Wednesday, April 29, 2009

To Market We Will Go!

It's a Market Bag for my Mom on Mother's Day! I'll also stuff it full of her favorite British goodies so she feels thoroughly spoiled. Bags, like scarfs, make wonderful gifts because you don't have to worry about sizing. Although, you still need to pick the right color....

I picked pink! She won't find a bright pink Market Bag just anywhere. I know, because I've looked. It really is something that needs to be custom knit for you. I do think she will like it, because she loves bright happy colors as much as I do. Well, almost as much. But think also of the practical side! This will make it much easier for my father to find her in a crowd.

While it is a vibrant pink, the yarn has a nice tweedy texture and the color is much softened in the sunlight. Certainly very wearable.

Although at first Mr Puffy wasn't sure about a pink purse....

He quickly came around when he understood that it was for gathering food at the Farmer's Market. Then he was thrilled with it and indeed ready to take off for the market himself! Mr Puffy does enjoy good food, and is willing to do his part.

Particulars: Rutabaga Shopping Bag (Knitscene, Spring 2007); 2 skeins Green Mountain Spinnery, Cotton Comfort (peony colorway); US 10.5 Needles (circular); Modification: This is a great pattern and I didn't change a thing. I particularly love the stitch pattern (shown best in the photo below) which creates a nice strong stretchy fabric. However, I did feel that the handle was a bit flimsy. To rectify this I crocheted along the selvedge stitches on both sides of the strap - twice on each side - for good measure. I do think a purse needs a sturdy strap to be comfortable. I used a simple crab stitch and it worked like a charm. Dimensions: 11" x 11" (excluding the strap)

A Wee bit about my Mum

My mother is a remarkable woman who (in her eighties) is still walking down to the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. She enjoys looking into the shops along the way and after she has shopped at the market my father picks her up. Since this bag can be tucked into her purse until needed, I think that she will find it handy to take along!

This is a picture of my Mother taken on my last visit to Santa Barbara, early in March. We are sitting on the upstairs patio of Cafe Biano in Victoria Court where we like to stop for coffee and cake. Their coffee is wonderful (we splurge and have the cappuccino) and it's a favorite spot of ours to sit and have a little chat before moseying along to visit the shops. If it happens to be a Saturday, we always end up at the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market from whence my father conveniently picks us up!

As you can imagine, my Mother is a marvelous cook, having honed her skills through decades of cooking for my father. Lucky man! Some of you may recall her Apple Pie Recipe (which is wonderful - do give it a try). This similarly is another classic American dish. Enjoy!

Mr Puffy's Favorite Meatloaf Recipe


1.25 lbs Ground Turkey (not the extra lean - that's too dry)
2-3 tablespoons white bread crumbs
1 egg
1 medium onion - grated
1 cup fresh mushrooms - finely diced
dried or fresh basil to taste
dried or fresh oregano to taste
salt to taste
dried tomato or chili peppers - optional (I personally never add either)
1 can Campell's condensed tomato soup (do not add water)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees;
2. Combine in a bowl all ingredients EXCEPT the canned soup;
3. Place mixture into loaf pan and bake for 35 minutes;
4. Take loaf pan out of the oven and pour can of condensed tomato soup over top. Do not dilute the soup with water; use the whole can. Return loaf pan to oven and continue cooking for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Generally the cooking time is approximately45 minutes total.

Until next time.... make healthy choices and try and visit your local Farmer's Market!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kyla Fingerless Mittens

Art intersects function. These fun and artistic fingerless mittens are designed by the very talented Monika of Smoking Hot Needles. And it's a free pattern. How amazing is that!

This is a cool post for me because I'm talking about two things that I love. First I love how generous and amazing the knit blog community is. It never ceases to amaze me how knitters so freely give their advice and share their patterns. For me, it wasn't so much that I learned how to knit from reading the knit blogs but rather that I learned what could be knit, other than a frumpy old sweater and scarf. The knitting blogs were my gateway into a world filled with gossamer shawls, handpainted yarns, brightly colored socks, and fingerless mittens. After seeing the many beautiful things being knit in blogland I never thought about my own knitting the same way again. Speaking of which, you will certainly never find a finer example of all that is good about knit blogs than Monika's blog Smoking Hot Needles.

Topanga, California

I'm going to talk a little about Topanga, California which is my home and where I love to be. Often I talk about other places and simply forget to talk about Topanga. These pictures of me wearing my Kyla Mittens are taken in our garden which is styled after a botanical garden or, if you prefer, a yard with a few hardy plants that don't require much water or care. The little community of Topanga is actually a 15 minutes drive down the mountain from where we live. Technically, as the crow flies, we are in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu and are surrounded by native California Chaporral.

You can see the Pacific Palisades behind me and if it wasn't such a foggy day you would also see the city of Los Angeles beyond that. At night the city lights are dazzling.

I'm standing amidst a particularly hardy and well adapted plant, which is the New Zealand Tea Tree shrub. Both the pink and red sprays of flowers next to me are this type of plant. Given that California is facing a water shortage I highly recommend them to anyone looking to conserve water and yet still have colorful flowering plants around their home.

I wish I could also tell you what the white flowers is that I'm holding, but I don't know. If anyone knows, I would love to hear from you!

One thing that I love about Topanga is the quiet life we live. Except for those occasional coyote kills which are far from quiet, and the less said of that, the better. When people know where we live I'm often asked isn't it inconvenient? or What do you do if you run out of milk? The answers are yes and I don't. This is my home and I wouldn't trade living here for anything.

We start each morning with a short jog and that's lovely because it's peaceful in the mornings and I enjoy listening to the birds chirping happily around us. It's particularly nice in the Springtime because the mountain is covered with wildflowers and seeing all the pretty flowers somehow makes the jog feel less arduous.

Kyla Fingerless Mittens ~ Pattern Notes

But I digress and you want me to talk about the Kyla Fingerless Mittens! This is a great knit for the Spring because it uses a finer gauge yarn (sock weight) and that makes for a light and feminine accessory. I particularly like the wrist design because it creates a strong grip and these mittens will not easily stretch out or lose their shape.

I also learned a lot from this pattern. It is the first pattern written so that I understood how to add a motif of my own choosing. Monika has knit these mittens both with a heart and a cable motif and for mine I used a diamond shape motif created with bobbles (my bobbles are inside out but that's neither here nor there and I love them anyway, wonky though they are). It's so simple. All you have to do is decide what motif you want and then divide the total number of stitches for the top half of the mitten and then locate the center stitch so you can center the design. For example I knit these mittens on 48 stitches. That means the top half of the mitten has 24 stitches and the center stitch is the 12th stitch. To center a motif you simply have to center the design with the middle stitch placed on the 12th stitch. It's all clear as mud now, I'm sure. You can thank me later.

Knitting Tip #4 ~ Will you Have Enough Yarn?

With this pattern I also learned how to figure out if I would have enough yarn to finish my project, which is an issue that arises whenever you are knitting from a single skein of yarn. Since it can be disconcerting wondering whether you will have enough yarn to complete your project (particularly with socks that are a lot more time consuming) I highly recommend doing this. The simple solution is to pull out a food scale and weigh your yarn. If you know how much yarn your 1st mitten (or sock) used you will then know how much yarn it will take to make the second one. After I finished my first Kyla Mitten I weighed it and found that it used 20 grams of yarn. Since my skein of yarn had a total of 50 grams I knew then (hoped like the dickens) that I had plenty of yarn left to knit my second mitten. Despite my skepticism, this actually works perfectly. Both my mittens weigh exactly 20 grams and I have 10 grams of yarn left (20 x 2 =40 +10=50 grams = 1 skein koigu).

Particulars: Free Pattern: Kyla Fingerless Mittens (download pattern link) (ravelry pattern link); 1 skein Koigu Yarns merino wool handpainted sock yarn; US 2 Double Pointed Needles. More detailed pattern notes/modifications are on Mr Puffy's Ravelry notebook Page . The Dagoba Lavendar Blueberry Chocolate bar is nice but not essential to knitting this pattern.

Enjoy the Spring everyone! And try matching your chocolates to your knitting, just because it's fun!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Matilda the Mouse

Meet Matilda the Mouse. She's very sweet and lovable.

She was fun to knit and is very soft and cuddly. Though I really shouldn't say, I do think she is cute as a button. Love that shawl she's wearing. You know, I have one rather like it down in San Clemente. What a coincidence! We'll have to wear them together sometime.

The dress and shawl are, of course, custom knit for her but the purse and hat are store bought accessories, as is the cape she is wearing below.

Mr Puffy and I took her along on our walk the other day so she could enjoy the afternoon sunshine and flowers. Here she is in a bed of Lambs Ear (Stachys byzantina) one of my favorite Spring plants.

As are daisies flowers.

Here she is sunning herself on a gate as I chat with my neighbor and friend, Chris, a fellow knitter who is camera shy. You may recall that she and I knit Haven together last Fall.

Particulars: Mel's Mouse Family (Ravelry pattern link) from Knit 2 Together; US 6 double pointed needles; 1 skein Classic Elite Yarn Lush (50% angora/50% wool); odd scraps of Fiesta Yarns La Boheme (shawl) and Brown Sheep Company Top of the Lamb Sport (dress); embroidery floss for facial features. Dimensions: 12" tall x 4" across (including the arms in width). The fill is 100% polyester available in most craft stores. I purchased mine at F & S Fabrics on Pico in West LA (which also has a fantastic selection of buttons, incidentally). I have a few tips on finishing that I'll put on my Ravelry page for those interested.

Out and About in Santa Monica

I took Matilda along when I met our dear friend Sara at Le Pain Quotidien Bakery in Santa Monica. This is a great french bakery with wonderful coffee and is a favorite place of mine to stop on Wednesday mornings, before I head over to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market (the best farmer's market around).

I arrived a little early and an older woman came over and picked up Matilda and as she caressed her she reminisced about stuffed toys her children had loved during their childhood. She then wondered aloud why they were all boxed up when they could be out and enjoyed. I couldn't agree more. I do hope she goes home and finds that box of memories, and old friends.

The friend I mentioned, Sara, is lots of fun, loves to laugh, and is a lovely person. She's also learning to knit (guess who's teaching her) and in my book that makes her a person of discerning taste. I have assured her with a little practice she will be knitting a mouse of her own in no time at all.

No matter our age, we all need friends to brighten our day!

Egg Salad and Watercress Sandwiches for Tea

Just a quick idea for something to make with all those hard boiled eggs we have at this time of year. Open-Faced Egg Salad and Watercress Sandwiches (recipe courtesy of Saveur Magazine). I make mine sans mayonnaise and vinegar.

Mr Puffy and I would like to wish everyone a meaningful and joyous Easter and Passover celebration and, until next time, be well and love well.