That Time Again

Ah, fall, when I place my annual order for a planner. It took me a while to come up with a system which worked reasonably well for me, and even longer to find a planner which would accommodate my system. Time to change!

I normally use a Moleskine planner which has one page for each day of the week. I like the blank page, and I like the small monthly calendars for a longer-term outlook I can see at a glance. However, sometimes the print color and style of font causes my eye to skim over things which shouldn’t be skimmed over.

I’ve been eyeing the Hobonichi Techo for a couple years now, wondering if it would work for me. This year, I decided to give it a try.

Here it is, in all its glory. I decided not to get one of the Hobonichi covers for a couple reasons (1) I didn’t want to spend the money if I wasn’t going to buy the planner every year, and (2) I don’t love things dangling around from my books, even if they’re very useful things, and I don’t really like my books to look so poofy. The covers look a bit poofy to me? I don’t know. Instead, I got this $4 Midori cover which juuuuust fits, and which I hope will protect the book from the worst of my carelessness. I’ve already gotten marshmallow Fluff on it, and can report it worked as intended.

This is the size A6, English version. At 4.1″ x 5.9″ (10.5 cm x 15 cm), it’s smaller than my Moleskine (5″ x 8.25″, 13 cm x 21 cm), more compact, which I prefer. It has a soft, paper cover as opposed to the hard cover of the Moleskine. If you are anything like me, protecting the cover in some way is a necessity.

Two years of monthly calendars, in a font I can read easily.

I like these pages with a line for each day of the year. This is where I’ll write when my bills are due, so I can see that information easily, at a glance. I have trouble if it’s not very quick and easy for me to find that information.

These monthly calendars will be for appointments and social events, if we get to do anything social this year. Sigh. Interestingly, even though the Techo is smaller, the individual day blocks of the Techo are larger (approx 1″ x 1″, 2.4 cm x 2.4 cm) than those of the Moleskine (approx. 3/4″ x 1″, 1.8 cm x 2.4 cm), because each month is laid out over two pages, rather than one as in the Moleskine.

At the beginning of each month, there is a blank page for notes relevant to the month, then the page-per-day section of the book begins.

Here is the size comparison between the Hobonichi Techo and the Moleskine.

A comparison of thickness, which is not very fair. Since I’ve been using the Moleskine all year, it’s bound to be more puffy. It is approximately 1/2″ (1.3 cm) thicker. It’s important to note these books use very different types of paper. The Moleskine paper is thicker, but not thick by any means. I wouldn’t use a fountain pen on it, for instance, and I was always careful about what sort of highlighters I used. The Hobonichi Techo uses a specific paper which some people seem to be pretty into. It’s called Tomoe River paper, it’s very thin, but supposedly ink doesn’t bleed through as easily as you’d imagine. I’ve never tried it, so I’m curious whether I’ll like it or not.

By way of comparison, here is what the Moleskine’s two-year monthly calender layout looks like.

These are the monthly block calendars in the Moleskine planner.

Here is what Moleskine’s daily pages look like.

These are the pens I’ve started to use instead of highlighters. I color-code everything, and as life got busier, the page began to look messy and chaotic when I color-coded with regular highlighters, even though I used pastel ones. I found the thin line of these marker pens was enough to catch my eye and tell me what I needed to know. They’re Marvy Le Pens, the very same ones that I’d go all goggle-eyed for as a child. I love that there are lots of colors, and they’re easy to find. I get mine from Jet Pens because it’s convenient with Covid going on, but I’ve seen them for sale in stores locally, as well.

I write whatever information I need in my book with a regular pen, then draw a line under it or a box around it. It’s just enough color to stand out without being confusing. You can see the quiet shades of the ink, below:

So! Ready for 2021.

Candle Light Shawl

This is the Candle Light Shawl, pattern written by Lucy Robson. It was one of my very first small shawl projects. I still think it’s pretty. I have such happy memories of the first time I wore it. It was a cold day in very late fall, and I visited a beautiful garden.

I think a lot of knitters go through an intense small shawl phase. It’s very tempting. Many of the shawls take only one skein of yarn, so you can buy some of your very first fancy yarn and learn which ones you like best. You’re learning new techniques, watching lace or interesting textures form in your hands, and it’s done in a relatively short amount of time. I had to stop, I had so many shawls, but now that I’m talking about it, I want to make some more.

How in the world do you wear a shawl in 2020? I’ve always used them as scarves in cold weather, with the point in front and tucked into my coat. I like how there’s volume in the front so I can be extra cozy.

I caught my first whiff of fall outside yesterday, so I’m thinking about these things.

I knitted this shawl in Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, the shade is called Dusk. I think this color is discontinued, but there are some current options which are peachy-pinky-beige and would make great substitutes.

Swallowtail Shawl

The Swallowtail Shawl pattern, written by Evelyn A. Clark, has been a favorite of mine to knit. I find it particularly soothing and meditative. The bonus is that it has nupps, which I love everything about: knitting them, looking at them from a distance, inspecting them up close where I can see the subtle variations of color in each component strand of yarn, and feeling the texture when the piece is finished. I’ve made three of these shawls so far, maybe more? I’m not entirely sure, because I give things away.

This is the version I kept. I wanted it to be more cozy and homey, so I knitted the pattern differently in a way I saw some people on Ravelry doing it, with a stockinette top portion, rather than the lace as written. I used a heavier weight of yarn, and didn’t pull the points out when I blocked it, so edges are more rounded, less defined. One of the other versions I made was in a silver-colored pure silk laceweight yarn, with the lacy top as written. That was gorgeous. It’s just a great pattern.

I knitted my shawl in Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, one of my very favorite yarns. It’s a fingering-weight hand-dyed merino wool, single-ply, which is always my preference. It only took one skein, and the shade is called Vintage Frame. I think this color is discontinued now, which is a pity. They have so many other colors, though, that it’s almost maddening to try to choose one. I guess that explains all the shawls.

Featherweight Cardigan

I’m still going through my older finished projects and posting photos. This one is the Featherweight Cardigan, pattern written by Hannah Fettig. It’s a classic for a reason.

This cardigan was one of my very first knitted garment projects. I was so excited to be making it, and so nervous about whether it would turn out to be wearable!

It is very wearable. It’s a light but warm wooly layer for transitional weather. I’m thinking of making another, and it’s not often I knit a pattern twice. There are so many great designs, and I feel I could keep trying new patterns infinitely and never make all the everything I’d like to. I think this one is worth it though. It’s versatile and easy to wear.

And, it’s an easy and well-written pattern. I love the concept of knitting a sweater in laceweight yarn for a couple reasons. Firstly, the garment is delicate. Secondly, when you buy laceweight yarn, you get more yardage for your money. It just makes sense. The required gauge for this sweater is not terribly small, which means I only needed one skein of yarn for the whole thing. I got an entire cardigan made of great quality hand-dyed merino wool for a materials cost of $24. I think that’s a great deal! Since the garment is basic and not oversized, I didn’t find it took long to make, even in laceweight.

If you have a look at the finished projects on Ravelry, you’ll see some people have made the sweater in heavier weights of yarn, which I wouldn’t mind trying. Also, it’s so plain and basic it would be fun to add interest to the hem or neckline, as you can see some people have done, and it’s easy to vary the sleeve length or the length of the entire garment.

I knitted my sweater in Madelinetosh Tosh Lace, which has been discontinued. Don’t worry, Prairie is still available, and that’s a beautiful yarn. I always prefer single-ply anyway, which I didn’t learn until I had been knitting for a while. I used the shade Kale, which may also be discontinued. It was this funny-sounding combination of a purple-maroon color and pale green. I don’t think it looks funny, though. I love it, although I can’t seem to get the camera to pick up the color very well.

Water Lily Mitts

Another handmade item I finished a while ago but haven’t posted: my sixth pair of these mitts. I think? I’ve done at least six, that’s for sure.

I really like this pattern. It’s fun and quick and works nicely with various weights of yarn. I’ve done four pairs in sport weight, one in dk, and one in worsted. I gave a few away, and the others are too well-loved to photograph. Already these have been worn quite a bit.

If you’re looking to crochet a gift for someone, these are a good candidate. Need to finish up a partial skein of fancy yarn? Water Lily Mitts.

Here is a link to the pattern: click link.

This pair was done in Malabrigo Rios, shade is Azul Profundo

Enough

Really I am done with Thanksgiving. I talked to my husband and kids about it, and they were surprisingly enthusiastic about dropping it. We decided to have an autumn celebration of our own on a different day, and it wouldn’t be tied to faux history of our country, just a fun night with food and some friends, if they can make it.

They could make it! We had a really nice evening together. I’m so glad we did it this way.

I took a part of my life back by losing the obligation to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, and it’s working for me. This is the happiest and calmest I’ve been heading into the holidays in quite some time.

I decided to go with a menu of soups and breads for maximum coziness, and, of course, desserts.

The cat was desperate to step in my galettes.

Soups were chili, chicken stew, and corn chowder. The corn chowder recipe is one I’ve posted here before, and the other two are ones I make my own way, no recipe particularly, and most everyone has a way they do those, I think. I bet you like your own way best.

Breads were white yeast rolls, biscuits, and cornbread.

Desserts were:

Chocolate pie, a plain pie crust with creamy chocolate filling. I always use a Jello cook and serve for that.

Apple galettes, sweet butter pastry with a simple filling of apples and sugar and a little spice. I don’t use a recipe for this.

Lemon-Ricotta Cookies, which were really a good cookie for squishy-cake cookie people. This recipe (click link), and I didn’t bother with the frosting because, well, I don’t like frosting and the cookie is very sweet as it is.

A tart with a spiced shortbread crust, and, even though I am against cream cheese in general, I was short on time and used a cream cheese filling. To top the tart, I made a mixture of fall fruits based on the recipe below. However, I doubled the sugar and used about a quarter of a cup of marmalade instead of kumquats, because I didn’t have time to track down kumquats. It was lovely. An alternate topping was spiced honey, which was honey I heated with crushed red pepper, pie spice, some extra mace and cinnamon, and some salt. I made toffee walnuts to go with that.

Recipes:

Crust and filling from this recipe in last year’s Victoria magazine fall baking issue

Fruit topping adapted from this recipe in a Better Homes and Gardens (November 2008):

It ends in tender. You want the pears just tender.

Toffee walnuts, also from 2018 Victoria fall baking:

Brioche buns with cinnamon-cranberry goat cheese, and in true Shin Ae fashion, I forgot to put out the goat cheese. However, it was fine because people just kept grabbing the buns and eating them plain, seemingly with no hard feelings. I should add the brioche was not true brioche, more of a brioche-themed enriched bread. I’ve never made real brioche.

So that’s what we had! It was fun and great, and the hilarious part, to me, at least, is that I cranked out all those baked goods using this oven:

I keep laughing when I think of it.

the reasons we stay up too late

Reading:

Olive Editions (Harper Collins imprint) did this decorative bunch of titles, the price is $10 each, and I spied a Dorothy Sayers mystery which had been on my wish list for a while. It’s fun, but not my favorite Sayers so far. My favorite so far is The Nine Tailors.

Listening:

Oh, this album. It’s old and a bit strange, but it has been a favorite since my friend played it for me almost 25 years ago. It has a quality of feeling like home while feeling not at all like home. It’s great music for walking in cold darkness, there’s the smell of woodsmoke and decaying leaves, and a wind is kicking up. Yes.

Making:

More Ann Wood ships for the holidays. These are fun to make, and very pretty. You should look at her stuff. It’s inspiring. Here are links so you can find out more:

Ann Wood’s website

Template and instructions for boat

Template and instructions for another sort of boat

Link to all the free patterns and templates she has generously shared

A sincere thank you to Ann Wood!

Pasta and Sproutses

I think pasta and Brussels sprouts are a great fall and winter combination. It’s not like I thought of it, but I’m enthusiastic about it.

My poor family. I think they are maybe less excited, especially when I serve it to them more than once in a week. But, we needed to compare.

The components of each of these meals are not identical, but they’re close enough to warrant comparison of two styles.

First, my usual way of serving the components. The sort-of constants are: white beans, whole wheat pasta, sprouts, Romano cheese. Extra items are: bacon, mushrooms.

Pasta is boiled, beans are simmered and served over top with a sprinkle of cheese. Veg is roasted and served on the side. Everyone in our house finds something about this meal to enjoy, and some even enjoy it in its entirety.

The next time, I did this casserole thing. It’s a Nigella Lawson recipe. It’s not Nigella’s fault the correct size pan wouldn’t fit in my oven and I needed to use a smaller one, thus likely rendering the final product less roasty and delicious than hers. If Nigella made it for me, I bet it would taste better. She’s just better at cooking than I am, plus I love her, and you know how that is.

It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t for us. Once again, the sort-of constants are: potatoes (which I equate with white beans), whole wheat pasta, sprouts, Romano cheese. Extra items are: Gruyère cheese, ricotta cheese, butter, and sage.

I loved the sage. I always forget how much I love fresh sage. Otherwise, this was quite the cheese bomb. I’m typing that thinking, “Mmm, cheese bomb,” but in practice it was not what I wanted to eat. It was just so, so much cheese. Also, the recipe took much longer to prep, cook, and clean up. The consensus of the family was my usual treatment of ingredients is better for us. I may do a little fried sage topping for the white bean thing, though. That woody, camphory scent is very evocative.

Very quickly, here’s how I make the usual meal: I roast veg simply just with oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and often some garlic powder and dehydrated onion. Normally I like it all significantly more charred than it appears in the first photo, but dinner was running late.

I do the beans by heating up bacon until it’s just this side of charred, then pour in 2 cans of white beans. The seasoning is: thyme (1 tsp), sage (1/2 tsp), lavender flowers (1/4 tsp), fennel seeds (1/4 tsp), crushed red pepper (start with 1/8 tsp), a smallish handful of dried parsley, and a bay leaf. Ground black pepper, some garlic powder, and dehydrated onion, too. Everything is to taste, really, but those last three ingredients are more to taste than others. Everyone has big feelings about garlic and onions and pepper, right? Simmer it until it’s thickened and the consistency you want to put on your pasta.

That’s not going to be the best or healthiest thing you’ve ever eaten, but it’s easy and pretty fast, and it tastes just fine. There are a lot of nights to fill with dinners; it’s nice to have something quick and simple to make with pantry ingredients in a pinch.

……………………………………………………………….

By the way, I get my lavender flowers from Harney and Sons. Click here. Another way to use lavender flowers is as a tisane but also if you mix thyme (or tarragon), fennel seeds, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and a couple lavender flowers, it’s a very good way to season a baked egg.

A Reading List: Native History and Literature

This time last year, my older son and I were working though some Native history and literature. It’s beautiful and devastating. The books here are a small selection of what’s available. A beginning.

If these perspectives are unfamiliar to you, please take some time and read. It’s so worth it. These words are gifts.

Here’s what we read:

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. This is essential.  

Life of Black Hawk, by Black Hawk. A Native view of the conflict resulting from the US push west in the 1800s , as well as what life was like.

The Journey of Crazy Horse, by Joseph M. Marshall III. The story of Crazy Horse’s life. It will haunt you. 

American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings, by Zitkala-Sa. The ‘other writings’ are letters, articles, and speeches about Native issues of the day. She will open your eyes.

The Soul of the Indian, by Charles Alexander Eastman. For insight into a culture.

Two Old Women, by Velma Wallis. Written for a younger reader, it takes place in Alaska. A legend about two old women who are left by their people to die, and what happens next.

Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann. I did my best to use books written by Native people, but I ended up using this because the story sucked me in, it was written well, and if you want an idea of the suffocating injustice faced by Natives, this book will help. 

…………..

I think the next two books are particularly compelling read one after the other. It doesn’t matter the order. They are not the same story, and the conflicts are not handled the same way, but, well, you’ll see. There are similarities, and it’s interesting to compare and contrast the two. My son preferred one, and I preferred the other.

Winter in the Blood, by James Welch. It’s a classic, and it’s beautiful. My son liked this one better.

Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko. This. It’s lodged in my heart. If I had to choose one favorite book from the whole list, it would be Ceremony. 

…………..

Blonde Indian, by Ernestine Hayes. Life as a Tlingit (I hope I have that right). This is more contemporary. I needed to take deep breaths and settle down for the storytelling aspect of the book, and, once I did, I found it to be a rich and captivating memoir. 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Another one written for a younger audience, while remaining equally interesting to an adult. It will kick you right in the stomach, and you should read it.

There, There, by Tommy Orange. A relatively newly-released work of fiction. It’s got a hard edge but it’s the softness that hurts. If you read through the whole list, by the time you get to this one, you’ll recognize the themes. You will be sad, horrified, sick, and hopefully  more aware. Compassionate. Just do it. Read the list, and read this book.

 

Knotty but Nice Ugh

I didn’t even want to tell you the name of the pattern because I hate puns just that much, but it didn’t seem fair to the designer. Plus, it wouldn’t be consistent with my usual style of post, which would drive me nuts.

More nuts than a pun? I couldn’t decide with certainty. Provisionally, yes, so I have told you the name.

Here’s the link: click here

I found it difficult to get a good photo. Here are my two best efforts, one lit by a lamp, and one lit by the sun:

The pattern was well-written, the result is exactly as advertised, and I hate the fit. I can kind of make it look okay if I turn the front up and wear it a bit like a cloche. And, yes, I know it’s a men’s hat, which may well be why it doesn’t fit my non-man-sized head, but I didn’t originally make it for myself so I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got. None of the men in the house wanted it, you see. It’s not a bad hat, just not their style.

Anyway, there it is, and it’s done in Madelinetosh Tosh DK. The shade is Thunderstorm.