Tuesday, December 31, 2013

3 Christmases

I had barely caught my breath from the birthday celebrations before we were moving full force into Christmas!  But, I should be used to that by now as it happens like that every year!

salt candles, with soy tea lights, a birthday present from my Mom
Paul and I hosted the first gathering, which was a small Christmas Eve celebration with my dad, sister Jessy and her boyfriend Fabrizio.

Jessy dressed for the occasion!

My dad drove in from Wisconsin, looking like he fits right in in the backwoods of Wisconsin with all of that facial hair! :)

My family has always been keen on wrapping presents with what is on hand.  We call it "family wrap", which usually means newspaper.  This year, we received our gifts in a different sort of family wrap: empty beer boxes from the hunting party that had just stayed at my dad's house. It did make for a good way to transport and deliver our gifts of canned goods (homemade maple syrup: Jackpot)!  My grandma sent Paul and I 5 pounds of honey from a farm in Wisconsin for Christmas, so we have a really well stocked pantry when it comes to these precious sweeteners!

And then....on to the next one! Paul's sister's family brought their new addition, a super cute boxer puppy.  Joanne and Clarence both seemed to enjoy meeting him.

Presents, presents and more presents!  I think everyone was quite happy with their haul.

I share this photo both because Paul was happy about getting a gift card to the homebrew store and because he is wearing the sweater I knit him 5 years ago!  It is a super heavy, bulky, warm one, so it doesn't make an appearance very often.

Wait!  That's not it!  There was one more!

Cinco kept watch over our shoes at my mom's house while we ate a delicious lasagne and salad meal.  On fancy china!  With gold silverware!  My mom likes it fancy :)

And, of course, we opened more presents!

Including the best present of all: time with this goofy family of mine.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!  And, I think it might be time for a nap.  Or a workout.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Multi-Day Birthday Extravaganza

Are you ready to hear about how thoroughly loved and appreciated my family and friends made me feel through the time, attention and understanding they shared with me on my birthday?  
(These posts always make me feel too braggy, but I still share them because we've enjoyed looking back on past years when our memory fails us.  So, I thank you for bearing with me through a narcissistic post!)

OK!  Here it goes...in chronological order!  

My birthday was on a Friday, so I took the day off from work and started my day with a quiet breakfast of random leftovers at home.  While I ate, I read a back issue of Knit.Wear magazine that had come in the mail from Becky.  One of the issues she got me was probably the best one they have published (Fall 2012).  She also gave me a set of wool dryer balls from Mountain Meadow Wool, which are right up my alley!

I then headed out to have lunch with my Mom at Brasa.  This isn't the greatest picture of her but it was the only one I took and I like that I caught a laugh.  For those in the Twin Cities, Brasa offers a vegetarian menu upon request.  My mom and I shared 7 different things from the vegetarian menu.  Ordering multiple small plates is a good way to go at Brasa.

I also got to blow out the first of my birthday candles.  Luckily they didn't try to fit the correct number of candles on that little cornbread cake.   Thanks for lunch, Mom!

After lunch I went to a coffee shop and then browsed a fabric store, which was a nice way to relax before Paul got home and took the reigns of my birthday celebration.  When he got home from work he was carrying a big bouquet of flowers and a big smile.  We had time to open presents (a fancy, small toaster oven to replace our cheap, old, disgusting regular toaster, a monopod to take better selfies like the one below (ha!) and a few other thoughtful presents).

Then, we got dressed up and headed out for pre-dinner drinks and appetizers at Toast Wine Bar. Paul had chosen it because it was close to where our dinner reservations were and they had good small plate options.  I've been there once before with my book club.  Both of the times I have been there, I've been struck by how friendly and nice they are there, making each customer feel like a regular at the place.  I was also struck by how much of a weakling I am with alcohol.  I ordered a gin/campari drink and could only drink a little less half of it!

We then walked a few blocks and went into what looked to me like an unmarked door.  Paul had me step out again to look at the tiny plaque by the door handle so I would know where we were: The Bachelor Farmer!  This place has been on my radar for a long time but I haven't been there.  As with the past few years, about a week before my birthday, Paul sent me a list of entrees to choose from without any identifying restaurant information.  I made my choice from that list and then he made the reservations.

The system works!  Everything about The Bachelor Farmer was wonderful!  I loved the decor, from the exposed beams to the flour sack napkins.  Our server was truly awesome at her job.  The little radish, butter, salt and cracker crisps combo was a great alternate to a standard bread basket.

Our food was all made with such attentiveness and care and it showed in the layers of flavor.  I choose to savor the food and company instead of photographing it, but for posterity sake, here is what we had:
We shared toasts that had:
Fresh cow’s milk cheese, lacinato kale, pistachios, crispy parsnips, pickled celery root
My entree was:
Poached duck egg, saffron-stewed leeks, carrots, roasted Brussels sprouts, crème fraîche
Paul's entree was:
Grilled duck breast and confit, maple glazed cipollini onions, pickled rainbow chard stems, braised sunchokes
For dessert, we shared:
Brown butter lemon cake, parsley ice cream, lemon curd, toasted almonds

Let's sum it up like this: at times the food was so good that the conversation suffered.  At one point, I asked Paul a question only to look up at him and find him with his eyes closed, savoring the flavors of the sauce on his plate.  When he realized he had missed a beat, he looked up and said, "Sorry!  This is really good.  Can you repeat the question?"  That, my friends, is a good dinner.

Then, bright and (not so) early the next morning, we were up and continuing the festivities.  Paul made a wonderful breakfast for us that included a creative take on an eggs benedict.  His version consisted of goat cheese, tomato, lemon butter and sauted arugula served on an english muffin.  Alongside it, he served sweet potato home fries and fruit.

Paul had meant for us to follow up breakfast with both of us making a snowman together in our front yard, but the snow was too powdery.  So, instead we took Tchazo on a dog walk and had a bit of downtime before the next activity.

Paul does such a good job being the plan-maker for my birthday!  It is a fun challenge for me to let go of the role I usually play and let him lead the show.

Our next stop was a museum I had never heard about before for an exhibit I didn't know about.  This was a great find on Paul's part! The exhibit we saw at the Minnesota Museum of American Art was called Repetition and Ritual: New Sculptures in Fiber.  I really enjoyed how the exhibit connected materials and concepts that are present in the "crafting" that I do in a "high art" way.

There was also a time capsule project happening at the same museum.  We enjoyed looking at some of the contributions from prisoners at the Stillwater prison, kids from local schools and adults from an adult learning center.  Plus, that space-agey time capsule is pretty awesome all by itself!

From there, Paul's plan was for us to have a sweets-laden high tea at Cafe Latte, but after all of the decadent eating I had been doing, I felt more like a modest cup of soup and some fruit.  Luckily, that was available on the cafeteria side of the cafe, so that is what he had.  Which, I later found out, it was good that we did!

Because, the last Paul-planned surprise was a 3 hour cooking class at Cooks of Crocus Hill!  He signed us up to be sauce masters with their "Mastering Sauces" class.

The space and kitchen was lovely and when we first got there we were offered wonderful cups of tea, which covered the tea part of the high tea we had skipped.  And, throughout the class, we tasted the sauces on salads, pasta and over desserts, which took care of any extra space we had in our bellies!

The class was part demo/lecture and part hands on.  We came away with a packet of recipes, new inspiration and affirmation that we know a pretty good amount about sauces already!

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you to Paul for being tuned into my interests and passions and for spending his time, energy and money crafting a day tailored to doing things together that make me happy.  It was a pretty full and amazing 24 hours!

After a quick rest, I took some quiet time with Jill and her Unitarian Universalist community to celebrate the winter solstice.

And, that wasn't even the end of it!  I had a few more gatherings with friends before my birthday (Thanks for the yummy lunchtime birthday dessert, Sarah!) and after (Hi Jamie!) to mark the occasion.

One of those gatherings included some vintage skeeball action, lunch and a shrub (Thanks, Sally!).  The jury is still out on how I feel about shrubs, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that my birthday was well celebrated!  Cheers to that!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Random Things

Baked oatmeal is really, really good.  This batch was made with almonds, cinnamon and cranberries.  It smelled like the holidays.  Modified from this recipe.

The sauerkraut is ready!  The airlocks (Paul cobbled them together) and glass weights  (locals can get these weights from EggPlant) worked really well!  We were able to ferment these in the basement, which isn't possible with the open air crocks.  No scum to skim with this method!

This year we made one batch with caraway seeds and one with juniper berries.  I think we might finally have sauerkraut making down!  We got the right blend of salty, tangy and crunchy.

Scenes while waiting for a bus.

The metrodome which will soon meet its demise.

The first significant snowfall came down in such large clumps it was almost like snowBALLS were falling from the sky.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


You know how some projects really soak up their context?  Perhaps you made it for someone and thought about them as you knit it.  Or, perhaps you made something on a trip so the memories of your trip are contained in the project.  Sometimes even movies or TV shows you've watched while knitting a project become tangled into the fibers.  That happens to me a lot.

Poor Paulina holds a bunch of sad times in its stitches.  This was the project I started on that bittersweet camping trip that sparked my health issues and highlighted Tchazo's limits.  It was the project I worked on a tiny bit at a time when I was feeling so awful that I could barely function.  I knit on it while catching up with friends and sharing the latest in my health saga with them.  It was pretty much the one and only thing I had on the needles during the bulk of my stressful summer/fall.  And, more comically, it was this yarn that I had taped to my back for a week to see if I was allergic to it.  (I wasn't.)  I guess the positive spin from this point in time is that this project and (hopefully) that phase of my life is now behind me.  On both accounts: It's done.  It was a learning experience.  I wouldn't want to do it again.

I was turned on to this pattern after trying on a sample at Steven Be's store.  It was at Shepherd's Harvest that the right combination of yarn became available: Habu Silk Stainless Steel held with Sun Valley Fibers Single Ply Lace.  The lace merino yarn dampened the impact of the stainless steel, but as you see in the photo above, if you scrunch the fabric up, it will remember.

This garment is knit from the cuff on the arm to the center and then again from the other cuff to the center, knitting the back and front at the same and using a 3 needle bind off to join the pieces.  For some reason, I found this to be more tedious and less enjoyable to knit than a simple top down stockinette stitch garment.  Oh wait!  That is probably because of all of the purling.  A ha!  That is why this felt like it took forever.

It hangs a bit strangely where the 3 needle bind off is in the front and the back center.

I have to fight the urge to tug at it!

I am not sure how much I will wear this, but I don't regret making it.  The steel component was a new thing for me. I still like the sculptural potential with this yarn.  I think the next time I use it, I might not pair it with another yarn so that it can really do its thing unencumbered by the weight of other fiber.

I'm going to go tuck this away now and hope that letting a bit of time pass will cause some of the memories to fall out of those stitches.  Perhaps by the spring, this will be ready to come out again.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...