Monday, April 15, 2013

Coffee Mug Wisdom

"Do one thing every day that scares you." -- E. Roosevelt

I don't know if or when Mrs. Roosevelt said those words but they're on a coffee mug I own so it must be true. I don't know if she was right, either. Scary things are, well, that should be obvious. (I mean, it's right there in the adjective: "scary.")

This weekend, I did one scary thing. Two, if you count getting out of bed.

With the help, advice and encouragement of a fine group of friends and knitters, I submitted a new knitting pattern design to a yarn company in the Pacific Northwest. I hope that I'll be able to share good news soon--I'm not sure how long the review process will be or when I might hear something. For good karma, I've started following the yarn company on Twitter (or maybe that's just tweet-stalking). In all honesty, it's a great company (hello, Sweet Georgia!) and I've used the yarn before, complete enjoyable process and I would love to work with them more.

And yes, it uses the star stitch I love right now.

So, fingers crossed, I'm hopeful. I did receive a pleasant "thank you" email last night a couple hours after sending in the pattern submission. It's my first one, though, so maybe I missed something important or didn't answer all questions concisely/clearly enough.

This is me psyching myself up for disappointment.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What's For Dinner?

I've been knitting up a storm. Just over 400 yards fingering weight (that's pretty small for non-knitting readers) yarn in one week. I'd been tossing around a new design idea incorporating the Estonian Star Stitch I was swatching a couple weeks ago and decided I'd work it into a pattern and submit it to a yarn company to see if they'd like it for one of their yarns. The deadline for submission is coming up pretty quickly (Monday!) and after that, we'll see what happens. It's the first time I'm submitting to a professional. It's exciting and goes back to my ideas that I should fail more often to become a better designer.

Last weekend, some friends dropped by and I made a quick pasta sauce and we watched the latest Doctor Who and Orphan Black. (DW - always good, love the new companion, haven't we seen the little-girl-in-peril already? OB - fascinating story line, quick writing, ready for more.)

Penne alla Vodka
in my kitchen
I love to cook (hate the clean up) and love to cook for other people. For me, not so much; I'd rather just eat cereal. Is there really anything more perfect that Cheerios? Plain Cheerios, no added sugar, 1% milk: all day, every day. Never get tired of it.

But for other people, I do like to cook and show off a little. There is one go-to meal that is almost always the first thing I'll make for anyone, mainly because it's dead simple and, if I may say so, delicious. And frankly, who doesn't like pasta sauce? It's a vodka sauce over penne. And it was even better since my guests brought homemade tiramisu - one of my favorite desserts, followed closely by either peanut butter pie or key lime pie. (I guess that means I like creamy pie-like desserts. Who would have guessed?)

I don't know the measurements for the vodka sauce since I've been making it for so long. And it's cooking so the measurements are as necessary. Adjust everything to your own taste.

This sauce is finished in exactly as long as it takes to cook the pasta.

Penne alla Vodka a la Rodeo Knits

  • A large can of tomato sauce (and a small can if you think that's not enough)
  • Minced garlic (I cheat and buy it in a jar)
  • Diced prosciutto (I cheat and but it in the deli section already diced)
  • Basil (I cheat and use dried)
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Vodka (Whatever you have)
  • Heavy cream
  • A box of penne (that's the pasta that's shaped like small tubes and cut on an angle)
  • Wine (but that's for dinner and important with pasta)

Make It

In a large pot, start the water to boil for the pasta.
In a large pan - I don't know the real words for things, big circular pan with straight sides - add a pat of butter and a glug of olive oil (not too much of either) and let warm over medium high heat. Add garlic and let soften for about 30 seconds, then add a heaping tablespoon (or more) of basil and toss in the prosciutto. Stir it up and let prosciutto crisp a little. Then add about a cup of vodka. It'll make big puffs of steam and, if you stick your nose in the steam, will make you choke a little as the alcohol evaporates quickly but it also smells good. (I'm not an alcoholic.) Let the vodka reduce to just a little at the bottom of the pan. Add in the large can of tomato sauce and stir. Turn the heat to low.

When the water in the large pot boils, add salt and then pasta, just like the box directions say. Cook for as long as the box says. At the same time...

Remove sauce from the heat and add a couple glugs of heavy cream to the pasta sauce, maybe a quarter cup to start. Put sauce back on the heat and stir. It turns a lighter red or salmon color. You can add more cream to make it the color and consistency you like - more cream will make a thicker sauce, especially as it cools.
Keep the sauce on very low heat to keep warm while pasta finishes. Drain pasta and... well, if you don't know how to put pasta and sauce together, there's a problem.

I don't usually finish with cheese on top but if I do, I always go for pecorino romano. And the kind that I have to grate myself - in a wedge. It's slightly pepper-y and tastes so good with the sweet sauce.
Definitely serve with bread or else you'll find yourself licking the plate because the sauce is so good.


Let me know if you make this sauce.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Knit [for] Your Life

Into every life, a little competition must fall.
 Or something like that.

Snakeskin Weave
A couple months ago, a knitting company announced a competition along the lines of American Idol or The X Factor or maybe even Project Runway called The Fiber Factor (Spoiler alert: I did not enter) for designers. The premise: give 12 knitters the same design challenge, see what try come up with, judge them, declare a winner

It sounds like fun to me. Except for the judging part. That could go either way. If there's that one judge that just wants to say snarky sarcastic one-liners, I'm not interested. (You know who you are. Okay, it's me.)
So anyway, the contestants have been announced (again, not me) and the first challenge issued. "Knit your life."

I tend toward pessimistic and sarcastic when I'm not careful. My first reaction was "Is there anything more annoying than this faux-artsy blech?" I mean, sure, it'll be interesting to see what the designers create. Although, I think it could go a couple different ways:
  • Literal: colorwork or lace to pictorially introduce the designer. Think "I love cats" or "Paris is my favorite city."
  • Abstract: dark colors to illustrate how difficult life as been and obstacles that were beaten through knitting. Think flashes of pink or rainbows.
What other choices are there? Or there will be some off-the-wall "these cables represent..." explanation in the videos.

But when I sit back and think about it, the competition could be great. Inspiration comes from everywhere and nothing is as personal as your own life. I just have to fight my tendency to look down my nose at artists that take themselves so seriously.

So I've been thinking about what I would design if I were in the competition and I think I've hit a decent idea. Share it? Sure! (Fiber Factor designer that borrows my idea: I hope you win and thank me in your speech.)
I hold onto things far longer than is healthy, literally and abstractly. (Abstractively? I don't think that's word.) So, obviously, I'm going with a knitted bag. Felted, for sure, for durability. Isn't that a super-easy project? Yep. But also could be awesome. Interesting color changes and textures.

I've been tossing around an idea for felting that would be pretty neat/innovative/I haven't seen done before. Do you want to know what it is? Me too. What about combining knitting, felting and needlepoint all in one project. I think a band of simple all-over lace (yo, k2tog the whole time) and then felted should give you a base to do some mega-needlepoint.

In other news: that picture at the top? That's one of the new projects I'm working on - weaving on an eight-harness loom with Louet Cottolin in two colors - tan and gray - from this draft. It's supposed to look similar to snakeskin. We'll see, right?

If you were assigned to create something that represented you, what would it look like?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sundays, Sofas and Television

(A day late but whatevs, that's how I roll)

Sunday is my very favorite day of the week
'cause it's my fun day
or so someone very colorful once said.

But honestly, Sundays really are the best. Most people I know seem to live for Friday, which I never really understand--Fridays are still workdays. And Saturdays are always busy with going out in public, shopping, talking to people, generally being a part of humanity. Sundays are my day to relax, think, vegetate, and regroup for the coming week.

I'm really glad my sofa is so comfortable and nothing is as good for napping as any show on PBS. (I really do like PBS, but the timbre of narration always lulls me into a good doze.)

This Sunday, I spent most of the day relaxing, catching up on television I'd missed during the week and knitting. I have swatches for two different scarf projects on the needles. I'm very grateful for friends that encourage creativity and allow me to toss out ideas and theories (and "borrow" ideas so blatantly). I try to live my life thinking that if everyone were just a little more encouraging of others--their gifts, talents, abilities--so much more would be created and shared and there would be more Good.

Unfortunately, I feel like I get drowned out by the negative people. For some reason, negative people are so noisy. Noise from outside sources can be ignored; we can become accustomed to it and tune it out. Negative people turned into white noise. There is danger in allowing the noisy negative person be the person you look at in the mirror.
Admission: I want to be a successful knitting designer. But am I good enough? I see/read about plenty of other people that seem to lead charmed lives and almost fall into exactly what I wish I had. How does that happen for them and not me? They must have some formula or secret ingredient I don't.
Well, it turns out that might be exactly right; I am missing an important ingredient.

Recently, I've come across two items that have made me start thinking about success and how to achieve it. First, a blog post I read while looking at things related to my day job. It's an article about developing talent and references an interview given by Dave Grohl (apparently some kind of famous singer, but I'm not music-cool and only recognize him from recent appearances on Chelsea Lately) about being a successful band. It has a lot of asterisked-out swear words, so read at your own risk.

Basically, you've got to do a lot of really ugly, crappy, unattractive things before you get enough experience to make really awesome, pretty, creative and desirable things.

Secondly, two TED talks by researcher Brené Brown about vulnerability. My favorite quote is:
"Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change."
I'll probably listen to the two TED talks several more times and see what else I can take into myself as I go on in this adventure. If I don't try, if I don't put myself out there for rejection, nothing bad can happen. No criticism or failure. But also nothing good

Straight from my corporate world: what barriers are there to success? I'm still thinking about that question. When I know, I think I'll try vulnerability, admit I don't know how to do something, and find the person that can help.

What do you think about vulnerability? What kind of environment allows you to be vulnerable? This is a safe place--let it rip.