll resistant; not too dense a fabric; fun to knit; but easy enough to be worked on while traveling, talking, etc."

 I don't really have an answer for this...I'd also add "looks good on both sides"

My best effort was a slightly modified version of the Cross-Stitch scarf done with worsted weight and on much bigger needles (don't ask me now, I have no idea).



I think this was two different colorways of variegated worsted weight yarn, just like the pattern calls for.  Other than the cross-over rows, it's really quite a simple knit.

Any other ideas?

Monday, August 08, 2016

Dreamers Make Lousy Estimators

When it comes to estimating how long a project will take me, I almost always underestimate.

Forever Hopeful

I think I know in my heart-of-hearts that I won't be able to finish a project as quickly as I think I will.   While I knit a lot, I always seem to imagine that I will knit more to finish a project...and rarely do.

It sounds delusional, but I really do think that my knitting will all of a sudden become faster or that I'll more time to allocate to it than in the past.  Okay, I guess it really is delusional.

I indicated in my last blog post that I was hoping to finish both Cross Stitch scarves over the weekend.  You'll note in the "Current Knitting" section of today's entry that I was again overly hopeful.

Current Knitting

Well, I did focus on finishing one of the scarves, and I even made a little progress on the second scarf.



To avoid disappointment, I'll just promise to continue to work on the second scarf.

Friday, August 05, 2016

More Random Thoughts

The first two times I published lists like this kind of depleted a lot of my more clever thoughts.

More Random Thoughts - III

  1. The word is voilà people...not wallah!
  2. The fact that many of the clients I've worked employ idiots has made for a successful career in consulting.
  3. Much of my life is about balancing between loving-self-care and arrogance.
  4. I don't really understand what "creativity" means...to me it just seems like trying shit out until you find something that works.
  5. If same-sex couples shouldn't be allowed to adopt for fear their child will be bullied, then opposite-sex couples with strange last names shouldn't be allowed to either, like Frick, or Mudge or Weiner or Fartson.
  6. Why did it take years of being frustrated with oil rising to the top of my peanut butter before I realized I could store the jar upside down and avoid the problem completely?
  7. When you leave the workforce, why do they use the verb "retire."  Taken literally, are you tiring yourself again?  I know they're not calling me a retread.
  8. Why is it that parents these days think it's important to constantly praise their children to build their self-esteem, but don't seem to consider it necessary for adult friends and coworkers who never got that praise during their childhoods?
  9. Conversations about many major physical transitions always seem to be sensitive and difficult, puberty, menopause, aging, illness, death, etc., while discussing birth is something we never seem to get enough of.
  10. Did it ever occur to you that the Egyptians were the first to use emoji?

Current Knitting

Continued progress is being made on the two Cross Stitch Scarves.



The pink and white one is halfway complete and purple and green one is only 1/3rd complete.  I'd love to finish these two scarves this weekend, but we'll see how diligently I pursue that goal.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Roadmap To A Stir-Fry

Getting advice from a number of friends who have cooked from Chinese restaurants, I have finally gotten to the point where I can make a pretty decent spicy stir-fry.

My Process

Here's my process and ingredients for a decent spicy Tofu Stir-Fry

Ingredients
Cooked rice (I usually start to cook my rice when I'm starting preparation for the stir-fry for timining)
1 block organic extra firm tofu
Crushed red pepper
3 Tablespoons Canola oil (separated into 1 and 2 tablespoons)
Black pepper

Snow Peas
Broccoli florets
1 Medium sized white onion coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
4 scallions sliced and separated into the white part and the green part (for garnish)
1 Tablespoon minced fresh giner
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
3 Tablespoons white sugar
2 Tablespoons pepper paste with garlic (see jar below)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 egg, beaten (optional)

Process
After starting the rice, I place the block of tofu on a plate and cover it with plastic cling wrap, and put a fry pan or something slightly heavy on top of it (to squeeze out as much water as I can).


I dump out the excess water from the plate and cut up the tofu in bite-size squares and sprinkle the tofu with the crushed red pepper flakes and ground black pepper.

In a non-stick skillet, using 1 TBL of the Canola Oil, I lightly brown the tofu (on all sides) and then put it aside for adding into the stir-fry later.




 

Combine the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, pepper paste and sesame oil in a small bowl and set aside to let the sugar dissolve.

 


Prepare the stir-fry process with plate 1 - Onions, broccoli, garlic, ginger and white part of scallions, plate 2 with pea pods and then tofu, sauce and green part of scallions separated.

In a VERY hot skillet or wok with 2 Tablespoons canola oil (I keep a spatter guard handy for when I throw things into the pan and the overhead fan on high), I throw in the contents of plate 1, keeping it mainly to one side of the pan...I don't stir at all...just let things caramelize as they will...30 seconds later, I throw in the pea pods on the other side of the pan without stirring for 30 seconds more.  Then I throw in the tofu and stir the mix, letting it cook on high heat for another 30 seconds.  Finally I add in an optional egg on the side of the pan and scramble it up a bit.  Stir all the ingredients and then pour the soy sauce mixture over everything and let it simmer/thicken for about a minute.


Finally, I put the green scallions on top to garnish and serve with rice.


Voilà!


Current Knitting

I started to use the solids of the Sock-Ease yarn to make a pair or two of multi-colored socks.


I wasn't thrilled with how the colors were mixing, nor did I like how the colors got carried up the side of the toe.  I pulled it out and decided to make scarves out of the yarn.







I'm liking the way this yarn works with the Cross Stitch Scarf pattern MUCH more than the sock.  The nylon in Sock-Ease yarn not only makes these scarves machine washable, but it also adds a lofty softness to the knitted fabric that I like a lot.