June 30, 2013

Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella Salad

Years ago, over lunch with a friend, I ordered only a tomato mozzarella salad at a South African restaurant. 

When the food arrived, I stared at the few slices of tomato and chunks of mozzarella with dismay. Surely there was more to this dish? 

Admittedly, it was delicious, if not a little light. I occasionally have quite the appetite (the Sailor often refers to it as 'the Monster'...) so naturally I found myself hungry again within the hour. 

I decided I wouldn't bother ordering such a salad ever again. 

It seems I've missed out over the years, because this salad really is a delightful compliment to a meal, or a light dish all on its own.

This week at the local grocery store, I found myself staring at their strategically placed marketing ploy: a living Basil plant, vine ripe tomatoes, and a ball of mozzarella all within reach of one another.
I fell for the bait. 

This whole week, I've been eating the combo as a salad, feeling very Italian, wondering why I waited so long to try this again. 

It's so simple -- yet so delicious. Simply chop the tomatoes and mix with the mozzarella and a few basil leaves. Sprinkle olive oil over the top, add fresh ground pepper and kosher salt. I like to add a few garlic slices to mine for an extra kick. 

Add an Italian wine, and voila: your summertime lunch or light dinner. 

(*Bonus points if you serve your salad on a vintage Pyrex plate.)

What's your latest summertime favorite dish?

June 26, 2013

The Patient Shawl

I'm still sorting out the craft boxes around here, and in the meantime, I've been working on my go-to knitting project: Citron Grand. I mentioned it in this post a long time ago. This week I laughed at myself because it really is taking me forever to finish this thing. It's my first lace project ever and I definitely underestimated how much longer it takes to knit thin yarn versus thick.

Then I remembered that the Sailor helped me to wind ALL of the yarn for the project before our cruise... minutes before we needed to leave for the airport. (I insisted we wind and pack ALL of it.)

This too made me laugh, because I barely put a dent in this project on that ship.

Well, I've been back on land for several months and the dent is slightly bigger. I did manage to eek in a few rows during that knitting retreat a few months back and over the past few days, I got a whole other section done. 

And then something horrible happened. Somehow I couldn't get the yarn up over the circular needle 'hump'. (Those of you using cheap-o needles will know what I mean. Those of you who have splurged on sensible needles: I commend you for your choice. May I please borrow your size 6 for this project?) 

Maybe my tension was too tight -- who knows.

All I know is that somehow, the yarn started felting and sticking together and it was next to impossible to get any of the yarn over the hump. 

This morning, I spent a good hour trying to fix the mistake by ripping back about 8 rows worth of work. (Hundreds of stitches per row. Hundreds.) I sat on the patio, drank too much coffee, and willed this thing to heal on its own. 

I also reminded myself to be a little more patient. With temperatures reaching near 100 today, I certainly don't need to finish this thing anytime soon. 
Knitting has definitely taught me patience. Just when I want to give up on something, I realize that some things take longer than others. Like this shawl. Like moving somewhere totally new. Not everything will happen right away. I still feel like there's so much to do and to sort out in our new home, but I have to remind myself that it doesn't have to all happen TODAY.  Or even tomorrow for that matter.

June 22, 2013

Cardboard Carnage and Pyrex Pretties

It is amazing to me that only a week ago the Sailor and I were on the road, heading to a new city.

So much has happened since then!

My last post elicited a few panicked emails and messages from friends we left behind. (Thankfully, I alerted my mother before she read the blog...) I'm happy to report that the same day I wrote my 'homeless' post, we received the keys to our new and wonderful place. There were a few cups of coffee and lunch in between, and mounds of paperwork to sign (seriously... we signed a rental lease, not a mortgage...) But later that night, we settled into our new apartment enough to feel at home.

The Sailor had the truck unpacked within two hours (!) My job? Sorting out boxes galore. 

Cardboard carnage

We still have some unpacking to do, but since it's the weekend, we're taking a break. 

In the meantime, I'm absolutely giddy with the amount of kitchen space I now have. Regular readers will know that I have just moved out of what I considered the smallest kitchen in America. (Have a tiny kitchen? Read my small kitchen hints here and here.)

I seem to have moved into a kitchen that could have swallowed our entire former apartment. Seriously, this kitchen is BIG

The best news of all? Plenty of counter space and shelves to display the Pyrex. (I'm also happy to report that despite moving hassles, all of my pretties made it to the other side, unscathed!)

This is my view just above the sink. Vintage Butterprint and Butterfly Gold Pyrex in their glory -- along with a turquoise chip and dip set thrown in there simply because it matches. 

This morning, I did some solo exploring in our new location, and I found this lovely Anchor Hocking milk glass cake stand. 

All that's missing is the cake. You can be sure I'll be baking quite a few in my new kitchen! 

June 18, 2013

Moving Chaos

Moving is chaos. I'm trying to remember my moving tip from a few days ago: LAUGH. 

The Sailor and I weren't laughing much over the past 48 hours. 

We should have been in our apartment by now, and on our way to the nearest IKEA with an empty moving truck to pick up furniture. However, thanks to a Leasing Agent who lied, we are currently homeless. 

OK, so we are not truly homeless, even though the Sailor's mom seems to think we are actually living on the street. 

Thankfully, only our moving truck had to spend the night on the street. We have super hospitable friends in the area, and we have the means to stay in a hotel if necessary, until we can sort out alternative housing. 

Relocating to a completely new city with our life packed into a 12' moving truck is stressful enough. Add on this housing debacle, and the frustration level skyrockets.

I know things will work out in the end. In the meantime though, I may not have the chance to blog much. And I hope the plants survive.


June 13, 2013

Moving Tip

The Sailor and I are in the throes of packing chaos at the moment. I now have a love hate relationship with cardboard. And tape. Packing paper and bubble wrap are also pretty high on the list. I'm exhausted and we haven't even packed the moving truck yet. (Don't even talk to me about the days of driving ahead...)

For much of my life, I have been what some people call a professional nomad. I generally love the packing process as well as the travel itself. It gets me excited about the destination -- the people I'm going to meet and the new things I'll experience. But this is the first time I've moved with real furniture (and not just a desk and chair), plus I have quite a lot of kitchen stuff. Despite following most of my spring cleaning tips, the boxes are still piling up.

So, understandably, I've been a little more frazzled about this move than others. 

Earlier today, in between trying to figure out what else to pack in the box with the cast iron cookware, I looked into the living room and saw the Sailor, casually watching TV. He was sitting in my favorite IKEA chair, surrounded by boxes, packing paper and bubble wrap. 

Clearly, the TV was not yet packed (deep breath...), but the Sailor was pretty chilled out about it all. 

He reminded me to take a different kind of deep breath and to just S-L-O-W down. This move is meant to be an adventure. This year, I'm also supposed to just chill out. And then he made me laugh.

I'm glad the TV isn't packed yet. I'm thinking that instead of packing one more box tonight, I'm going to finish knitting a dishcloth (anything more complicated is beyond me and/or already packed at this point...) and watch a comedy with the Sailor.

My best moving tip so far? Laugh. Laugh a lot. Moving is stressful. Saying goodbye to friends and family is emotional. Going somewhere new can be exciting and scary at the same time. 

Laughter? It is generally good for the soul, and can make you feel better within seconds. 

What's your favorite moving tip?

June 10, 2013

Down on the Farm

In the midst of the craziness of packing and moving, I spent the past few days with some of my closest college friends at a farm. We cooked, we laughed, we sat on the porch and watched the rain, we drank local wine, and we reveled in the simple life that farms seem to offer. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm sure having a farm is hard work. But there is no denying the simple pleasures that we gained from spending even only a few days at one. 

I mean, how can you not smile when you see these faces?  

The four of us gals have been spread out over the globe since college, and every now and again, we manage to all gather at the same location, at least for a short time. Family commitments, schooling, class schedules, projects, house sales and moving dates made this particular get-together nothing short of a miracle.

Sometimes there are all kinds of activities and busyness when we gather. This trip though, we pretty much just chilled. With giant life-changing situations happening in each of our lives, this farm gave us the chance to simply relax together. 

Personally, I spent a lot of time in my felt slippers, knitting and looking at the view.  

I even managed to get myself out of bed early enough to watch the sunrise a few mornings. 

We didn't solve the world's problems during our stay, or even most of our own issues. But we did talk, laugh, and hash out quite a few of them. I at least drove away from the farm a little less high strung than when I arrived. 

In addition to missing my friends until our next reunion, I will definitely miss this view... but I feel full of farm goodness.

June 7, 2013

More Small (or even Big) Kitchen Hints

In mid-May, I shared some small kitchen hints with you. Over the years, I've discovered two other things that make my life easier in the kitchen (no matter what size), especially when baking. 

1. Use a Parmesan cheese shaker for flour. 

I wish I could take credit for this one, but I can't. I read it somewhere a while back -- a magazine or other blog. Who knows, but I want to kiss the person who suggested it. It has revolutionized my baking. I'm the kind of person who bakes, puts the dough in the fridge to chill and then puts the flour away. Then of course I need more flour to roll the dough out. My flour is stored in a back cabinet and is not easy to just 'grab'.

But now, I can just grab the shaker. 

Bonus: instead of sticking my doughy hands in the flour, I can just shake, and wipe off the container later.

Shake, roll, bake. 

Speaking of rolling out dough...  

2. Keep a ruler in the drawer with your other utensils. 

I really am terrible at eyeballing measurements. The Sailor can take one look at something and tell you the dimensions pretty precisely. I'm relying on him to pack our moving truck. I still am befuddled as to how our stuff will fit into a smallish moving truck.

I can't tell you how many times I've had to go out and search for a ruler in my craft stuff because I want to be sure my pie dough isn't too thick, or the cookies are at least roughly the right size.

By keeping a ruler nearby, I no longer have to guess! Choose a plastic ruler for easy cleaning. 

What's your favorite kitchen hint?

June 5, 2013

Sheep Part II

I shared with you the fluffy cuddly sheep earlier this week, and now I'd like to introduce you to the flat flock. 

They started out cuddly -- as all balls of yarn generally do. 

Their body parts even became little pieces of artwork along the way. 

(I may have had a little too much fun posing the body parts.)

Then the parts finally became sheep -- flat sheep.

My friend saw this original sheep pattern on Etsy and also a few of the actual handmade sheep for sale in the same seller's shop. She wanted enough to hang from a mobile. Then she remembered that I crocheted, so she asked me to make them for her instead. 

My other friends chipped in for the supplies, and we gave the mommy-to-be a gift she's not likely to forget. 

The Sailor got in on the photo action and said the 'farmer' needed a motorcycle to corral the sheep.

So there you have it... the whole flock of sheep!

June 2, 2013

The Sheep

A few weeks back, I wrote a post on several yarn works in progress, where you may have seen a glimpse of the headless knit sheep. A few days ago, I mentioned gift-giving and I showed off a little handmade yarn card. Thankfully I didn't reveal the actual gift, because apparently the recipient actually does read this blog! 

Yesterday, my friend from school days had her first baby shower, and she got to keep this awesome sheep pillow. Now you get to finally see the sheep, in all of his glory.

After I finished my little (um let's say, BIG) sheep friend, I sat with him on the couch and wondered if I could actually give him away. Sheep are quite cuddly, especially when made with knit bobbles. 

I had never knit bobbles before, and even though I was tempted to try to convert the pattern into crocheted bobbles, I stuck with the knitted ones. I do think crocheted ones would have been faster and perhaps easier, but I'm glad I tried something new.

I modified the pattern slightly by totally over-stuffing this thing. I think it was meant to lay like a pillow, but I wanted my sheep to stand up on his own. I also crocheted four legs instead of knitting the two long ones. Having only two legs looked funny since he wouldn't be laying on his side. (Not that you can actually see his legs, since he's rather rotund.

My friend chose a sheep theme for her nursery, so of course the pillow fits perfectly. 

The sheep, getting a bath before getting stuffed.

I wanted to also give my friend something she could use right away, since apparently newborns don't really need giant over-stuffed sheep pillows for sleeping.

On the other hand, my mother has always told me that you can never have too many blankets for a newborn. At her suggestion, I picked out a grass green color for the blanket. The cream colored one on the right was a baby gift for another friend.

I managed to find a little sheep applique for the corner of the blanket.

There's even more sheep to show, but I'll post the rest of the flock later this week.