Monday, January 20, 2014

Slow and Simple

Here in Saratoga County (NY) January continues to bring us alternating deep freezes and brief thaws. We are about to cycle back into a very cold spell.

Retirement allows me to hunker down when I feel like it and enjoy the warmth of the fireplace with a good book or some knitting. My view from there of a remaining Christmas poinsettia, a gift from my sister Mary, brightens the vista of snowy woods behind our house.

I have gone back to working on an old project, a knitted "log cabin" blanket based on an idea from this book: Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitter's Guide: Stories, Patterns, Advice, Opinions, Questions, Answers, Jokes, and Pictures. The authors also have a long-running blog that may be of interest to knitters.

This knitted blanket is the perfect project for a cold winter's day. It covers my lap as I knit and keeps me warm and toasty. So warm that I had to abandon working on it last summer. I couldn't stand holding on to it in humid summer weather. I am using up worsted weight wool from my ancient stash. Other knitters will relate to this. In it are leftovers from: an afghan I took a long time making for my daughter; a sweater for a granddaughter; and some yarn that must be thirty to forty years old. This would have been from projects I had knitted - or abandoned - that long ago. 

Always an optimist (at least about craft projects) I recently purchased some lovely lavender blue yarn from Common Thread for another sweater, this time for granddaughter Lexi in North Carolina. This will be a short-sleeved cardigan. I will start that soon.

My knitting basket is getting along in years, too. It was a very special gift, over thirty years ago, from my late (then) mother-in-law, Marge. The basket is all handmade, an ash-splint basket with a hand-carved handle. The splints were pounded by hand from an ash log in the traditional way that goes back to the Native Americans of the Northeast. When I go to my greater reward, dear children, please do not chuck this basket in a dumpster or send it to Goodwill.

On another recent indoor day, I made beef short ribs from a recipe described by Bill Buford in his book, Heat. The meat was wonderful local, humanely raised beef from the Saratoga Farmers Market and the dish was a success. The recipe isn't difficult but it is time consuming. After the meat has stewed, you trim it of bone and fat, arrange it in a brownie-sized baking pan, strain, de-fat and reduce the braising juices to a thick rich sauce, and bring the whole shebang back to serving temperature in a hot oven. It is awesome.

Keeping with my slow and simple theme, I just finished reading a 1956 memoir, High, Wide and Lonesome by Hal Borland, about growing up in the homesteading era in Colorado. Makes you appreciate a warm home and a full pantry.

So, reading friends, I am in a Prairie Lit mood. Any recommendations? I already know and love the Little House books and Willa Cather and Marilynne Robinson and Kent Haruf. Who do you recommend in the wind-swept, feisty independence genre? While I await your recommendations, I will be busy churning butter. (Not really.)

Reminder to local friends:   THIS WEEK!
Book signing and talk with author Robert C. Conner
Wednesday, January 22 @ 6:30 PM
Malta branch, Round Lake Library,
Malta Community Center, 1 Bayberry Dr. and Route 9.
Call 682-2495 to register.

General Gordon Granger: The Savior of Chickamauga and the Man Behind "Juneteenth"    This is the first full-length biography of the Civil War general who saved the Union army from catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, and went on to play major roles in the Chattanooga and Mobile campaigns. Immediately after the war, as commander of U.S. troops in Texas, his actions sparked the “Juneteenth” celebrations of slavery’s end, which continue to this day.