Thursday, January 29, 2004

Nether garments

I was reading through Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac: Projects for Each Month of the Year (Dover, 1974, 1981) last night. Her September project, wool long underwear or "nether garments," brought to mind all the people whose websites I read who've been describing cold, snowy weather for weeks now. Maybe a pair of Zimmermann's handknitted wool long underwear would help! She writes:
For ballet-dancers and skaters they are mandatory, and even the shy housewife likes to slip them on under her slacks to go to the store on exceptionally cold days. I have been known to pull them on under a housedress, add boots, my warm coat, and woolly cap and mittens, and trot comfortably to the A&P, looking (almost) like everybody else. (p. 96)

Monday, January 26, 2004

Recipes online

Last week's LA Times Food Section has two articles on international recipe sites. First, "A gastronomic world within reach" by Regina Schrambling.
Sites such as have been sorting out the world's food for years, but too often what they serve is more L.A. than Lombardy. The recipes are culled from mainstream magazines (Bon Appétit, Gourmet), and local oddities such as souse (pickled pig parts) from Barbados or even temptations such as cheesy-hammy tarte flambée from Alsace are not exactly high on their lists. More focused sites make you realize the world is much bigger than just a few favored nations with mainstream appeal.
Second, an article listing online sources for ingredients needed in the recipes: "Exotic ingredients are a click away."

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Relaxing Sunday morning

One of the luxuries of not being a church musician is not having to be at the church first thing to get organized and to practise. (One Sunday morning I was outside and heard singing. I looked up, trying to figure out who was singing. It was a woman driving by in a car doing vocal warm-up exercises, probably a soloist or choir member on her way to church.) Instead I made a batch of Malt-O-Meal muffins using the recipe on the cereal box. They are delicious—I used a duck egg from the Path to Freedom family (scroll down to the December 16 entry to see a picture of a Khaki Campbell duck). The duck egg keeps the muffins moist even though they are well-baked.

I'm also drinking coffee I made yesterday in my recently purchased (at the Salvation Army store) CorningWare cornflower porcelain 10-cup electric percolator coffee pot. (For the time being here's a link to a picture of a similar pot on eBay.) The coffee pot was in excellent condition—probably only used when company came, if then. I would only use it when company comes, but I wanted to try it yesterday to see what kind of coffee it made, so I made about six cups of delicious coffee.

Finally, I'm all cozy in my ragg-wool sweater my mum and I made a number of years ago. I knitted the back and half of the front. I think I also knit the sleeves, but I'm not sure. My mum knitted the rest of the front, the neck, and sewed up the sweater. The off-white band on the neck was not part of the original plan, but we ran out of wool and could not find ragg wool again. So a knitting shop owner suggested the contrasting color, which ended up looking quite nice. (When I come across the pattern, I'll post the details.)

A close-up showing the cables:

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Going bio

For those who might be a bit discouraged with the state of the union, check out how one family is responding over at the Path to Freedom Diary, and read the entries beginning around January 12—they're making their own diesel in a re-fitted hot water heater from used vegetable oil. When I stopped by to pick up my weekly order of organic salad mix earlier this week, I was invited to watch part of the preparation for processing the fuel. The excitement is catching when you see the possibilities in person!

In other news about alternative resources, last Sunday's LA Times Magazine ran an interesting article on the hemp industry and why it is so vehemently opposed by the U.S. government (free registration required): "The Demonized Seed" by Lee Green.
Among the world's major industrial democracies, only the United States still forbids hemp farming. If an American farmer were to fill a field with this drugless crop, the government would consider him a felon. For selling his harvest he would be guilty of trafficking and would face a fine of as much as $4 million and a prison sentence of 10 years to life. Provided, of course, it is his first offense.

This for a crop as harmless as rutabaga.

Prejudiced by nearly 70 years of government and media propaganda against all things cannabis, most Americans have no idea that hemp crops once flourished from Virginia to California. Prized for thousands of years for its fiber, the plant rode commerce from Asia to Europe in the first millennium and sailed to the New World in the second. American colonists grew it in the early 1600s. Two centuries later, hemp was the nation's third-largest agricultural commodity. The U.S. census of 1850 counted 8,327 hemp plantations, and those were just the largest ones. California farmers cultivated it at least into the 1930s. [. . .]

Hemp has attracted many passionate advocates over the years simply because of its relation to the illegal drug. But a glance at hemp's résumé makes it clear why a mere vegetable could inspire a devout constituency that transcends the counterculture. Hemp's products, its proponents insist, are interchangeable with those from timber or petroleum. The fiber volume supplied by trees that take 30 years to grow can be harvested from hemp just three or four months after the seeds go into the ground—and on half the land. Hemp requires no herbicides, little or no pesticide, and it grows faster than almost any other plant: from seed to 10 feet or taller in just a few months. Unlike most crops, it actually enriches rather than depletes the soil. As a textile it has proven stronger than cotton, warmer than linen, comfortable to wear and durable. As a building material, its extraordinarily long fibers test stronger than wood or concrete. As a nutrient it contains one of nature's most perfectly balanced oils, high in protein, richer in vitamin E than soy and possessing all eight essential fatty acids.

But because hemp contains traces of the chemical intoxicant known as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the U.S. government lists cannabis as a Schedule I drug, a category reserved for the most dangerous and medically useless drugs. Methamphetamine, PCP and cocaine don't warrant that classification, but hemp does, right alongside heroin and LSD. The word hemp doesn't actually appear on the list, but the drug-war establishment, particularly the instrumental DEA, behaves as though it does by recognizing no distinction between varieties of cannabis.
(I'm not able to track what search strings lead people to my site, but I'll bet posting excerpts from this article will attract a somewhat different audience than usual!)

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Holden Village

If anyone is wondering what to do this year for a vacation, I would recommend investigating Holden Village in the mountains near Chelan, Washington. It's an ecumenical village that offers a variety of programs, work opportunities, or just a place and time to get away from it all. (The FAQ page gives a good overview of Holden.)

The theme for this summer is finding one's vocation. Holden strives to run the village as environmentally sustainably as possible. Thus, part of their food philosophy is to buy as much of their food as possible from local organic farmers. This fall Holden is hosting a conference on liturgy and ecology. They also provide extensive opportunities to learn and create handcrafts, including weaving and pottery.

Caveat: I've never been to Holden, but it comes highly recommended from people who enjoy hiking and the outdoors; a program as unstructured or structured as one wishes; an emphasis on ecology; relatively inexpensive fees with the option of providing volunteer labor in return for lodging and food; a stunning mountain setting; an ecumenically hospitable place.

Thursday, January 15, 2004


Christopher Hitchens reviews Lydia Davis's translation of Proust in the current The Atlantic: "The Acutest Ear in Paris." About Proust, Hitchens writes,
his is the work par excellence that exposes and clarifies the springs of human motivation. Through his eyes we see what actuates the dandy and the lover and the grandee and the hypocrite and the poseur, with a transparency unexampled except in Shakespeare or George Eliot. . . . [O]ne does well to postpone a complete reading until one is in the middle of life, and has shared some of the disillusionments and fears, as well as the delights, that come with this mediocre actuarial accomplishment. . . . [The novel] is all about time. And one does not fully appreciate this aspect until one has learned something of how time is rationed, and of how this awful and apparently inexorable dole may conceivably be cheated.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Pray the news, part II

OK, fine. So I can't sleep. I went to bed early thinking I was tired, but my brain won't shut down.

This morning my pastor pointed out an article in January's The Lutheran magazine: "Looking back at the news of 2003: How do you pray for the headlines?" by an Episcopalian, Barbara Crawthorne Crafton. (I had commented on an LA Times article a year and a half ago about a group of nuns who pray the news online; when I discovered Mercy Street, I saw that the sisters' site was one of Sparrow's links.)

While not sleeping in bed, it struck me that praying the news is not only praying for remote situations seemingly unrelated to me. I might even pray about the NY Times article I linked to earlier this evening—what was so compelling about it for me? Why do I keep imagining learning to raise cattle or sheep or chickens or pigs or about growing a garden on my parents' three acre farm? How would I ever earn a living? And what about finishing my degree?

So I go to the end of Crafton's article, where she gets downright Lutheran, and read:
Pray for your ethical choices and the choices of others. Pray for what happens as a result of those choices. Stumble along and figure it out as best you can. Peer as far into the future as you can see, never very far, and try to see all the possible outcomes of your actions. Then take a deep breath and act. And throw yourself upon God's mercy.
Local dining

In today's NY Times Magazine is this article (free registration required): "A Short-Order Revolutionary," by Russell Shorto, about a diner in Vermont run by Tod Murphy.
The diner has a purpose: to support nearby family farms, or rather to demonstrate the conviction that -- economically, historically, naturally, logically -- food is supposed to be local, and that it can be again. Its business model is to swim directly against the globalization current. To that end, being a diner -- an icon of the American culinary and cultural landscape -- underscores the point: Remember what we used to be? Remember when taste and tradition mattered? Real food for regular people.
The article explains the challenges, not only of finding local sources of vegetables and meat, but also of figuring out a delivery system—"the challenge of recreating his great-grandmother's distribution system in the global age is difficult almost to the point of absurdity, as Murphy cheerfully admits"—and finding local meat processing facilities.
''The first thing I learned about trying to source local food is, meat is the issue,'' Murphy said. ''Vegetables are easy. A restaurant that uses locally grown vegetables, that's nice, but so what? If you're a diner, you need a steady supply of bacon, sausage and ham. Maybe you can find a small farmer to supply you, but he doesn't have the facilities for slaughtering. And who's going to smoke the meat? I couldn't find a processor in the state who wanted to do it. I didn't see how we'd be able to demonstrate the model without meat processing. So I bit the bullet and realized I was going to have to do that myself.''
Murphy wants to expand his model and has interested investors. However, as one analyst noted,
''The Farmers Diner works because Tod is willing to do the incredible amount of legwork and network-building,'' said Brian Halweil, a WorldWatch Institute researcher who made a study of the diner last year. ''He's really committed. Plus, it's a tight-knit community. It remains to be seen if what he's done can be duplicated elsewhere.''
(Via Meg's Food and Wine Page.)

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Two recommendations

First, from a conversation with a title insurance compliance officer, this book: Measuring America: How the United States was Shaped by the Greatest Land Sale in History, by Andro Linklatter. I've just started reading it, but I'm hooked! How the development and use of standardized land measuring instruments and surveying practices changed notions of land ownership, and how America was measured and sold off to pay for the war of independence.

Second, via Rebecca's Pocket, a website called Theory of the Daily: The domestic and the everyday in literature, history, philosophy, and science. Thoughtful entries on domesticity.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Knitting projects list

Yesterday afternoon I catalogued my knitting projects and stash of yarn. The stash is not very large or interesting. But some of the knitting projects have gone unfinished all too long. Here is a listing by order of how long I've (not) been working on various projects:
  • Project: Baby Blanket
    Started: 1986
    Pattern: Leisure Arts Leaflet 397 Baby Wrappers!, "Eyelet Lace"
    Yarn: Bernat Sesame 4 100% wool in "Baby Green"
    To finish: Sew one garter stich border to main blanket; knit second border and sew; knit top border.

  • Project: Baby Sweater and Hat
    Started: 2001
    Pattern: Sirdar 3071
    Yarn: Sirdar Snuggly Baby Care Cotton Blend DK, baby blue color
    To Finish: Complete button placket; sew to body of sweater; sew on buttons.

  • Project: Fingerless Gloves
    Started: November 2002
    Pattern: "Basic Women's Fair Isle Fingerless Gloves"
    from Knitting Fair Isle Mittens & Gloves: 40 Great-Looking Designs by Carol Rasmussen Noble
    Yarn: Filanda Extrafine 100% Alpaca, heather taupe color
    To Finish: Mark thumb of left hand glove; knit about an inch and a half to the fingers; knit the partial fingers.

  • Project: Faroese Shawl
    Started: Summer 2003
    Pattern: "Barbara Shawl" in Stahman's Shawls & Scarves: Lace Faroese-Shaped Shawls From The Neck Down and Seamen's Scarves by Myrna Stahman
    Yarn: Brown Sheep Cotton Fine (80% cotton, 20% wool), white "Cotton Ball"
    To Finish: Need to find my place in the pattern; have knit about 12 inches down from the neck—the rows only get longer and longer.

  • Project: Black & White Jacket
    Started: Fall 2003
    Pattern: "Atherton" from Jean Frost Jackets: Fabric, Fit, and Finish for Today's Knits
    Yarn: Euroflax 100% linen, black; Ornaghi Filati Mohair, off-white
    To Finish: Have completed about 13 inches of the back; soon to start decreasing for the armholes.

  • Project: Baby Layette
    Started: Fall 2003
    Pattern: "Rose" in Baby Knits from Dale of Norway: Soft Treasures for Little Ones
    Yarn: Baby Ull Dalegarn, pink
    To Finish: Start decreasing for armholes on sweater; knit second bootie; sew together first bootie; knit hat.

  • Project: Assorted Barbie doll clothes
    Pattern: From Knits for Barbie Doll by Nicky Epstein
My first goal is to finish the top three projects, soon! I've started with the fingerless glove.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Just a note

From an article in today's LA Times, I learned about this site: The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln. For example, you can select "Today's Date in Lincoln's Life" and receive a listing of everything known about Lincoln's activities on a specific day throughout his years.

For example, "Monday, January 4, 1864. Point Lookout, Md., and Washington. Lincoln is honorary officer of Ladies Great National Sanitary Fair in Washington during January. Washington Chronicle, 4 January 1864." I wonder what the Ladies Great National Sanitary Fair was all about? Health and sanitation problems in cities?

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Holidays' ending

Today the sky is clear blue with not one cloud to be seen. Yesterday it rained all day; in the afternoon it was even foggy, a rare occurrence around here. I could have been in Washington state.

This morning I successfully cleared up a lot of stuff in the living room, inspired by a new book, The Spirit of Getting Organized: 12 Skills to Find Meaning and Power in Your Stuff, by Pamela Kristan. I know, I know, why did I have to buy yet another book, a self-help book no less, but as I've written here before, I'll take help wherever I can get. The focus of the book is not so much how to sort and organize stuff (I know how quite well by this point in my life) but the attitudes and feelings around the whole process.

Today's lessons are to set time limits on how long I'm going to work on my piles, and then acknowledge what I did accomplish and not fret about how much more there is to do. The entire couch and floor space around the couch is cleared away, and the desk/computer area is tidy enough to be able actually to work.

Now I'm going to make lentil soup and then wash the dishes.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

The eighth day of Christmas

"And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. . . . 'And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.'" (Luke 2:21; 1:31)

So today is the festival of The Name of Jesus. I am celebrating by listening to a Chanticleer Christmas CD. The Lutheran Sundays and Seasons 2004 liturgy book reminds me that "Jesus' name[ ] is a gift to us and marks us as children of God. Baptized into Christ, we begin the new year in Jesus' name."

On this eighth day of Christmas, I am also cleaning my house. I started in the bedroom, then moved to the kitchen. I was inspired by how peaceful and tidy my parents' house was.

I cooked half a butternut squash, also inspired by my mother. I had asked for a chef's knife for Christmas so I could cut up squash more easily being that I don't have a chopping block and ax, my mother's method. It only takes five minutes cooking time in the pressure cooker. My mother steams squash on the wood stove in the kitchen that was stoked the entire time I was at their house. There is no heat like wood heat and being able to back up to a hot stove to keep warm!