Shades of Bartholomew Cubbins

The knitting of hats is an even more addictive subgroup of knitting than knitting itself. Hats are so fast and easy, so pleasingly sculptural as they progress. The knitting of socks is nearly as addictive, save for the fact that one must (hopefully) knit two of a kind. Fortunately, my latest hat will be finding a home other than the shelf of our front closet.

Our nephew Michael is a new missionary in Chicago, and he is as fresh and green as a newly-cut Christmas tree. His emails and letters have been delightful thus far. The winds of Chicago are apparently as fierce as legend portrays; his poor exposed ears are suffering. I just finished a hat for him, knit out of a lovely Malabrigo color called 'Azul Bolita.' I'll send the hat off, along with some treats, via Fed Ex today.

And here is Daniel with an old pilot's helmet on. It weighs nearly as much as he does, but he was somehow able to hold his head up straight. Up in the air, Junior Birdman!


Food = Good*

Doh! That crafty Michael Pollan has done it again. I've been working on a long musing on how I believe that we as a society should get back to enjoying food for its own sake. Then I open up The New York Times last Sunday, and what's featured on the cover of the Magazine? Yes, another stunning and beautifully written article by my idol of journalism, saying everything I was going to say--only far more articulately.

You may remember that Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma made my Top Ten Books of 2006 list (and many other top lists as well). His research is great, but his writing is even better: funny, insightful, lyrical; never pompous, condescending, or jargon-heavy. I'd love to meet him someday, although I'm sure that I'd behave exactly the way I did when I met Brent Spiner backstage at the Broadway revival of 1776. Patrick chortles with glee every time he remembers it. No, I won't recount it again. Suffice it to say that the sentence "I'm a big fan of your work" is declaimed in worshipful tones whenever it appears that I need teasing.

Another great book on food that I read last year is Nina Planck's Real Food. I emailed Nina after I read it; she agreed to come up and speak at a house party chez nous. Now that the renovation is done and the holidays are over, I need to contact her again and get our schedules together.

Speaking of real food, Tess had her turn at CIA Night last Saturday. What a champ! She grated two whole blocks of cheese for her chosen recipe: Dang Quesadillas. I'm happy to report that no knuckles were sacrificed to the cause; the other kids were in awe of her grating skills. Everyone's geared up for February's sessions. Christian will be trying his hand at Chicken Enchiladas (the famous recipe that prompted a proposal from Patrick); James is trying to choose between Bouillabaisse and lobster (can we afford him?); and Hope and Tess are still deciding.
*Hope: Mom, why don't 'food' and 'good' rhyme?
Me: [Long lecture on the evolution of English phonology.]
Hope: Umm, thanks, Mom. Can I have a snack?


Make a [back]splash

When we designed our kitchen renovation, I knew I wanted something unique for the backsplashes, filling that crucial space between the soapstone counters and the cherry Mission-style cabinets. We researched a lot of different options, but nothing seemed quite right. Then Patrick had the brilliant idea of asking our friend Seth Fairweather to design something for us.

Seth is a glass blower, but we knew he had recently been dabbling with casting glass as well. I asked him to make some sketches for some glass panels with our tastes in mind. Seth knows how much I love the Arts & Crafts movement and the Pre-Raphaelites; he said the the verticality of our kitchen chairs (our seats are not upholstered) and cabinets reminded him of barrel vaults in a cathedral.

I was thrilled with Seth's sketches; they featured little medieval workers building a cathedral, with each panel broken up by pillars of the vaulting. We asked him to cast the panels, and he got right to work. Once our cabinets and countertops were installed, Seth came down from school to install the panels. The glass was devitrified, and when the little glass bullets melted in the molds, they retained a bit of their own shape, so the surface of the glass looks like a stone mosaic.

Seth and I had discussed whether or not to paint the glass; I finally decided that I would, so that the relief of the characters and architectural details would be more apparent. Above are before and after photos of the first panel. This panel is above the counter where I do my baking, and has the most elaborate details. I especially love the rose window. The rustic style evokes woodcuts and illuminations of the Middle Ages for me; I think it's a great contrast against the clean lines of the cabinets and woodwork.

One panel down; three more to go. The other panels will be less work, since I'll just use the cream wash on most of them to highlight the figures. I'll post again when they are done.


Mad Hatter

Daniel asked for a hat, which coincided nicely with my new resolve to knit down that stash in the attic. This stripy number is some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran leftover from a yoked Fair Isle sweater I knit for myself a couple of years ago. I think I still have enough left for one more hat; I may make a spare to have in the hall closet, just in case.

Hope begged in on the photo shoot; I acquiesced, since her hat hadn't been published yet.
Question: Is Daniel this happy all the time? Answer: Yes, actually--pretty much.


Macaroni & Hope

Hope strapped on the apron for CIA night this weekend. Macaroni & Cheese from scratch was her dish of choice--as opposed to the Annie's boxed stuff the kids get (and love) whenever there's a babysitter for the evening. A-grating she went, only grazing her knuckles twice in the process. Once again, the Cook's Illustrated recipe delivered. The casserole was creamy, smooth, and cheesy without strings. Salad and ice cream completed the evening.
We're all enjoying the cooking tutorials; James already is browsing through cookbooks and planning his next turn in the kitchen.