It’s Thursday, I’m in love

Here’s my new best friend:

Pressure Cooker

Isn’t she beautiful? An 8.5l Danish pressure cooker able to produce rich, luscious meals like this in 20 minutes:

Braised lamb with mash
I wrote earlier about listening to Suzanne Gibbs describe the joy of pressure cooking.  It’s not the convenience of a meal in 45 minutes or less that’s the real attraction. Let’s face it, a good stir fry will do that for you. It’s the flavour – rich and intense – without 3 hours of simmering.

I rarely have the time and the energy to do beautiful, long, slow cooking on the weekends. I enjoy that kind of cooking and the meals it can produce but it’s just not been happening for the last 12 months or more.

And the demand for food around here has gone up incredibly since a black hole took up residence in the lad’s stomach. We need to have on hand healthy, filling food that’s flavoursome and enjoyable. We already cook for six to take that into account and even that hasn’t been enough. Add to that our good intentions to take leftovers to work for lunch and we’re looking at serious amounts of food.

So now I can produce the volume of food we need in the limited amount of time that I have. And there’s the little extras that have fallen by the wayside – quinces poached in red wine with cinnamon. Well, I just took that off the stove 40 minutes after peeling the quinces.

All my new bestie needs now is a name.

Frogging

My knitting’s been a bit all over the place recently. All over the house, over a whole lot of projects but not much in the way of actual results. Mostly it’s been *knit, knit, frog (repeat from * 5 times).

Spurred by the success I had with Reverie by Amy Swenson over at Knitty, I went full on with some hat making. The lass’s got frogged only once; the next one for me got frogged four times. I finally settled for an okay hat, if only to get it off the needles and my mind. Hats and I have a mixed straightforward history. They don’t suit me or I don’t suit them. So when Reverie did suit I got rather keen. It’s not the pattern – it really is me. I thought I could modify a little and it didn’t work. So, feeling chastened, I shall return to the pattern and think a little more closely about how I can make it without holes. Because 7.45am on a winter’s morning at a footy game is not a time for holes in your hat.

I’m also puzzling and frogging over winter jumpers or cardis or wraps for me. I’m making an effort to use stash yarns and that does up the degree of difficulty. I love the colours in my stash and I have plenty of patterns to swoon over, it’s just that stash yarn = limited quantities = difficult decisions. Another complicating factor is the new and fascinating information on colours and wardrobe sloshing around the family (thanks, Mum!). So while I now know why I opt for black as my neutral even though chocolate suits me and my preferred colours better, that doesn’t help turn black stash yarn into chocolate stash yarn. I may need to sit down with patterns, yarn, red wine and chocolate. Damn.

Not all is lost. I’m working on a pair of socks for the Bloke and they’re working out nicely without a frog in sight.

Cameras, cookers and craft

I had hoped to include a few photos today but in an aimless kind of way, I can’t quite locate the memory stick with them on it. There will be pictures again, soon.

This week has been quieter and a little easier for those smaller moments of joy to sneak in. I have tried new recipes or ones that we haven’t had in a long time. Some were successful, others less so, and pleasantly surprised by the ones which were eaten by the (slightly) smaller folk without fuss. I may have lied once when I robustly told them that they had eaten this meal before. Prior experience seems to make a difference if they face a plate with some suspicion.

I’ve decided to purchase a pressure cooker after hearing this interview with Suzanne Gibbs. She’s just published a book for pressure cookers – good, contemporary recipes by the sound of it. I was pretty much convinced when the host described the chicken tagine with a 15 minute prep time and 15 cooking time and I was sold when she said it cooked risotto in 6 minutes. I don’t care if that’s blasphemy but I love risotto and if a pressure cooker means I can have homemade risotto with homemade stock in the middle of the week, then a pressure cooker I shall have.

Plus it means its less disheartening when kids get fussy over a meal that took a great deal of preparation; or that it’s easier to put together an extra casserole so we can fill up the black hole that is the lad’s nearly ten year old stomach.

The camera went for a bit of a walk over the weekend – I was trying to figure out where to go and decided just to walk around our backyard. Some good shots, some not so great, but interesting and I learned that our camera has a magnification function. Just have to work it out, is all.

In craft studio news, I sorted my fabric AND put it away in the dresser cupboard. I’ve gone for two major categories: new, dress fabrics and vintage/remnant fabric. The dress fabrics are sorted by colour because that’s how I choose something for a project. Then I’ll figure out if it’s the right type of fabric and if it isn’t, damn it, I’ll have to buy some. I have large scraps sorted by colour into small boxes. I’ll do the books. patterns and notions this weekend and try and get a start on the decorative stuff. I moved my cutting table from under the house into the studio and it is bliss. It makes layout, cutting and sorting a dream.

All in all, I’m getting into a less hassled pace and enjoying it. Now to settle back for a weekend of Eurovision action.

Finding Joy

I read a post a few days ago by six and a half stitches about a group project called ‘finding joy’. After an overful April, I liked the reminder to pause long enough to find what is joyful. I’ve thought of three things to linger over and rediscover the joy and the simple pleasure they give. One was food: mindfully stepping out of the rut at least 2 or 3 times during the week to try something new. The other was photography: remembering to take my camera for a walk around different places and give myself time to stop and look. The last was my studio – a crude little hut, really – that is still ‘going to be’ organised. I was down there last weekend, picking, cutting and arranging fabric and remembered how joyful it is to touch and look and discover again. So, more organising for the delight of rediscovering the possibilities.

And already I’ve found myself pausing to enjoy what was happening right now. I took the lad to a cross country run and drove him back to school. I’d cheered, chatted and knitted while the lad ran, cheered, and chatted. We were sharing a companionable trip back when I pulled in at a wayside milk bar. It surprised the lad and I just smiled and said, you must be starving, how about something to eat? It was just couple of (yummy) hot potato cakes that we munched but it was about us sharing a little time together.

Last night was a quiet no-TV night so we pulled out books or knitting and settled ourselves around the couch and cushion. The lass was very weary after her swimming lesson and just lay on my lap, watching me knit, stroking my arm or belly, following the wool, all like a drowsy little kitten. She fell asleep curled up as she must have been in my belly – all tucked up with her thumb in her mouth (we have the ultrasound to show off at her 21st). It was quiet and still and good.

A fair day

This last month has been very head-ful for me. Lots of thoughts about the work I do, which is good, but has a tendency to keep my brain going even when it should be asleep. And quite a bit of preparation for the school fair yesterday. Mostly it was because I decided to take the plunge and have my own stall with my own handmade goods and a little bit of being the volunteer coordinator of the other stalls.

We had the most glorious autumnal weather that just to be outside made you feel good. I love those days. There’s a little warmth in sun but no so much that you want to hide from it, and just a hint of a cooling breeze. The kids have a fine time running around their school out of hours with its familiarity and one off strangeness as parents and family gather to eat, listen, craft and bungy trampoline.

I’ve been thinking for a little while about dipping my toe into the craft market business, mostly as a means of funding my fabric and yarn habit rather than as a serious business proposition. I went with the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ theme of the fair and refashioned garments, made fabric cuffs out of remnant fabric and did up some iron-on transfer sheets. From a trading point of view, it wasn’t successful (I sold two items, but there wasn’t a great deal of buying going on for most of the stalls). I did learn heaps, though.

I got lots of positive comment on the refashioned garments. I can now tell you that one large machine-knit turtle neck jumper can produce a beanie (the turtleneck, with one opening seamed up), leg warmers or toddler’s leggings (the arms, plus some extra fabric from the torso for a rolled waistband), and a size 4 girl’s skirt.  I’d pinned them up on a dividing screen so they were laid out for viewing and it was easy for people to stroll past, pause, get enthusiastic (and then walk on). I had some totes made from vintage fabric or refashioned items – a cotton knit halter neck in an oriental print make a great looking hobo-style bag. Trust me on that because I forgot to take the camera. For the record, a bright orange tote and the leg warmers got sold.

The fabric cuffs and iron-on transfers were directed at the pre-teen demographic. They weren’t things I would plan to do at a craft market since they’re fiddly and pricing needs to stay reasonably low to attract the smaller budgets of the audience. Again, a lot of interest but no sales. My lass, who had invested her own time and energy in making a large sign, and helped out beautifully on the day, wistfully wondered why nobody was buying our things. I was wondering too.

My guesses are that a lack of regular foot traffic meant fewer  (no) sales. The stalls were away from the main action and required a special trip – they weren’t on the way  to anything – so that meant fewer opportunities to wander past and reconsider a purchase. I think this was most true for the older kids who are encouraged to have a small budget to manage on fair day. I also think that the fair is seen by the school community as a time to get together and have a bit of fun. So food and drink were popular, obviously, and especially so since that was arranged around our little ampitheatre while students and a parent/teacher band performed. Grown ups and kids alike were happy to have a go at the lucky number spinning wheel and to get into the few carnival games we had. Craft activities seemed to do well and is particularly popular with the under-6s. And as this year’s external stalls coordinator, I’m very happy to argue that we shouldn’t have any. Or only a couple. The more we focus on helping the kids have fun and their parents relax and join in, the better.

But back to the learning curve. For refashioned garments, I got the most comment on articles that were dissimilar to their original form, such as the toddler’s leggings. That might mean people are more interested in those things that go beyond the ‘I could do that myself’ thought. For new or different items, demonstrate their purpose. It would have been easier for my potential customers if they’d seen a hand mannequin wearing the fabric cuffs or a model t-shirt with an iron-on transfer. For totes and bags, variety and volume may be the go. I didn’t really expect to see the bright orange one go because it was such an individual piece. But someone came along and saw that it fitted her style – with more bags there may have been more customers drawn in to browse. And as ever, good signs and display.

I think I will do a real craft market. But I’ll do it just a few times a year with a more focused product line with more of my particular style in the goods.

And I’ll remember a folding chair. Because standing up for seven hours is not fun, even in glorious autumnal weather.