Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Knitted Christening Gown, pt. 5

"It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." - Ursula K. LeGuin

I really can't believe this project is finally finished, but it is. The knitting, the assembling, the lace, the buttons - it's all done.
The above quotation captures my attitude towards knitting quite well: the reason I love to embark on harder and harder projects that promise to take a long time to finish is not because I really have to have [enter fashionable knitted item here], but rather because I love to work on my knitting expertise, learn new stitches, and do the best job I can. Also, I love to bless others by making unique, lovely things that you just can't find in stores. So, as long as I don't develop arthritis in my hands, and can always have access to yarn and needles, Lord willing, I hope to keep this up for most of my life. It's one of those hobbies that gets under your skin and never goes away.

So, without more ado, here are pictures of the finished gown (click on the pics to make them larger):

The Gown

The Gown again, with better lighting

close-up of the bodice 

The buttons I sewed on to the shoulders are shaped like little daisies, similar to the yellow daisies I embroidered on to the gown.  

the hem, with lace sewn on

one of the sleeves, with lace on the cuff

... so ends one of the most difficult, most beautiful projects I've ever made. This was a labor of love, since the learning curve for this project was almost vertical. If I were to make another, I'm pretty sure it would take half to one-fourth of the time this one took. And what's more, I'm done well before Baby Crain is due. I'm sure the Crains will get good use out of this, and will definitely be able to pass it down to their children :-)

The End

P.S. If anyone is interested, or knows of someone in the market for an heirloom-quality christening gown, I am accepting orders. Be advised: the absolute minimum price is US$200 (shipping only within the U.S.).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Olde English Socks

"Hwaet! we gar-dena   in gear-dagum, (th)eod-cyninga,   (th)rym gefrunon, hu (th)a ae(th)elingas     ellen fremedon!"
"Listen! we have heard of the glory      of the Spear-Danes, in the old days,     the kings of tribes - how noble princes    showed great courage!" - opening lines of "Beowulf," H.D. Chickering Jr. translation

As regular readers of Peggotty's Corner may or may not have surmised, I was an English major in college, and strive to involve quotations from English Literature (or at the very least, quotations that mesh with the themes) in my posts. During my studies, I had some dealings with reading and translating Old English, and pride myself on having a rudimentary grasp of the pronunciation.

Imagine my delight and excitement when I stumbled upon this pattern. My English major and knitting "street cred" have just gone through the roof, ladies and gentlemen...

Behold, my progress so far on the first sock...

I'm making a pair in the size listed for an old college friend, who is a fan of just about anything geeky (you have to be to wear and truly appreciate these babies. I showed my progress to my younger brother, whose only comment was "you do strange things"). Once I've gotten the basics of the pattern under my belt, I'm hoping to make them in a larger size for myself.

The pattern costs about $5, and you can download it as well as have a hard copy shipped to you. A small price to pay for something so bizarre yet so delightful...


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quick and Easy Beef Stew

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." - J.R.R. Tolkein

While visiting an old college friend this week, we decided to throw a bunch of ingredients into her small crock pot to make stew for dinner. The Crockpot is God's gift to overworked and hungry people who don't have time to spend cooking in a kitchen.

Imitation Beef Burgundy
Makes 3-4 servings

  • about 1 lbs. of stew beef, cut into chunks and rinsed
  • 2/3 - 3/4 cup red wine (cooking wine works well)
  • 2/3 cup Mushrooms, sliced and rinsed
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 2 medium-sized cans stewed tomatoes (if you can find a brand with spices already added, choose them)
  • 1 cube beef bouillon
Place all of the ingredients into a Crockpot and let sit adjusted to the High setting for 2 hours. After 2 hours, put the setting down on low, and leave until dinner time (about 4 - 6 hours). Serve with bread, if desired.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer in the kitchen

"To see the summer sky/is poetry, though never in a book it lie - true poems flee." - Emily Dickinson

When it's hot and sweltering outside, one of the last things I want to do is cook in the kitchen (unless the A/C is on at 60 degrees F to compensate, which gets to be very expensive). So, why cook?

All the pictures on this post are ones I took
when I visited Greece a few years ago. 

Here are some ideas for tasty summer entrees I'm looking forward to trying out soon
  • This Bacon and Avocado Egg Salad. I've always wanted to learn how to make homemade mayonnaise, and this would be a perfect excuse for learning how to do it.
  • This Simple Summer Soup. Ok, so maybe some cooking over a stove is required, but once finished, you can puree it with an immersion blender and eat it cold.

Since the pictures in this post are from Greece, I would be remiss if I didn't add one of my favorite recipes from Greece that's perfect for hot weather dining - Tzatziki (no, I didn't sneeze, thanks for your concern)
This tasty yet pungent sauce is used on authentic Gyros (pronounced "Yros"), and is also pretty good served with french bread or pita chips. In Greece, they recommend eating it as an effective safeguard against mosquitos (yeah, that's because of the smell. I wouldn't recommend eating this before going out with friends or if you have to speak in public...)

makes: about 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 diced cucumber
  • 1/4 red onion, diced (2 tbsp.)
  • 1 chopped clove of Garlic
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
Put cucumber, onion and garlic in a food processor and pulse until minced. Place yogurt in a medium sized mixing bowl, add cucumber mixture and everything else. Mix with a spatula until combined, store in an airtight container in the fridge. 

And for when stovetop cooking is unavoidable, what better way to keep cool than with one of these summer melon spritzers? (Syrup recipes taken from the July/August '10 issue of Victoria magazine)
  • First, make Melon flavored Simple Syrup: combine 3 cups water with 3 cups sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer, reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely. Add either 3 cups of seeded Watermelon, 3 cups seeded/cubed Honeydew melon, or 3 cups seeded/cubed Cantaloupe. Puree either in a blender or with an immersion blender and strain liquid through a sieve. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
  • Next, mix a small amount of the flavored syrup with soda water in a glass over ice, and add a little bit of mint with the Watermelon, basil leaves with the Honeydew, and orange slice with the Cantaloupe. 
Stay cool, and happy cooking!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Knitted Christening Gown, Pt. 4

"A baby is born with a need to be loved - and never outgrows it." - Frank A. Clark

The knitted christening gown project is nearing completion. After almost a whole year of working on it, with an almost vertical learning curve, I can't believe it's almost done, or that it's come out so beautifully.

The sleeves

I finished knitting, embroidering and blocking both sleeves for the gown...

the gown, sleeveless version
(sheesh, I can't believe I knitted all that!)

... and also sewed the sides of the gown together, from the hem up to the bottom of the armholes. The tops of the shoulders on the gown will button together, but for now are being held in place with safety pins.

Seeing as the Crains live well below the Mason-Dixon Line, I'm half tempted to talk them into a trendy move forward in infant baptism wear by pioneering the Sleeveless Christening Gown, but something tells me this would end up being a very bad idea. Plus, if I ended up making those sleeves in vain, I might hurt someone or myself...

All that remains to do is sew the sleeves to the gown (which promises to be a "ticklish" process), get buttons and sew them to the tops of the shoulders on the back panel, get lace and sew it to the hem and sleeves, and, Lord willing, this project will be finished off with time to spare before Baby Crain makes her appearance.

To be continued...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chicken Curry Night

"Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I'm taking with me when I go." - Erma Bombeck

If you had to choose one spice to take with you into the afterlife, I hold that curry should at least make your top 5 choices. I love good Indian curry, especially with Naan bread on the side. While I have yet to figure out a really great homemade curry sauce, I do have some excellent brands to recommend.

Chicken Curry Dinner
Makes about 4 - 5 servings

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, sliced
  • 2 bottles of Curry Simmer Sauce
  • 4-5 slices of Naan bread
  • butter
  • shredded coconut
  • peanuts
  • chutney
  • Greek yogurt
Heat either two medium-sized skillets or one very large skillet over medium heat. Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in the pan(s). Wash and cube the chicken, and cook until meat is white all over in the pan(s) with the onions. 
If using two pans, you have the option of using two different types of curry, or of using one type in two pans. Add desired jar(s) of curry sauce to the pan(s), and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the Naan slices on a couple of baking sheets. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a small bowl, and brush over the Naan slices with a small brush. Place in the oven for about 2-3 minutes, or until bread is thoroughly heated.
When the chicken curry is finished cooking, serve in bowls with the Naan bread either on the bottom of the bowl or on the side. Use the shredded coconut, peanuts, chutney and yogurt as optional condiments. 

Some brand names for good curry sauces include Tiger Tiger and Patak's. Chutney comes in lots of brand names - I recommend one with Mango, or Major Grey's chutney. You can also serve this dinner with cooked rice.