Monday, May 17, 2010

Welcome to the Blog Cafe!

Welcome to the Blog Cafe! Hi, I'm Claudia and it is my pleasure today to host the virtual Blog Cafe. That means I get to take you to a location of my choice and pick a topic for us to chat about.

I know no better place to chat than over a cup of coffee, so I'm taking you to my favorite coffee haunt Cafe Mimosa, located in Topanga, California.

Topanga is a small mountain community in Southern California located just outside Los Angeles. It is well know for it's eccentric populace and hippie culture that is still very prevalent today. For the Joni Mitchell fans, her album Ladies of the Canyon is referring to Topanga Canyon.

Cafe Mimosa has a rustic feel and a relaxed atmosphere; pillows are scattered about and the shelves have a sampling of local artist wares which range from $250 felted handbags to small beaded trinkets and coffee mugs. It's an interesting spot for people watching too.... as lots of locals flow through here in the mornings. I'm perfectly normal, of course, but I can not vouch for the rest of them. But looking at these pictures I can't understand why I am not wearing one of my handknit Victorian lace shawls. Whatever was I thinking?

My Topic: Organic Food ~ Is it All Hype?

I typically talk about knitting here on this blog, but today I'm going to talk about another subject near and dear to my heart. Food. Studies that have found that organic produce has no health benefits over ordinary foods, see BBC and other news outlets. I was surprised by these findings. Still, I think focusing on the measurable nutrients misses the whole point of why eating eating organic foods is more healthful. One of the primary reasons that I eat organic food is that it tastes better and it has the texture nature intended. Strawberries are tender and sweet; tomatoes are juicy and firm; and potatoes have thick skins that bake up crunchy and hard. How is this more healthful you wonder? Because when your produce has great natural flavor it only requires simple cooking and/or preparation, and that reduces calories and makes meals quick to fix and delicious. You also consume more ruffage which means you are more likely to feel satisfied until your next meal. At least that seems logical to me.

It's not cheap to eat organic produce, so I'm curious to know if you think eating organic food is more healthful ~ or are the benefits all in my mind ~ and I've bought into a scam?

Edit added May 18, 2010: To see this issue from the point of view of a fourth generation "conventional" farming family, I invite you to read Hilary's comment below. She raises some interesting points and dispels some notions that make me wonder anew about organic food. For those who take it for granted that organic farming is better for us and society I think it is a perspective you might find interesting. Thank you Hilary (The Yarniad) and to all of you who have left comments!

Thank you for visiting the Blog Cafe! If you'd like to host the Blog Cafe one Monday, please email: They'll put you on the list and give you a hosting date. You can also click on this image on my sidebar to visit the latest Blog Cafe posts.

Simcha Update ~ Graduation Day

I guess he's obedient now. He's got a certificate that says so.

Until next time, be well and love well and give organic produce a try ~ and see if you can taste the difference!

P.S. The scarf I am wearing is a quick knit using a fab yarn on large needles ~ that makes for a fast and fun knit and a cool way to express your knitterly style, as you dash out for your morning coffee! Scarf Designed by Murielle Knitwear; US 13 needles; Araucania Rehue Multi (Alpaca, silk, nylon)

P.S.S. We're leaving for China on Friday so I won't be in "my space" here for a few weeks. I'll looking forward to catching up with you when I get back!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cabled Riding Jacket (AKA: "My Great Matter")

I'm wearing Teva Durham's Cabled Riding Jacket, that I've come to think of as "My Great Matter."

It occurred to me last Summer, while watching the miniseries The Tudors, that just like King Henry VIII, I too had a "Great Matter." For those of you haven't watched The Tudors, or are not anglophiles, King Henry VIII had a problem he referred to as his "Great Matter." It preoccupied his every waking moment. It was his desire to marry the beautiful Anne Boleyn. A feat impeded by his already being marriage to another woman, Catherine of Aragon. Only the Bishop of Rome had the power to grant him an annulment, which he was not willing to do. King Henry VIII's petitions for annulment fell on deaf ears. So annoying when you can't buy a legal ecclesiastic opinion, when you own an entire kingdom. Life is just not fair.

So how is it that my cabled riding is similar to King Henry VIII's "Great Matter"? Simple. The moment I saw the Cabled Riding Jacket I was captivated by its beauty. I. Wanted. It. But the pattern was all wrong for me. The design was ill suited to my petite body frame; the pattern was not easy to downsize; and all the different cables made reliance on gauge speculative. But I had to have it anyway. So I embarked upon a path fraught from the outset with problems. But my passion kept me motivated and, at long last, two years later, *sigh* consummation. After all that, I do believe I'm happier with my Cabled Riding Jacket than King Henry was with Anne Boleyn. There won't be any frogging in the town square.

The modifications that I made to the original pattern are too numerous to recount. To give you an idea of the extent of "downsizing" that I did to the pattern, I only used 8 out of the 13 skeins recommended for the small size. But I will share with you in broad strokes my knitting tips on how to downsize a pattern:

Knitting Tip: How to Downsize a Pattern

If you would like to make a knitting pattern smaller there are several ways to go about it. First, look at the design elements. If the design has a cable then you can reduce the number of stitches in each cable. For example, in this sweater the cables are written for 5 stitches. I reduced the cables to 4 stitches. You can also reduced the number of stitches in between each of the cable motifs. Or, you can also eliminate some of the cables entirely. In this sweater, I eliminated 2 columns of cables down the back. Another trick is to use a thinner yarn and smaller needles than the pattern calls for. If you study a pattern carefully, you can find lots of creative ways to reduce the overall size.

Particulars: Cabled Riding Jacket, Loop-d-Loop; Mostly Merino (77% Merino & Corriedale wool/ 23% mohair); Sumac colorway; US 8 needles; Modifications: too numerous to recount. I would not recommend this pattern except to a very experienced knitter.


Serendipity is finding a dog that looks good with my new sweater!

Until next time, be well, love well, and persevere on things that matter to you. It keeps life interesting and challenging. No guarantee that it will bring you happiness, though, so chose wisely. Do you have a "Great Matter"? Simcha and I would love to hear yours!