Archive for November, 2019

I did. I said I wasn’t cooking yesterday, but I changed my mind late Wednesday night, due to the nagging of my youngest child. So at midnight, hubby and I were in Walmart, buying the fixings of a turkey dinner. Honestly, I was pretty darn surprised to get everything at that hour. I figured the store would be out of everything by then, but no. So dinner was the ubiquitous turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and deviled eggs, with a Marie Callendar apple pie and two rolls of Dutch banket for dessert.

The banket did not go well, and let me explain why. I haven’t made it in quite awhile, but I hadn’t misstepped this badly on the recipe before. What happened is that I have discovered a job that a Vitamix absolutely cannot handle: making almond paste.

Normally, I use my food processor for that job, but since the reduction in kitchen size, things aren’t always easily accessible now, or it’s a pain to find the space to use them. Such is the case with the food processor. There is precious little room between the cabinets and the counters. The Keurig fits, but the space is cozy, to say the least. The Vitamix does not fit, so it resides next to the Keurig in its two distinct parts. The base to the back, the carafe at the front, because it sees the most use. The food processor doesn’t get used a whole lot, so it lives elsewhere. I didn’t feel like dragging it out, and thought I could safely use the Vitamix for the job. I make almond butter in the thing all the time, why not almond paste?

I’ll tell you why: almond paste is considerably denser. The Vitamix quit, in the middle of the job. Just…quit. And I had to drag out the food processor anyway. As a result, the almond paste has a different texture than it usually does, because I usually chop the almond up very finely, into flour, really. This time, it had a very grainy texture, and was a good deal stickier than usual. It still tasted the same (read: delicious), but the texture was way off the mark. But it was still a hit, so there’s that.

I love cooking when I have an appreciative audience, and lately I have one often. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but Aneira has herself a boyfriend. And given the fact that she is only fourteen to his sixteen, they are never unchaperoned. He comes over, often with his father, and all adults keep eyes on them.

He’s a good kid. He helps, unasked, with the household chores and groceries, and calls me “Ma”. He brings Aneira roses and tells her things like seeing her eyes brightens his day. He’s respectful, and doesn’t resent constantly having adults around. And he’s willing to brave her father and her insane uncles to be with her, which is a big deal. Both of them love sitting down and playing games with us, whether it’s Cards Against Humanity or Dungeons and Dragons. The kid’s a keeper, no doubt about it, but they’re both young, and might decide not to keep each other forever, which is totally normal, of course. By the same token, this could also be my future son-in-law, so it’s a good thing all parties get along! But since he’s been around, I cook for six almost as often as I cook for four. And it’s lovely to have them enjoy it, so I’m happy to do it!

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I’m weaving. On a floor loom.

Fleetwood Mac had it right. Well, the title, anyway…the lyrics, obviously, have nothing whatsoever to do with weaving. But I have big love for the big looms. I can’t begin to explain how good it feels to be in front of a loom again. Both of the big looms; I include the takadai as a large loom.

First thing this morning, I started weaving. I went to bed at one am last night, and tossed and turned because I couldn’t sleep for wanting to weave, but I had to at least try to sleep. Bryony always wakes up early, and she is a child who cannot be without supervision. So first thing in the morning, I was on the loom. And every chance I’ve gotten throughout the day, so I’ve gotten quite a ways! It’s nothing fancy, just a simple plain weave in two variegated colors. And since I typed that last sentence, I’ve decided that I like the two colors separately, but not together, and cut off what I’ve done so far. What can I say? My heart is fickle lol. I tied the warp back up and started again, so warp and weft are now the same color.

This is uncharted territory for me. I feel like the Indiana Jones or Nathan Drake of weaving (oops, my geek is showing). I know it sounds ridiculous to say that, but this is my view: weaving is a central tenet to pretty much every culture, going back time out of mind. Every culture has a different way of doing it, has a pattern it calls its own. There is inkle weaving, tablet weaving, rigid heddle weaving, backstrap weaving, tapestry weaving, table loom, floor loom, fingerweaving, and probably others whose existence I haven’t discovered yet. Every culture uses their weaving for various things, but one commonality is that it’s all cloth.

For me, a floor loom is like discovering a whole new weaving world. Up until now, it’s been an occupation that only employed my hands. Treadles on table looms are, necessarily, operated by hand. Now, my hands are free, and I’m treadling with my feet! Do I use both feet in turn, or only one moving from treadle to treadle? Is it better to be barefoot, wear socks, or wear slippers? Maybe those socks you get in the hospital, with some traction on them?

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Though tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I am not cooking for it this year. The tiny kitchen is more than a little daunting. I do plan to cook for Yule, which gives me a month to work out the logistics of cooking a huge meal with many components, in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp, which I will necessarily be sharing with whichever child is selected to do dishes.

The deal is, if I have to cook, someone other than me does the dishes. It is Law.

That being said, though I’m not doing the big turkey day extravaganza, I do find myself in a baking mood today. I haven’t done any since we moved, and there are a couple of things I haven’t made in awhile that I’m craving, both being my versions of things at the Dutch bakery back in Colorado.

First is the bacon/ham/gouda quiche that they made there. I haven’t made it in at least a year, primarily due to complaints that I made it too often. I figure I’ve waited quite long enough, and that’s what I’m making for breakfast this morning.

I also want to make some Dutch banket. I miss the homemade almond paste filling the flaky puff pastry, warm right out of the oven. And it’s a holiday pastry, so it falls right in line.

I’ve been up since 4 am. I don’t know why I woke up then, but I did. I wish I could blame these cravings on that fact, but no. I’ve been thinking about the quiche for several days, and because I was introduced to both the quiche and the banket at the same place, it follows that both would come to mind at the same time.

Sigh. Looks like I’m getting up to start the day. I need to get some ham, almonds, and powdered sugar so I can get to cooking…

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Loom all dressed up

When I was five or six years old, my father went down to his workroom in our basement and labored to produce a potholder loom for me. Not for me those plastic looper looms, oh no…dad took four pieces of wood, dozens of finishing nails, and created an adjustable loom for his only daughter. Adjusted down to its smallest size, I could make potholders. At its largest, I could make placemats. My mother, the prolific knitter, provided as much yarn as I wanted, they showed me how to cut it (none of us knew what we were doing, so my weft was cut strings that made fringe on the sides of my projects), and let me go and run with it.

From the day dad put that loom in my hands, the one he spent the time to make for me, I wanted to learn how to really weave. Not just potholders, but things I could actually use. Unfortunately, I was born pre-internet, so all we could do was look in the local phone book to see who could give me lessons.

There was no one, and as time went on, my precious loom was lost, and I eventually forgot about weaving altogether, until 2011, when it occurred to me to try looking online for someone to teach me the basics. And I found someone, and finally learned to use a shafted loom.

I bought a second hand Schacht Mighty Wolf. It was my dream loom, and I got a fantastic deal on it. The timing was bad, as I was in school and struggling with it, but I thought, well, it’ll be here after I graduate.

Circumstances, though, conspired to kill that idea, and I had to sell that loom before I ever had a chance to use it even once. It broke my heart, but I still had my other looms and had learned other forms of weaving, so I didn’t lose out entirely, but I still dreamed about a Schacht Mighty Wolf.

This year, I finally got my Wolf! She has been sitting patiently for months, waiting for me to stop procrastinating and dress her in a warp, and Thursday, I got down to business.

First header

Three days and zillions of mistakes later, I have just woven my first header on my dream floor loom. I have arrived, but my parents are no longer here to thank for putting that first loom and yarn in my hands. Still, I’d like to think they know, wherever they are, how much I do appreciate all that they have done for me, not just that loom. And I wonder if they knew that that little girl would finally grow up to that big loom. I’m betting they did. They knew me pretty well.

Thanks, Mom and Dad. Much love, and miss you much.

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Second warp, nice and pretty.

Today, I decided, was going to be the day I finally put a warp on my Mighty Wolf. It was a spur of the moment decision, made as I was driving Bryony to school this morning. I’d been thinking about what I wanted to do for days, months really, and last night I went to sleep with the warp on my mind. So this morning, I decided to stop procrastinating and actually do it.

Yes, I have been procrastinating, because although I love the actual weaving part of the process, I do not ever look forward to warping. Warping a table loom takes me forever; I cringe to think about how much longer a procedure it will be with a floor loom. Not to mention the fact that I’ve never used a floor loom before. Nor have I ever used a warping mill, which I was going to do today also. And I did it, which begins my comedy of errors.

You see, having never used one before, I had watched a tutorial on YouTube…three months ago. Did I go and refresh my memory before attempting this? No, sadly, I did not. So I calculated my ends and yardage, and started winding.

I haven’t used my shafted looms in two years…what weaving I have done has been either tablet or inkle, so right off the bat, I made two rookie mistakes. Not even advanced beginner mistakes, but straight-up rookie. Did you catch them? I did, way after the fact. The first was that while I calculated my ends and my yardage, I did not calculate the probable waste, which means the warp was likely to be too short for my project. The second error was the aforementioned not refreshing my memory on the warping mill, and that brought about the really rookie mistake of not having a cross in the warp.


Wasted first warp.

This brought about mistake number three: I tried to save the warp, by unraveling it onto the floor and redoing it on the mill. I thought, I truly thought, that I had unraveled it in such a way that it would not tangle. Feel free to laugh at that monumental error in thinking. We are talking about a warp of 60 ends, and each end is 52 inches long. And because the warp has not yet been cut, you’re talking about one string that is 3,120 inches long. 260 feet, all pooled on the floor. I got 82 feet into the warp and things were going decently until that point. I thought I had a chance. Then I hit the snarl.

I’m usually good at getting tangles and knots out of string. A couple of minutes, and it’s loose and useable again. But for some reason, this one defeated me. After a half hour of trying to untangle this unholy mess, I snapped and cut off the warp. I may try again, at least to roll it into a ball and use it for something else, but I’d had it with this mess. I pulled out the cone of yarn and started over again.

Essentially, I kinda deserved what I got, thinking that I could just do this without having to review anything at all. Maybe I could have, had I been using a warping board and my table looms, both of which I’ve used many times. But the Mighty Wolf and the warping mill are unknowns, since I’ve never used either of them before, and as such, I shouldn’t have tried to use the mill from a three-month-old memory. Putting a cross in the warp threads is a basic, basic tenet of weaving, and I completely forgot it in my misplaced confidence. Not only did I forget it, but I forgot for the entire length of the warp, meaning I had put the whole thing on the mill before going back and watching a video on using the warping mill on YouTube. This, you may understand, is closing the barn door a week after the horse has run off and taken the neighbor’s mare with him to start a family in another country.

Tied up and ready to go, finally

So that happened. The second warp, though, went a good deal more smoothly, and I confess I like the mill a lot more than the warping boards!! So much easier just to turn the mill!! The warp is on, with the required cross, and is tied up waiting to be put on the loom. I am taking a break before I make any attempt at the loom itself…and I’m going to look for a YouTube tutorial to try and save myself some grief!

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Accidental earrings

There have been a couple of these this weekend. First, I was playing with helm weave, which is a chain maille weave that involves two parallel lines of rings connected by smaller rings and capturing a third row between them. The third row isn’t connected in any way to the other rows, other than capture by being surrounded. It’s one of the many I hadn’t tried before, so I wanted to give it a shot. I tried it the first time with aluminum rings that followed exact sizes in a pattern, and came out with a pretty little ring of rings. No particular use for it, just practice. So then I started playing with other rings that were supposed to meet the aspect ratio criteria, and by numbers, they did…but they didn’t work for helm. They were far too tight, no movement at all. So I posted to a chain maille group on Facebook, and someone suggested using what I had made as zipper pulls, which triggered my own brain to think of earrings, so that’s what they became! Thus: a happy failure.

The success portion of our program came from New England clam chowder. This is a meal that I have tried to make many times, and never got it right. Every attempt at this soup wound up in the garbage disposal. No exaggeration: Every. Single. One.

My last attempt was at least…let’s just say, a really long time ago. I had given up. I had access to Red Robin and Red Lobster, and they both had excellent bowls of clam chowder; I had no need to make it myself. And for what it’s worth, in my opinion, Red Robin serves a better version than the Lobster. Go fig.

The finished, delicious product

Anyway, I no longer have access to the rouge-chested little avian, so if I want good clam chowder, I will have to make it myself. In recalling past attempts, I have to admit I wasn’t best thrilled with this solution. But canned clam chowder is not that good, even after doctoring it, and after the tandoori chicken turned out so well, I was less hesitant than I might have been, and off I went to find a recipe.

It isn’t hard to find a good recipe on Google. In fact, there are so many it’s hard to choose. I finally settled on one from reluctantentertainer.com that wasn’t too complicated as far as ingredients or directions, and got to work. I only had to go out and buy one ingredient that isn’t a staple in my house: leeks. I don’t recall ever having eaten a leek in my life, and I didn’t know what to do with one. Again, Google was my friend. There was actually a video to show you what parts of a leek to use…which is a good thing, as it looks like a gigantic green onion, and I would otherwise have also used the green part.

I followed the recipe to the letter, and once I reached a point of testing the flavor of the chowder, I decided one ingredient was lacking, and that was white wine. I added a half cup, and after cooking off the alcohol, the soup was absolutely, totally, divine. I was honestly shocked. I was fully prepared to have to cook again after dumping a failed soup down the disposal, and now I didn’t have to. Even my kids loved it. And a new recipe was added to the list of things I could cook on a dull day.

I don’t normally tweak a recipe the first time out. I generally wait till I’ve made it a few times, then add or take away things as I feel are needed or not. The cayenne in the tandoori chicken doesn’t count: I have children, and extra spicy food doesn’t work for my youngest at all, so all I did was reduce the amount there. Nothing added, no ingredients fully removed. With the clam chowder, though, I felt as though it was missing something. It was just “okay”. But then I remembered a white clam sauce recipe that I’d gotten from Pinterest. That recipe included wine and stated it was optional. I’d always made it with the wine, except for one time, and that one time, the sauce was actually inedible to me. So I thought, maybe that’s the same problem here, and it was.

A gazillion years ago, maybe I was just impatient. Maybe I made too many substitutions because I didn’t have whatever was needed and thought they would work. Whatever my block was, I’m glad it’s gone now!

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