Thursday, March 31, 2011


my brother doug lost his battle with cancer last week. cancer, as it turns out, is a vicious beast that cares not one jot about your personal circumstances, or your age, or your children, or anything beyond the life it consumes. it's a horror to watch it take a person you love, and i truly can't imagine how awful it is from the other side. i hope i never know. is that selfish? i think everyone is selfish to some extent when faced with death.

it's a strange and surreal thing how this loss affects me. on one hand, i am devastated. i think about doug at so many random moments. i cry at strange times. but my day-to-day routines are continuing in spite of my underlying sorrow. what else can i do? someone asked me why i was back at work this week--where else can i go? i have responsibilities at home, at work, to my family--these don't end just because a life of a person i love is over. the show must go on, as they say.

and here's something i've learned through this whole mess--people have VERY very very different ways of dealing with grief. whole families have different styles of mourning. and people are unbelievably judgmental of how everyone else does it. empathy is hard for those close to the dying, and it seems that the very closest feel that they are the only ones in true pain or with a true sense of loss. not so.

my brother's life wasn't an easy one. it was filled with turmoil and trouble. but in the end, he had what he felt was a second chance--new family, new job, new role--things kind of falling into place. yet still, there were unaddressed difficulties and sadnesses for him, always. it does seem particularly unfair that the cancer came and struck him down just as he was starting to pull up. life's not fair.

doug was the best storyteller i have ever known. he gave awesome big giant bear hugs. he laughed easily and well. he was charismatic, and people from all walks loved him. even those he had done poorly by loved him--some of those best of all. he liked things simple and not fancy. he loved cauliflower more than anyone i've ever met. he never met a stranger. he loved cars and trucks and big machines with big engines. he was proud of his skill with a crane. he was proud, period. he was crappy with money, not always honest, and plagued by addictions. he loved fiercely his brother, two women, two daughters, a boy who was effectively his son, and the rest of us. he was too young to die, and we were all unprepared for it.

i am still unprepared.

robert douglas jones.
december 15, 1960 - march 22, 2011.

rest in peace, my brother. you are missed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


attention, those of you who knit for small persons!

if you do not already know about it, it's time for you to check out petite purls, an online knitting magazine featuring items for and of interest to children. it's 100% free, and i must say--it. is. awesome. this magazine is the love child of my friend allegra, and her friend brandy--their model is much like that of, with more of a focus on natural fibers and knitting green for your little ones. they've attracted a ton of attention from the knitting community, and for good reason. their patterns are great, from great designers, and so far, very reliable. highly recommend.

leapfrog cable


i don't have nearly the time to knit that i wish i did, but i do manage a thing or two here and there. and i actually managed to get these little pants (rav link here) finished before the squeaker was too big to wear them. in fact, i made them ages ago, but have neglected to post about them till now because i FINALLY managed to get some decent pictures of him wearing them. this may not come as a shock to most of you, but it's rather difficult to get good pictures of a moving baby!

i bought some AWESOME blue sky alpacas dyed cotton especially for these at the salty sheep (still my favorite yarn store). the yarn is a joy to work with and oh so soft. i also find that i am a lover of the worsted weight yarn in general. when you don't have a ton of time, you want what you knit to MOVE, and even i can see my progress when i am knitting with worsted. i would most certainly use this yarn again, and you should, too.

the pattern is leapfrog, from annika barranti--very well-written and easy to follow. i am in LOVE with the braided cable down the sides! i love that it doesn't look feminine at ALL. patterns for boys are so much harder to find than those for girls. i think these pants actually ARE gender-neutral. the only change i will make if/when i knit these again is that i will add a little shaping to the bottom of the leg so that it flares just the tiniest bit. the straightness of the leg makes them fit just a little more like leggings than i would prefer, so i think that a little increase here and there might alleviate that issue. other than that, however--perfection!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


the weekend before last, the hippie and i hosted an Event. we've been talking about it for a long time, but we finally got things together enough to have some close friends and family over for a marathon viewing of the entire lord of the rings series (extended editions) and a day of eating like hobbits. we had 7 meals over the course of the day, along with much socializing, a couple of epic backyard battles, and some actual watching of the movies. we had gorgeous weather, and everyone we invited came out. we got our geek on in a hardcore way, and It. Was. Awesome. and really, in the end, it was all about the food. here's the rundown, complete with bad pictures and recipes (or links to recipes) where i can provide them:

meal #1: breakfast
meal #1: breakfast
we kicked off the day with breakfast, baked eggs with kale and bacon. i found this recipe on one of my absolute favorite food blogs, use real butter, and i've been wanting to try it for weeks. as usual, jennifer yu proved that she can be trusted to provide a nearly fool proof recipe. i used small ramekins for this and put only one egg in each one. i was trying hard to keep the portions small so we could pace ourselves. that said, every single person at breakfast asked for seconds. i will most definitely be making these again. further, i think you could get really adventurous here and put just about anything in those eggs. we'll see what i come up with as spring approaches and the farmers markets start to fill with new and interesting herbs and veggies. :)

meal #2: second breakfast
meal #2: second breakfast
for second breakfast, we had cinnamon muffins with homemade peach butter and a fruit salad. the muffin recipe is from muffins and quick breads from the williams sonoma kitchen library. this little book is filled with great recipes and has many ideas for flavored butters and spreads as well. loosely following their guidelines, i made some peach butter by mixing 1/2 a cup of butter with 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar and about 1/3 of a cup of peach jam that my friend meredith made--it was DELICIOUS! the butter was actually a little more like icing than butter, and really--how is that a bad thing?

meal #3: elevenses
meal #3: elevenses
for our third meal of the day, i decided to keep it simple. i threw together a place of meats and cheeses, and added some dried peaches, a fig and almond bar, and a loaf of really good rustic bread. thought simple, i think this is always a well-received combination of offerings--i try to include a soft double or triple cream of some kind, a simple and flavorful cows milk cheese, and something more interesting, like a sheeps milk cheese or a morbier or something. this works well, even if your eaters are picky. the meats here are an herb crusted salami and a lovely italian rosemary ham from fra'mani.

meal #4: lunch
meal #4: lunch
for lunch, i tried something completly new to me: meat pies. i did a lot of researching, and decided on this version i found on epicurious. they're made in muffin tins, so they are of uniform size, and they made perfect individual portions that were very easy to eat with your hands. the only real changes we made to the recipe were related to the crust. the recipe calls for frozen crust, but we made our own instead: a double batch of regular buttery pie crust, leaving out the sugar and adding a couple of teaspoons of paprika. the directions say to cut two circles of crust for the top and bottom, but i decided to go for a more rustic approach. i rolled out the crust, cut out 16 circles about 6 inches in diameter, and then just folded them over in a somewhat pleated fashion, leaving a hole in the middle for venting. i made 1.5 the amount of filling in the recipe and it was perfect for 16 pies. we served these with some spicy mustard and an apple and onion chutney made by my friend sonya. i HIGHLY recommend a fruit chutney with these, by the way. it truly elevated them to a different level, though they were good on their own already. in fact, i'd call these the surprise hit of the day.

meal #5: tea
meal #5: tea
tea is a no brainer for me. it's not tea without scones and cake! i made a chocolate pound cake from bundt classics from nordic ware. it's a simple recipe that just works. i will tell you that the quality of cocoa you use in this makes a big difference--get something dutch processed, and you will truly taste the difference. i also made some blueberry scones from a book i got as a gift a few years ago, breakfast lunch tea. it's an interesting book, in that the amounts of ingredients are a little rough--a handful of cornmeal, two handfuls of blueberries, two very heaping tablespoons of baking powder--but yet, the baked goods always come out smelling and tasting divine. the scone recipe in this book is my favorite. i served the scones with devon double cream and pear ginger jam, again from meredith. (she gave us a bunch of homemade jams and fruit butters for christmas, and we are getting some major mileage out of them!) and of course, we made tea--lots of good strong black tea with milk and sugar.

meal #6: dinner
meal #6: dinner
for dinner i got a little creative. my idea was to make some actual coney stew, but i couldn't find any rabbit. so. everyone (who's had rabbit) knows that rabbits taste like a richer version of dark meat chicken, so i used chicken thighs browned in bacon fat to approximate. i made this in the crock pot, and it made the house smell just awesome. in retrospect, i should have borrowed a second slow cooker and doubled this. here's the recipe:

~3 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
3-4 tbsp bacon fat (enough to cover the bottom of your skillet completely)
3 good sized parsnips, peeled and sliced
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
8 oz sliced baby portabella mushrooms
8 shallots, peeled and halved or quartered, depending on size
1/2 a bottle of red wine
1 cup pacific vegetable broth
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
4 strips bacon, fried
salt and pepper to taste

heat bacon fat over medium high heat. brown chicken thighs just until golden. (do NOT wash the pan!) add chicken thighs, parsnips, carrots, mushrooms, shallots, wine, vegetable broth, and herbs to slow cooker, and cook on high for about 5 hours, until chicken starts to come apart. remove herb sprig (they will just be sticks at this point.) shred chicken with two forks, stir in chicken stock, and season with salt and pepper. keep the slow cooker on while you make a roux: melt the butter in the same pan as you browned the chicken thighs. when the butter is melted, add the flour and cook over medium heat until roux is starting to brown. stir quickly into stew. serve immediately with good bread. we served a good simple salad with this as well. there was NOTHING left.

meal #7: supper
meal #7: supper
whew! are you hungry yet? for the last meal of the day, we went simple again. we had a selection of chicken sausages, which the hippie grilled, and i made some hot crash potatoes. the potatoes are from another blog i enjoy, pioneer woman, and they are wonderful, like a slightly healthier twice baked potato with lots of herbs and olive oil. i could eat 5 of them! this was the one thing we made all day that had any leftovers to speak of--i think everyone was just too full! i can't say i'm sorry though. it made for a fantastic breakfast the next morning with some fried eggs and toast with a little peach butter.

this whole day was just a blast, as was researching all the recipes and getting to try some very new things in the kitchen. i think we might make it a yearly event. i would recommend ANYTHING we ate, too--not one thing didn't turn out well all day long, which i consider something of a miracle.

hope y'all are drooling now, and ready to get in the kitchen! :)