Friday, June 20, 2008


I've always enjoyed growing a few veggies, but in the past have concentrated my efforts on tomatoes and other 'taste better from the garden' types. I thought potatoes were, well, just potatoes and would pretty much taste the same regardless. Then we bought a couple pounds of a new to us variety at the local farmer's market -- whoa, revelation! The next step was to try growing some in our own little plot. Since I had no experience with them, I went with a familiar variety for my first effort (Yukon Gold). They were nice, but now we were ready to take a step off the beaten path. This year's choice? Carola, a beige-skinned, yellow fleshed German potato, and Cranberry Red, which has deep red skin and rosy pink flesh. M-m-m-m, good -- and pretty, too. I'm thinking next year we need to try one of the cool, purple-y blue varieties -- lavender mashies, anyone?

Potatoes are one of the more versatile vegetables in our kitchen -- boiled, mashed, fried, oven roasted -- it's all good. One of my favorite ways to use them in the summer though, is a nice potato salad. And unless you are fortunate enough to live by a very good deli where they make their own, and by 'they' I mean it's made by a Southerner, or at least someone from the Mid-West, then it's something that's always better when homemade. There are a million ways to make it, but here's our 'everyday' version.

Simple, Everyday Potato Salad

  • 2 lb. potatoes, boiled in the skin
  • chopped, red onion - about 1 small one
  • 3/4 to 1 cup good quality mayonnaise
  • a dollop of mustard
  • a splash of cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a tiny bit (maybe just a sprinkle) of cayenne pepper, if you're feeling adventurous
  • some fresh, chopped dill is always welcome

Put your (whole, unpeeled) potatoes in a pan with plenty of room, start them with cold water and some salt, and boil 'til they are done. I start testing for doneness at around 14 minutes of cooking if they are good sized, sooner if they are smaller potatoes.

While they're cooking, get the dressing ready. Combine the mayonnaise with the chopped onions and other ingredients and mix well. What kind of mustard? Plain old yellow works well, but if you like Dijon...You'll notice the amounts are quite flexible -- I season to taste for this, but if you need your hand held, then a dollop will be 'about' a level tablespoon, and a splash will be about a tablespoon too. I like to use cider vinegar, but I suppose you could get all 'fancy pants' and use a wine vinegar instead -- your choice. I love it with fresh dill, but sometimes you just don't have any on hand -- add it when you do, but forget about using dried -- it just doesn't cut it.

When the potatoes are done, drain them and let cool until they are comfortable to handle. If you're using young, 'new' potatoes, or a variety with a thin skin, go ahead and leave the skin on -- extra fiber. Of course, you can also remove the skin now if you prefer. Cut them into nice, bite-sized pieces (not too small now!) and gently toss them with the dressing, until all the pieces are nicely coated. Refrigerate.

This is one of those things that is even tastier the second day -- so, try to make it a day ahead, but if you don't, make sure it has a good few hours in the refrigerator to give the flavor time to meld. Serve, and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In the 'Olden Days'...

...we had to make our own fun fur!

Some designs have aged fairly well --

others, not so much:

A very young Cheryl Tiegs modeling the latest in ponchos, and a patriotic tank top --

The photos above are all from late 60's, early 70's era craft magazines. The spouse was cleaning out the garage, as he tends to do every millennium, and found them tucked away on the side. It's always fun to take a little stroll through the past, isn't it?

Thursday, June 12, 2008


It's always fun to look through a new knitting/crochet magazine, and although Verena is new to the US market, it's been around a while in Europe. It's published by the folks at Burda -- a name that will be familiar to US sewists. Newsstand price was $6.99, and subscriptions are available for 1 year (5 issues) for $19.97.

I picked up a copy at Barnes & Noble, and here's a few thoughts --

The cover states it contains 50 designs and I'll take them at their word, because I'm too lazy to count. My criterion for a worthwhile magazine purchase may be a bit different from most. I don't really care if there are X number of styles I would make from the issue, since I don't always make patterns as presented anyway. What I want to see, however, is some inspiration. I loved the idea of using wide satin ribbon as a neckline facing (pattern #10) although I probably wouldn't knit it as shown. That detail may be showing up in a future Mingling Yarn production though. I would make the red, ribbed tunic (#31) although please shoot me if I try to wear it with leggings. There are several cute little halter tops, which would work for the younger set chez Mingling, but many of the other styles are things which look vaguely familiar. In particular, the "Desert Outpost" spread encourages thoughts of boxy, over sized, off-the-shoulder 80's fashions. Has that look come around again?

Instructions are in the brief, "Sandra" or "Rebecca" style, not surprising for a Burda publication, and not something that would bother me. Knitters who like a little hand holding may feel a bit left out though.

There were a few styles for kids, but again, nothing that made a big impression. If I remember correctly, there are no styles for men -- if I'm mis-remembering it's likely due to anything that is there being entirely forgettable.

The magazine has made an effort to include plus sized styles for women, I believe there were 8 of them so labeled. Anyone spending even a little time on knitting lists would know that the availability of fashions in larger sizes is a hot button for many. With the exception of one top (Lace Chevron) these all start at a finished bust width of at least 40" and range up to 62" finished width. That says to me that they have been particularly targeted for plus sizes, rather than all sizes. So, let's take a closer look, shall we?

I've culled this particular design from the herd. "Brilliantly planned sections of knitted lace and crocheted net skim the hips for a slimming effect", or so states the copy.

So, where to begin? With the long sleeves perhaps? I have to wonder why, if you really want long sleeves on a summer dress, why wouldn't you at least have used the lacy openwork stitches there, instead of at crotch level? Still, some folks get chilled in overly conditioned air, so the long sleeves are really the least of it.

How about that navel plunging neckline? No way you're going to wear that out without at least one layer underneath (the photo shows two). But wait, the 16" skirt will keep you cool -- it's nicely ventilated. Make sure you're wearing your prettiest underpants though, because they'll be on view! Of course, you could always layer on the leggings -- modesty will reign, but pass me an iced drink, 'cause I'm 'glowing' now.

The other "plus" sizes are not as extreme as the dress. However, I see lots of long sleeves, lots of openwork needing additional layers underneath, and one style with a strange asymmetrical double flap over one hip. Yes, finally, every plus gal's dream -- funny flaps over one hip -- I'd say they nailed that one!

So, thanks for the effort, Verena, but next time let's give it a little more thought, eh?

I probably will look through the next issue, and certainly those of a certain size could find some cute little things to make from this magazine. Be a careful consumer though, if your magazine budget is limited, and especially if you are in the market for flattering, plus sized fashion.

Monday, June 9, 2008

It's a Wrap...

Elann Soie Bambou - 65% silk/35% bamboo. 8 oz. (227 g) cone - 680 yards (624 m). Completed shawl used 1 complete cone, plus a few yards from a second. Pattern - from a Japanese book "Crochet Lace" (ISBN 4-277-17188-5). Edging - pattern #139 (slightly adjusted) from "Complete Book of Crochet Border Designs" by Linda Schapper. Love how those staggered blocks mimic the 5 treble blocks in the design itself! Color - the label inside the cone states "basil", but Elann is calling it "sea grass".

After finishing the shawl, I decided to give the yarn a little knitting test drive. As previously stated, several Ravelry folks mentioned a splitting problem, something I didn't notice too much with this crocheted project.

I used 3.75mm (US 5) bamboo needles and cast on for the "Horseshoe" pattern (B. Walker's 1st Treasury) and off I went. I chose the simple Shetland lace pattern because it's a favorite, and although it has no complicated maneuvers, I thought the k2tog and psso's would reveal any splitting tendencies the yarn might have. My results? Well, although I did manage to split stitches (maybe 3 in the swatch?) it certainly wasn't terrible. My results may not be entirely indicative of other's experiences however. Needle choice, knitting style (I knit "English" style) and pattern choice all play a role.

I washed the swatch when completed and smoothed it out to dry. It didn't look too bad when dry, but I liked it better after a pressing with the iron on a "silk" setting.

All in all, I wouldn't hesitate to use this yarn in a knitted garment. I did, however, prefer the appearance and ease of working when used for crochet. You may notice some stitch splitting, but I've worked with far worse in that regard. Available (currently) in 9 colors and at US$28 per cone it seems a fair price. I don't anticipate Soie Bambou becoming a stash staple (which skews to wool), but it's an attractive yarn for the right project. As always -- my opinion, my views -- yours may vary!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Beginnings

It's taken me a while to decide what to make from the Soie Bambou yarn I got from Elann. The yarn is a silk/bamboo blend that comes on a small cone -- 680 yards (624 m.) per 8 oz. (227 g.) cone. Browsing through a Japanese crocheted lace book I came across an attractive triangular shawl, and I thought I'd try the yarn in that.

There are several things I'd like to make in this book -- I've previously done a scarf in SeaSilk, the items range from small coin purses and sachet covers to shawls, scarves and a few garments. Typical Japanese attention to details, and lovely feminine designs.

I've probably shown this before, but here's what Japanese crochet patterns look like (the ink photographs rather light, but clicking to make bigger may help) --

As shown in the pattern, the lower edges are finished off with fringe. Not being particularly fond of fringe, I'll go with a different edging -- no idea what at the moment, but I'm thinking something with beads.

The yarn called for is (I believe) something called "Suvin" by Yokota & Co. It's a cotton, with 140 m. per 25 g. ball, so it's a good bit lighter than the Soie Bambou. I'm guessing to get to the finished size listed I would crochet fewer rows, but it's on the small side, so crocheting the number of rows given may give me the larger size I want -- we'll see how that goes.

Others (on Ravelry mostly) have noted they have had splitting problems with the yarn. I haven't been bothered by that -- I wonder if it's because I'm crocheting rather than knitting with it? In any event, the yarn is working up nicely, and so far I'm very pleased with it -- more details later, as warranted.