July 2006

Okay, this week’s local meal wasn’t quite as last-minute, since it was lunch on Saturday rather than dinner, but it was still kinda close. Also, it was why I got up super-early (6:30) after staying up pretty late (2:30, but not asleep ’til 3) to pack and clean.

My idea for this time was egg salad, but I’m not sure any traditionalists would recognize it as such.


Yes, this picture was taken at lunchtime (around 11:15am)–it was while the train was stopped at Penn Station, so no natural light. And, yes, I did get that puzzle mostly done, and I’ll probably finish it today. (And, yes, that is a pen that I was using for the Saturday Times puzzle, but that was partly because I didn’t have any pencils with me.)

Anyway, the food. Local eggs (two of them), hard-boiled and chopped, mixed with local summer squash (zucchini & yellow) and heat-faded purple beans, the veggies having been sautéed with olive oil, mustard, cumin, basil, parsley, garlic, paprika, and cider vinegar. Very nice lunch. And with that and the rest of the food I packed, I survived a thirteen-hour train ride (grrr…two-hour unscheduled stop in Springfield) without once needing to buy overpriced crap from the café car.

And…some spinning content. I’d pulled this merino-silk (companion to the pea-green stuff I spun a while ago) off of one of my spindles so I could use it for…something else, probably the something else I’ll have to show you by the end of the week…and I just plied it up last week and set the twist the other night. It’s effectively a sample skein, about 40 yards of fingering-to-sport. But soft and pretty. Mmm…orange.


Oh–I didn’t take any pictures, but this morning’s breakfast included raspberries from the backyard. Someday, I will have a backyard where I can grow berries.

I am fleeing the weather. I’m going north for a week, to Vermont with a side trip to Boston*, to enjoy the somewhat-cooler temperatures…and the complete lack of traffic noise outside my bedroom. (I’ll trade it for lawnmower noise, but at least that’s only in the morning.)

I will have internet access and expect to post a couple of times, but spinning, at least, will probably be slow. (No, I’m not taking my wheel on the train.) It is going to be a very, very nice vacation.

*If you are going to be in or near Burlington or Somerville and would like to say hi in person, e-mail me.

I haven’t done any knitting or spinning this week. I’ve been using my evening leisure time to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, instead. And to look at all of the nutrition labels I could find in my kitchen. I am happy to report that I found nothing that included high-fructose corn syrup, and only a very few things with other corn products as ingredients. (I’ve only read about half of the book; I’ll report more fully when I’m finished with it.)

I’ve also had a couple of really tasty mostly-local meals with one or two non-local ingredients. I made a giant salad on Tuesday, with local tofu (yes, I like raw tofu), pepper, purple beans, and cucumber, but I caved and included (well, caved and bought) non-local spinach because it’s now too hot for local spinach. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s dinners and today’s lunch was a batch of asian eggplant/tofu/red pepper stirfry, which was local, but the rice was not. Tomorrow, though, I plan to make an actual all-local meal. (Tonight is just for knitting. And maybe some spindling.)

To Kirsten and any of the rest of you who like pirates and argyle:

If you haven’t seen it yet, go check out Julia’s latest post.

I did it! Just barely within the week, but I did cook an actual meal with actual local ingredients. This week’s even looks like an actual meal instead of just two things I’m eating at the same time…


This is local kale, eggplant, and zucchini, sautéed with local onion and garlic (one sign of “actual meal” for me, as opposed to “please let there be food” is using “real” onion and garlic instead of dried), not-local cider vinegar, basil, salt, pepper, and cumin, and the same supply of dried parsley as last time (from the CSA to which my parents belong). And they’re mixed into local egg noodles. (Oh, yeah–the olive oil is also really not local.) Not pictured is the local beer (Victory‘s Golden Monkey) that was a splendid accompaniment to cooking and dinner. Yum. (Bonus local meal: lunch on Saturday was two ears of local corn. Mmmm, fresh sweet corn.)

Now, I understand that a lot of the argument for something like the Eat Local Challenge or One Local Summer is to point out how much food really is available locally, and how great fresh produce is. But this struggle I’m having, to produce an overlap between things I want to cook and things I can cook with all local ingredients, is making me really appreciate the fact that we have a global economy. I can buy rice and bananas and papaya and all sorts of things that simply don’t grow in Pennsylvania. I mean, I love buying really fresh produce at the farmers’ market and the co-op, and the local tofu is great, and I love the seasonality of my excitement over different crops. (I am soooo looking forward to the start of apple season. I love me some ginger golds.) But refrigeration and shipping, along with all of the communication technology I use, are really important to me. I am spoiled, but I’m okay with that as long as I appreciate it.


I also have a quick question for my fellow spinners with cats. Do any of you find that your cats knead your roving into beds? Is there anything I can do about it other than hiding it all? I mean, I’m all for Mel using my roving as a pillow as long as it’s safely in a plastic bag–that’s actually adorable, and I may get a picture for you at some point–but I can’t help but worry that he’s going to spoil the fiber prep if I give him too many more chances to knead my roving.

I finally finished plying my green Grafton batt. Okay, not really, but I emptied one bobbin and haven’t yet dealt with plying the remainder on the other bobbin to itself.


Over all, I am pleased. There are certainly places that could be more even, but spinning from a batt was an interesting change. I’m especially glad that I managed to get a few good stretches of the bright green into the single; I think it makes a nice contrast to the dark green and very dark green.

This is about 300yds of two-ply, spun & plied mostly on the middle whorls of the spinning & plying flyers.

I really meant to have a nice One Local Summer post for today. But the earliest I got home last week was around 8pm, and I spent all of yesterday either in New York or on my way there or back. So no cooking really at all.

New York was great fun, though. I went to the Darwin exhibit at the natural history museum in the morning. It was definitely populated, but really not crowded. I wouldn’t say I learned much science at the exhibit, but there’s a lot of historical perspective that I don’t usually think about. And, overall, it was a very well executed exhibit, with some interactive things that taught some comparative anatomy and taxonomy to go with the historic bits. And the beetle specimens and bird specimens and such, and the notebooks and reproductions of letters…all very cool to see. Also, I’m never going to argue about seeing iguanas or horned toads. (I’d’ve taken pictures of them, but photography wasn’t permitted.)

I had a little time left after the Darwin exhibit, so I wandered through some of the exhibits on native peoples of the Americas. Being me, I spent much of that time looking at their textiles… There were some amazing weavings. I was particularly impressed (as someone who doesn’t know so much about weaving) by one of the techniques that cropped up a few times, wherein the weft was just holding the warp threads in place, with multiple colors of warp but not weft, and the designs were made by moving the warps (it looked like there’d be one in front of another). They were set up with the warps tied (?) to a string (?) running between sticks, and the weaving progressed downward–not much of a loom to deal with.

I then headed back downtown, where I met up with Juno and Cassie at School Products. (Cassie? Juno? I found the piece of paper with yarn shop addresses. I’d left it in lab.) There is much of droolworthiness there (I will be going back), but nothing in particular caught my eye. Even with our additional stop at Seaport Yarns (ooooh, Grafton Fibers…), my only nonfood purchases of the day were the new knitscene and some Japanese dollar store things. I think it was moving that brought home to me just how much yarn & fiber I have… I need to use some of it up before I buy anything else.

I have knit on three projects in the last twenty-four hours. All of them are lace shawls. This is probably a sign of severe mental instability of some kind, but at least it’s a nice kind of insanity.


That would be the autumn sunset shawl (in the back), the diamond fantasy shawl (on the right), and the mountain peaks shawl (on the left). I was thinking last night about how they’re so different despite all being lace… The patterns are three different levels of complexity, they’re three different degrees of not-solid yarn, and they’re three different weights and textures of yarn. The slow progress on the mountain peaks shawl is definitely related both to the relative complexity of the pattern (significant amounts of stuff to do on wrong-side rows) and the fineness of the yarn…it’s lovely, and I expect I’ll really like having such a delicate shawl when it’s done, but it takes a lot more attention. And the diamond fantasy shawl, well…it’s exciting enough to be knitting with my handspun that I don’t mind the occasionally-excessive fluffiness. (And, well, it does make it soft.) The autumn sunset shawl, although I go back and forth about whether I like the colorway, is a nicely even and firm…and the mind-numbing repetition of the pattern is useful for multitasking.

So I guess the appropriate answer to the question is “both”.

(Oh, and the color in this photo is pretty accurate.)

In lieu of trying the official Eat Local Challenge again this year, I signed up for Liz‘s One Local Summer. The idea is to cook one meal per week using only local ingredients. I’m actually finding this more difficult than the ELC, since I had allowed myself to use anything that was already in my kitchen. With OLS, though, not using any of the rice noodles or other pasta or rice or flour or whatever–clearly not grown or processed near Philly–means changing how I plan my meals. Last week, I opted for local potatoes.


This is my standard approach to potatoes (cube, coat with olive oil, salt, pepper, basil, & parsley, and roast at 350ºF until done) and one of my I-want-complete-protein-fast things: two zucchini sautéed with an egg (and various seasonings, including some turmeric). The potatoes, egg, and zucchini were all from my local farmers’ market; none of the seasonings were local. (On the other hand, the parsley was from my parents’ CSA, dried in my dad’s food dehydrator…just an eight-hour drive or eleven-hour train ride away.)

For this week, I’m going to try really hard to do some all-local cooking before the weekend, or at least get myself to the internet before Sunday evening…

…I could get to like summer. It was sooooo nice last night to open all of my windows and not lament the lack of air conditioning. It’s much nicer to have fresh air that doesn’t feel like it’s just escaped from a sauna…

And it meant that I could take pictures of my fresh yarn in front of an open window.


(Boogie merino in sunflower, 1 ounce, about 160 yards)

Mel was particularly pleased by the open windows (bird sounds, louder! new smells!), and not at all pleased when I asked for his attention.


And, unrelated to the weather, I’ve made a bit more progress on the diamond fantasy shawl:


This whole spinning and then knitting with my handspun thing is great. Just great.

I’ve knit a bit more on my diamond fantasy shawl, started yet another handspun hat for Dulaan (this one’s gonna be striped), and spun more merino and more wool from Grafton fibers. But I don’t have pictures of any of that.

I do, however, have more pictures from my aquarium trip last Saturday:


These upside down jellyfish are pretty cool. (And they were in tanks with plenty of light, unlike the rest of the jellyfish. I think jellyfish are amazing as long as I’m not worried about being stung by them…)


These were some of my favorites of the coral reef fish.


And this seal seemed to have the right idea of what to do on a hot, sunny July day. (Not that I would’ve argued against the “playing in the water” idea that some of the other seals were advocating.)

Today, thank goodness, it’s finally pleasant out–fifteen degrees cooler and not deathly humid. I hope it stays like this a while.

I went to the farmers’ market:


(I also bought sandwich bread, banana sourdough, and spicy pickles. Mmm, pickles.)

I went to the aquarium in Camden (NJ) with friends.


(I may post more pictures later. Many fish are beautiful.)

And I worked on my Diamond Fantasy Shawl. (In case anyone cares, the problem that cropped up during fiber night was that I’d missed knitting (purling, really) into a yarnover.) I have now started the second chart.


More pictures and more stuff when my computer isn’t about to run out of battery. (I, being extraordinarily clever, left the power cord at home.)