Friday, January 20, 2012

Varve Shawl

Over the past few years I've knit a fair number of shoulder shawlettes which have their place and are very popular for good reason, including a delightful instant gratification factor.   But for my money nothing compares to the satisfaction of knitting a traditional lace shawl which is ethereal and warm and truly transformed from a good severe blocking.


The yarn I used for this shawl is a wonderfully rustic wool and the moment I saw it in the LYS I knew that it would make a beautiful shawl.  It's not a merino wool, mind you, which is both the good and bad news.  The good news is that it will hold this block 4ever.  The bad news is that I found this yarn a little obnoxious against my bare skin.  But it's perfect for layering and I will wear it most often while hiking with Simcha although I think it is elegant enough to be worn anywhere.

There are many popular knitwear designers and its tempting to want to knit whatever they are knitting.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, and I do my share of that too.  But sometimes you are best served to step back a moment and think about what speaks to you and not just follow the current trends.  The more you follow your own taste your knitting will more accurately reflect who you are and give you a fashion flare that is your unique signature.   You will feel and look your best when you do that. 

Particulars: Varve Shawl by Grace Anna Farrow (A Stitch to Wear);  Isager Strik Spinni (wool 1) 2 skeins (330 yds/skein); US 6 needles; no modifications whatsoever.   It's hard to see in the pictures, but this shawl has beautiful texture in addition to the classic old shale patterning.  It's a half circle shape which I particularly like.  Relaxed post blocked dimensions: 64"x 28."  Another shawl by this designer that I've knit is her Grade Shawl blogged as my Southwest Knit Shawl.

The MisAdventures of Simcha

I'm not the only one who loves to take a walk as the following anecdote reveals.

During the day I typically follow a fairly consistent routine and around 3 o'clock I take Simcha for an afternoon walk.  But the other day I was working at my computer and even though I knew it was time for Simcha's walk I ignored him when he began nudging me with his nose.  So he proceeded to grab me by my T-shirt and pulled me out of my chair.  I know I should never have allowed this pushy behavior but I was laughing too hard and wanted to quickly finish up what I was working on so I went back to the computer just for another minute.  At which point he brought me over one of my tennis shoes.  What could I say then but geez, if you really want to go for a walk you should have brought me my sweater....  Just kidding.  Of course I broke down and took him for a walk, I'm a softy.

The above picture is taken along Stunt High trail in Topanga, a hike that has lots of old oak trees, a beautiful creek bed, and I think is a particularly pretty place for a walk.

Until next time, be well and love well and take some time to think about how your knitting expresses your personal style and why you pick the projects that you do.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Yvonne's English Sherry Trifle

It is with great pleasure that I'm sharing my mother's recipe for English Sherry Trifle.  This is one of my favorite desserts and is relatively simple to make.  It is an authentic English recipe that she learned from her mother growing up in England (and in all likelihood came into the family from their family cook, as my grandmother lived in a household that employed a cook).

I think of sherry trifle as a traditional Christmas dessert as my mother always makes one for afternoon tea on Christmas day.  But the English love a festive party and nothing adds to the festivities like an English Sherry Trifle, and it is a dessert that is served year round at parties.

You wouldn't truly be making an "English" sherry trifle unless while preparing it you didn't wink and say "it's only a trifle said the monkey wee weeing on the sponge cake."

Don't ask me what this means, one can only guess.  Keep in mind that it's just part of the experience of making the trifle and something my mother always says, so go with it.  If it helps (and in case you didn't know) the English are known for having a lavatorial (bathroom) sense of humor.  Having been born and raised in Southern California I can honestly say I don't think I have an English sense of humor, but for some reason I never laugh as much around anyone as I do when I'm around my Mom.   

Without further ado, here is Yvonne's English Sherry Trifle Recipe


1.  Sponge Cake (you can use a jelly roll or even an angle food cake but whatever you use it must absorb liquid well without disintegrating).  My mother buys a sponge cake but I bake a Sponge Cake using this recipe by King Arthur Flour.

2.  Sherry.  Use a nice sherry (not a cooking sherry).  The amount is a matter of taste but I think at a minimum you should plan on using 1/2 cup).

3.  Raspberries.  Using frozen raspberries is perfectly fine.  Approximately 2-3 cups.

4.  Raspberry Jello - yield 4 cups.  This is a unique aspect of my mother's recipe and gives her trifle a beautiful rich red color.  It's best to use a  large box of Jello brand, if available.

5.  Custard - yield 4 cups.  My mother uses Bird's Custard mix (if you use the mix make sure you use the mix that calls for adding milk not water) but I make a custard from scratch - see recipe below.

6.  Heavy Whipping Cream.  1-2 cups

7.   Decorations:  candied cherries cut into half and candied angelica cut into tiny strips (candied angelica is a green cake decorating item that can be cut into tiny strips and placed around the cherries to look like grass).


Find a large bowl.  It looks best in cut glass but I use a heavy glass salad bowl.  Whatever you use it must be thick enough to withstand boiling temperatures.

1.  Line your bowl with sponge cake torn into pieces.  Sprinkle with sherry (it should be damp but not soaked through).  Cover with a layer of raspberries.

2.   Prepare raspberry jello according to package directions.  Pour hot liquid directly over raspberries and cake.  You want the liquid to absorb and cover all of the cake and just cover the raspberries.

3.  Refrigerate until the jello sets.  This takes at least a few hours and it can sit overnight.

4.  Make a custard and while it is still hot (directly from the stove top) pour custard over the jello.  The custard will settle into the jello mixture and form a layer on top.  Allow to cool and "set up" in the refrigerator at least an hour or two before adding the whipped cream.

5.  Whip the cream with a small amount of sugar (1 or 2 tablespoons).  Carefully spoon the whipped cream over the top and decorate with the candied cherries and candied angelica. 

Custard Recipe - 4 cups (2 pints) .  The original recipe for proper custard is found here on BBC Food (which I converted to US measurements/ingredients).


4 cups whole milk
4 fluid oz heavy whipping cream
8 eggs (yolk only)
2 oz super fine baking sugar (white granular sugar)
4 level teaspoons cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract


1.  Use a heavy weight sauce pan.  Slowly bring the milk and cream to simmering point over a low heat.  This is the longest part of the recipe and it is important not to rush this stage otherwise your custard will not "set up" properly.  To ease the boredom I stand over the stove reading a book whilst stirring mixture with a wooden spoon.

2.  Whisk yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together in a large bowl until well blended.  Pour the hot milk and cream mixture into the bowl with the eggs whisking mixture well.

3.  Return mixture to the sauce pan and add vanilla extract.  Stir over a low heat with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens.

4.   Pour directly over trifle while hot.  You can also serve this custard with an English Pudding.

And here is a picture of my Mom with her trifle.  Nothing makes her happier than having her family around her at Christmas and making it the nicest experience possible.  Many of our family Christmas traditions come from her childhood when her mother went to great lengths to make it a a very special occasion, and she has done the same for us.

Now I don't want to hear any whimperings about calories or red food color dye.  This is a once a year treat and best to do it right and enjoy it.

Lastly, I can't resist sharing this picture of my Dad taken this past Christmas.  He has nothing whatsoever to do with making the trifle (except eating it) but as you can see he looks happy at the prospect of doing so.

Until next time be well and love well and may 2012 be a jolly and festive year for you ~
Soon I shall be back with some knitting as I have been busy busy busy knitting away.