May 25, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake

I love an excuse to bake. Any excuse will do, but a good excuse is the best. And when the planets align to create the perfect excuse, well, I'm over the moon.

A couple of years ago I started watching a cooking show called New Scandinavian Cooking, which featured a perky and able cook, Tina Nordstrom, who prepared meals in her portable out-of-doors kitchen every week in a different region of Sweden. On the very first episode I saw, she was preparing a meal for a Swedish midsummer celebration, and while the entire meal looked delicious, what really struck me was the dessert. It was a sponge cake, layered with strawberries and covered in whipped cream, and looked to be so light and delicious! I have been obsessing over that cake ever since, but had yet to find the right occasion for which to make it. Until this weekend.

An old and dear friend was in town for the week on his way to visit other old and dear friends in The Netherlands, and I decided to invite a few folks over for a little BBQ get-together in my backyard. On the top of the guest list was my friend Beth, who is soon to marry Niclas, who is Swedish (see where this is going?). The cake was the one and only thing I was certain I would serve.
I was a little nervous, as I'd never made a sponge cake before (traditional American butter cakes are my forte), and had no reliable go-to recipe, so I started researching. My investigation taught me that there are two basic kinds of sponge cakes: American and the somewhat drier European. As this was to be a Swedish cake, I opted for the European version, and followed the recipe in The Simple Art of Perfect Baking. For the remainder of the recipe, I followed Tina's instructions, to, I believe, delightful effect.

The cake was crazy delicious, so refreshing and light. I followed Tina's advice and assembled the cake day before the BBQ, so the custard and strawberries soaked in to the cake a bit, keeping it nicely moist. I whipped the cream and frosted the cake a couple of hours before company arrived, and topped with strawberries immediately before serving (to prevent the juice from the berries from bleeding onto the frosting, a creepy look, to say the least).

The cake was a hit, and I look forward to making it again. The rest of the food was also delicious. Peter made refrigerator pickles (so summery), pico de gallo and grilled scallions, Beth made a pasta salad that was tasty that night and even tastier the next day, Jeffrey brought the crowd pleasing sage sausage, and Laura, Amy and Paula came through on beverage patrol (wine spritzer, anyone?). It was a memorable Memorial Day weekend.

May 18, 2009

Vacation Inspiration

In 2004, my friends Adrienne and Clayton were living in Copenhagen for a few months. Never having been to Denmark, and missing them very much, I decided to visit. It was such a lovely time, both staying with them in their home and seeing this beautiful city for the first time. I felt very much at home there (due in no small part to the size of the Danes; they are my sized people, all the way down to their feet). But I was also very excited and inspired by Danish style, not fancy Danish modern design, which I also like, but more everyday style: colors, clothing, how people fixed their homes. Ever since that trip, I've found myself gravitating towards colors and styles I saw, for what felt like the first time, on that trip.

Among the many sites that made a lasting impression on me were these buildings:

It took me a bit to figure out how many buildings there were and which facades had been painted. There was no marker or anything to indicate that these buildings were special in any way, and I like the fact that I still don't know what they're about. They're just a pretty memory. The blues and greys are my kinds of colors, and have turned up in my most recent project, the Textured Shawl recipe by Orlane.

I knit this for myself with Kraemer Yarns Sterling Silk and Silver on US6s. There's a wee bit of real silver in the yarn, but not enough to compromise softness. (the second photo is a bit more true to life, colorwise). It was fun to knit, easy but not boring, but before it was this pretty little thang, it was this hot mess:
I've got to get myself a swift.

May 13, 2009

69 Meters Comes to Life

Today was the installation of the 69 Meters project, coordinated by Magda, the artist behind Knitta Please. Knitters from all over the world volunteered to knit covers for the 69 parking meters on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights and tonight some of us, together with other volunteers, met up with Magda to put the covers in place.

This is the first public art project I've participated in, and I have to say, I was really excited, particularly to see what the others had knit. It felt as though I was part of a little community!
Magda, the artist behind Knitta Please, was so warm and groovy and appreciative of our efforts. She and the other organizers were really, um, organized. They'd arranged it so that if you knit a piece and came to the installation, you would have the opportunity to install your piece. So I did!

Fixing the covers to the meters was more difficult than I could have thought. We used zip ties as fasteners and had to pull the covers super tight. Mine was a little wide, so there was a bit slack that I had to take up, and the ties were so small and hard that with all of the tugging, my fingers soon became sore. As I was sitting on the sidewalk trying to negotiate my cover in to place, I was spotted by two different friends of mine. Sometimes New York feels like a really small place.
Here we see Brent, next to the a cover I put up (but did not make).
It was so cold and windy today that by the time I'd finished, my fingers were aching and I really wanted to scoot, but I did check out some of the other covers before heading home.

I'll be back again to see the full installation, in all of it's glory. Overall, this was a really fun and rewarding project.

May 7, 2009

Coasters and caramels

I've made a promise to myself to knit and crochet only for me during May, a sort of ongoing birthday present. Nevertheless, I did finish up and mail off this project:

The pattern is called Lacy Coasters, and is from a 2008 issue of Crochet! magazine. I worked them using Koigu KPM and KPPM that I purchased at Purl Soho. Yeah, sale! They were shipped off to Portland, OR together with some delicious salty caramels that I made. The caramels were inspired by the Salty Caramel ice cream I had last weekend that was so good, it had me trolling the Interwebs for a candy version. Easy peasy. I didn't have the fleur de sel called for in the recipe, so I substituted pink Himalayan salt instead (I know! I have pink Himalayan salt!). I had a lot of fun with this gift, so I hope the recipient does, too.

Derby Day and the aftermath

Last Saturday was the Kentucky Derby and my friends Dawn and Josh had a party, as they do every year। It's been my experience that folks who throw Derby parties really go all out. I don't know what I liked best: the Mint Juleps, the fried pie or the cheesy grits. There were an incredible number of children, for what is always a boozy event, but they were cute, even the one who peed in the garden.

Too many Mint Juleps combined with a rainy Sunday meant I bailed on my plan to run 12 miles. Instead, I stayed at home listening to The Tennessee Border Show, a country, western and western swing program on WKCR, the Columbia University radio station. And I finished this:

It's Baktus, designed by the Norwegian knitter Strikkelise, and making the rounds on Ravelry. I stayed up much later than is typical for me, because I really wanted to finish it before my birthday on Monday. And I did. And it was good.
The pattern is easy and and works up quickly. I used two skeins of
Be Sweet Bamboo, which is incredibly soft. Be Sweet is an interesting company that works with job creation programs in South Africa focused on supporting the efforts of local artisans. I ran a bit short on the black skein, but I'm not bothered. I'm very happy with the length, look, feel and drape of the scarf.

More bounce to the ounce

I busted out my new running shoes today:

They were an E-bay purchase, thanks to suggestion by my friend Megan. I took them on a quick 3-mile loop and returned my Netflix at the same time. My old shoes had quite a bit of mileage on them, so these felt super bouncy and springy. My body will thank me later, I'm sure.
It was gray and damp, but oddly warm this morning.

Sometimes I have to force myself to put down my knitting and get outside, even on the nicest of days. Today it was easy, as I had just finished a quick and wacky project:

It's a parking meter cover, part of a public art project by Knitta Please. The only restrictions we had were to use acrylics or acrylis blends, to knit in stockinette and to limit our pallate to pinks, greens, blues and yellows. The installation is going up on May 13 and I'm psyched to check it out.
Off to the farmer's market to buy apples and drop of my compost, then back home for some knitting before my friend's Derby party.

May 1, 2009

Homeward bound . . .with a mission

All day today I had a bug up my but about walking home from work. It's one of my favorite things to do when the weather is nice (and I have a liberal definition of what constitutes nice weather), and I only live about three miles form my office, so it's easy. On top of my general anstyness, I had a particular reason for wanting to hoof it home: ice cream. For the past two years, I have been reading about Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, an independent ice cream company in Ohio. Their flavors (Queen City Cayenne, Salty Caramel, Savannah Buttermint and Kona Stout, to name but a few) sounded so unique and crazy delicious, but it always seemed rather piggish to order six pints of ice cream from Ohio all for me. Well, I almost peed my pants this week when I read that Jeni's ice cream is now available here in Brooklyn!
Since I enjoying walking home, the only thing standing between me and the ice cream was weather: thunderstorms were predicted for the late afternoon. Because I hate wussiness as much as I love ice cream, I decided to walk and chance it. My walk home takes me across the Brooklyn Bridge, my favorite place in New York. The rain was light and I was wearing my trusty North Face shell, and as I crossed the bridge, I felt my evening was off to a good start.
The store with the ice cream is in DUMBO, a small area just under the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, and I found my way to the store without much ado. I spotted the ice cream and was excited, excited enough to spend $9.99 for a pint. I gushed to the clerk that I'd made a special trip to the store just for thatice cream. I was so happy that the fact that the skies opened up on me just as I exited the store didn't bother me (again, North Face). It's easy to give in to the fact that you're wet, drenched even. My great aunt Katie used to say about rain "Ach, I'm not made of sugar; I won't melt." Plus, it's really cozy to come home, sopping wet, strip nekkid and put on cozy pyjamas. Which I did. 20 minutes after buying my ice cream. Salty Caramel. It was crazy delicious and totally deserving of the walk.