Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Soft Sunset Sweater is Finished

I have been laid low with that cold that has swept the nation, but I managed to finish the Soft Sunset Sweater. I haven't blocked it yet or woven in the millions of ends, but here she is!

As soon as I have completely recovered, I will try to find someone to model it, and shoot it again.

Here is a close-up of the stitch detail. I used over 2 dozen different yarns in different combinations, never repeating them in the entire sequence. It was a dream to make, and aside from some major frogging where the sleeves joined the body (I changed the original design after seeing how it was coming together) it was a very enjoyable experience to make.

Reese's Birthday

Many years ago I went to a Moroccan restaurant on Sunset Blvd. called Dar Maghreb. I think it is still there, although we haven't been there in 15 or 20 years, ever since I learned how to make Moroccan food. I remember the dress I wore - it was an ivory wool, hand-knit dress with a fitted bodice and long, full skirt that clung in a demure way and that I wouldn't dream of wearing now, even if I still had it.

The restaurant was like entering a Moroccan palace. Made entirely of handpainted tiles in blues and greens, yellows and reds, with a fountain in the lobby and carved screens separating the diners. We sat on tasseled silk pillows on the floor and the tables were made of etched brass trays. There were belly dancers and waiters in Aladdin costumes with pointy toed slippers and fezes served course after course of the most exotic foods, which we ate and fed each other with our fingers.

Last night I made bisteeyah for my family.

Accompanied by chicken with lemon and olives and curried vegetables with cous cous.

Here are my own recipes, developed over the years and always subject to creative interpretation:

Chicken With Lemon and Olives
1 large chicken, whole
6 - 8 fresh garlic cloves
1 jar green olives with pimentos
1 onion
Lowery's Seasoning Salt
black pepper
cayenne pepper
3 - 4 small lemons (I use the ones from my Myer's lemon tree, if available)

Thoroughly wash chicken and place in roasting pan. Peel and quarter onion and stuff into chicken's cavity. Squeeze juice from lemons, pour juice over chicken and stuff remaining lemon halves into chicken's cavity. Pour entire contents of olive jar over chicken, including brine. Season chicken with Lowery's, black pepper and cayenne.

Place in pre-heated, 350 degree oven for 3 hours, basting frequently (about every 15 minutes)

To serve, remove skin, onions and lemons, slice and spoon drippings with roasted olives over meat on a platter.

Curried Vegetables
2 - 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 - 3 dozen baby squashes or zucchini
1/2 onion, chopped fine
2 T olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
curry powder
Lowery's Seasoning Salt
black pepper
garlic powder

Preheat wok, add olive oil and butter. Stir fry vegetables for a couple of minutes on high heat, then reduce heat and add chicken broth and seasonings. Cover and simmer to desired degree of softness. Serve over cous cous.

1 small chicken
1 small onion
5 or 6 cloves garlic
8 eggs
1 bunch chopped green onions, including stems
1 - 2 chicken livers (Optional but they do add a certain texture you won't get without them)
1 package philo dough
2 - 3 sticks of butter (did I say this was a healthy dish?)
powdered sugar
pine nuts
slivered almonds
ground cloves
cayenne pepper

Clean chicken and place in roasting pan. Cut garlic cloves in halves and place under chicken skin evenly all over the chicken. Peel onion and put into chicken cavity. Salt and pepper. Roast in preheated 350 degree oven 2 or more hours, basting frequently and adding water if necessary to keep chicken moist. Roast until meat falls off the bones.

Remove chicken from pan and allow to cool. Remove skin, garlic cloves, onion and bones and shred chicken with fingers into bite sized pieces. This can be done the day before, up to this point.

Melt about 1/2 stick butter in saute pan. Gently saute chopped green onions with chicken livers, until liver is pink. Remove livers from pan and smash with a fork.

Beat eggs with spices and scramble in butter with onions on very low heat. Add smashed chicken livers and scramble together. Do not over cook.

Use a round pyrex bowl to assemble the bisteeya. Melt remaining butter and with pastry brush, coat inside of bowl with butter. Unroll layers of philo dough that has been warmed to room temperature. Place one sheet in bowl and press gently to sides, leaving remainder of each sheet draped over the edge of the bowl. *Brush the surface of this sheet with butter, being careful not to tear the tender sheet. Place another sheet in, forming an 'x'. In other words, one sheet goes north south, the next goes east west, followed by another north south, etc. Every 4th sheet, sprinkle some powdered sugar from a sifter over the bottom. Rep from * until you have assembled about 15 or 16 sheets, being careful not to use too much butter, but just enough to stick the sheets together. Do not be skimpy with the powdered sugar. This seems like a lot, but the sheets are thinner than paper and the crust will be thin, even if you use the entire package, which I never do.

Butter last layer and *sprinkle in a handful of pine nuts and a handful of slivered almonds. Cover with powdered sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Add a layer of chicken pieces and then half the egg mixture. Rep from * one more time, then wrap with the layers of philo dough that are hanging over the edge of the bowl, sticking them together with brushes of butter. Wrap everything up tightly. It is not essential that these layers be totally stuck together, as this will be the bottom of the finished pie when removed from the bowl.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, (the last 45 minutes of the chicken with olives)

To serve, place serving platter on top of bowl and invert. If you used the right amount of butter, it will come out clean and dry. If you used too much, you will have to pour the excess off before inverting. (ask me how I know this)

Sprinkle powdered sugar on top. After everyone has admired it, cut into wedges and have everyone eat from the serving plate with their (clean) hands.

I recommend only making this for someone you really love, as it is a huge PIA and takes up a lot of knitting time!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

This is Totally Hysterical

Click here for your holiday greeting from Elf-ene! (Thanks, Cara!)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Design Process

One of my fiber-sister, favorite bloggers, Jane Thornley, shares some of her design process in her blog, which you can find here. Today she posted "Welcome to my Head" so I thought I would share a little bit of my own head.

This is the beginning of a new design, which I am temporarily calling "Sunset Sweater".
The colors were all inspired by a skein of Koigu Kersti (what remains is a little ball right above the spool of deep burgundy near the bottom left corner of the pile)

The colors remind me of the colors of the sky during the gentle sunsets we sometimes have, after the brilliant colors have sunken down below the horizon and all that remain are the paler reflections.

Toward the center of the photo are the beginnings of the body, knit circularly, and the sleeves, both sleeves knit on one circ at the same time. I am working a wavy stitch pattern adapted from one of my favorite stitch pattern books, "Ripple Stitch Patterns".

I work the body and sleeves at the same time because it's easier for me to keep track of the changes and also, when I finish one part, the whole thing is finished!

My recent visit to The Knitter's Studio for the first time evoked a buying spree that broke my yarn fast, one month earlier than I had promised myself. After that last glut of Koigu, I had promised myself not to buy yarn till after the first of the year. (the 2 e-bay purchases did not count)

But the way Liz arranges her yarn by color broke through my defenses. I had just been talking to Reese about astral colors and the yarns...well, you all know how yarn effects me.

At first I thought I would buy a lot more of the Kersti, and just put traces of the other fibers into the sweater, but I didn't want to wait to continue knitting and the prospect of driving through LA crazy holiday shopper traffic to get back to the Knitter's Studio swayed my decision heaviliy into the 'use what you already have' side of the process, so here it is.

So far I am pleased with the sweater. That's not to say it will reach completion. I have a terrible point in every piece where I think I hate it and consider chucking the whole thing. This happens EVERY TIME I make something, whether it is my own design or someone else's.

Will let you know what happens.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bee Socks and Vibrant Sweater

Some socks made for a dear friend for Hanukkah. Yarn: Lorna's Laces.

This sweater has pleased me to no end. The yarn was purchased on e-bay and was a great bargain. The body is a basic one that I find looks the best on me. I started it on Friday and finished it on Monday, knitting most of my waking hours while listening to Jane Eyre from Audible.

I have been wanting to submit another design to Creative Knitting and think I will try this one.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I Swear I am Not Awaiting a Sex Change!

No. I am all girl. Well, predominantly (see test results below)

I am just trying to learn how to make wigs and have no one to model my homework. Figaro (el gato) point blank refused, saying she is already covered with her own hair, thank you very much.

It took me about 20 hours to complete this goatee. It involved shaping the lace to contour the chin. You stitch tiny darts into the tulle with clear, monofiliment thread. The darts must be stitched RS and WS. I wasn't able to get a fine enough focus with my camera to show this step.

Here is the goatee nearly finished, before trimming. Remember Gabby Hayes?

Here it is trimmed and on it's own. Like a little living thing. A hedgehog?

It does contour to the chin quite well.

The complete set.

BTW, detaching the glue strip from my face was like using Biore pore strips.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Scarf Style 'Color on Color'

A super effective procrastination project. Instead of working on my next assignment - a goatee! or Reese's birthday sweater (almost done - just one sleeve to sew on and then sew up the side - I started this beautiful scarf. I always wanted to make it, and found an online store that was offering all the yarns in a kit. Now I'm supposed to be on a yarn fast, but something came over me and before I had time to pull my will power out of the closet, I had pulled my credit card out of my purse and ... ooops.

So you can see why when it arrived a couple of days later, I just had to start it!

And I HATE IT SO MUCH. It's not the colors - I ADORE the colors! I don't mind changing colors and the fairisle and intarsia. Actually, I have been playing with ideas along these lines in my designer dream notebook, and thought this project would warm me up for my own work.

What I hate is THE YARN. It is wool tapestry yarn. It is scratchy! It comes in these tiny little skeins. You must separate the 3 strands and use only one or 2 at a time. You must hunt through every skein for the correct number. Before you can change colors you must do this process and then wind the remaining strand around the band so you don't lose track of its number.

It is slow and painful and I don't like the way it feels or the way the stitches look. I actually started making it on the knitting machine, but I'm not about to turn every other row with a garter bar for the garter stitch. You can be sure the i-cord will be made on the machine. If I ever get to it.

There were a few colors missing from the kit. I didn't bother to inform the store because I don't want to wait to receive the missing yarn, so I'm improvising. I'm about a whisker away from improvising on the pattern, too, which is starting to get to me.

Here are all the remainders. You have to keep them because the pattern calls for them later on. Every time you get to a new color (about every 10 minutes) you need to look through each remainder and then through the unseparated ones.

I'm listening to Autobiography of a Yogi while I work on this, so it is keeping me from flipping out.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

How Feminine R U?

You Are 73% Feminine, 27% Masculine

You are in touch with your feminine side.
Sensitive, intuitive, and caring are all words that describe you.
And you're just masculine enough to relate to both men and women.

So you see, I am just masculine enough to have a (removable) moustache!!!