Q is for Quit

I Quit looking for a Q to add to the ABC-Along.  

As you can see in the right column of my blog, I am (sort of) participating in the 2008 ABC-Along where you must upload a photo of something meaningful in your life relating to the letter for that time period.  I’ve been stuck on Q since August 17.  So I quit.  It’s put me behind on all the other letters and I’m just fed up with it!

I’m not one to QUIT something that I’ve signed up for, so I will just QUIT this impossible Q task and continue catching up with the rest of the letters I’m behind on.  

I could have done QUEEN (which we have here)

but how predictable is that?  And besides, it’s not a very personal Q.  

I could have done QUIVET (the wool from a musk ox)

but I don’t actually own any so that’s not personal either.

So I give up and QUIT the Q and head on over to R and see what Real Relevance I can find!

O + P = Patatje Oorlog

I’m combining the O and P for the ABC-Along 2008.  I have to.  What else does O and P stand for besides that quintessential Dutch food:  patatje oorlog ?

Literally it means “french fry war”.  Take some thick cut fries, put mayonnaise on the side, put some pindasaus (peanut sauce) on the side, and put chopped raw onions over the top of the 2 sauces.  Dip your fries in the sauces, scooping up the onions as you go, and enjoy!  Peanut sauce by the way was adopted by the Dutch from Indonesia and can be found everywhere.  It’s not sweet, is a little bit spicy hot, and is a little bit salty.  It’s really really good!

Here’s a photo of patatje oorlog.  I hardly even eat fries.  But when I do, this is the best way to do it.

By the way, the log thing in the roll at the top of the photo is another “only in Holland” delight:  a croquette.  This is gooey meat gravy stuff, rolled in crunchy coating and deep fried.  You can buy them in this log shape and eat them without the bread, dipping them in mustard, or you can buy them in ball shapes, about the size of golfballs.  The round shaped ones are called bitterballen (bitter balls).  Don’t ask me why.  They are weird to eat at first, but I’ve grown to like them a lot.  Watch out!  Don’t burn your tongue!

N is for Needles

I have been collecting tools of the craft for a long time. Here’s what I have at this moment:

You notice I don’t have any long straight needles that most people think of when they think of knitting needles. I quit using that kind of needle years ago and got rid of the ones I had. I much prefer knitting with circular needles. I have some sets of double pointed needles for small round knitting, like socks and sleeves and hats.

In January I ordered my first set of interchangeable tips, from KnitPicks, and I really love love love them. I also have 3 pairs of KnitPicks small circulars for sock knitting. KnitPicks does have issues with quality control (I had 1 bad interchangeable and one of the circulars broke right away) but they replaced these right away without question. Their needles are such a joy to work with that it’s worth any hassles. One of the biggest hassles with KnitPicks is that they don’t ship outside the U.S.!! Why oh why? I can’t think of any reason why a company wouldn’t ship outside the U.S. I have to order things and have them shipped to my mom and she sends them on to me.

I like their needles so much that just last week I ordered their set of double pointed needles, once again in wood. Mom will bring them with her when she comes in September. It’s not only that they feel good in your hands, they are just slippery enough, and the points are really pointy, but they are also really beautiful to look at. See?

OK, that’s enough advertising for KnitPicks!

Other ‘nitting news: I’ve joined the Ravelympics over at Ravelry. You have to be a member of Ravelry to play. The rules are: cast on during the Opening Ceremonies and cast off no later than the Closing Ceremonies, which gives you 17 days to complete a project. The project is yours to choose. There are teams and events you can join. I’ve joined the “Lace Longjump” and I will work on the Travelling Roses Lace Scarf using blue Malabrigo. Here’s the original:

I’m not a fast knitter but I figure since this is a scarf, I can just bind off no matter how far I am during the Closing Ceremonies and call it a finished scarf! That’s not cheating is it! DB said, right away, “You know we’re MOVING during the Olympics.” What he really meant to say is “You know we have to paint our entire house and pack everything and work full time during the Olympics so I have no idea when you’ll have time for yet another project!” He’s right of course. But I still want to try.

Today I will finish the mystery socks that can’t be shown. I plan to write up the pattern tomorrow and hopefully have that finished in the next week. But the hard part is getting good photos for these socks. Knitty only uses really good photos so I’d better think of something clever asap.

Also in project news, I’m nearly finished with the first spiral kitchen rug that I’m crocheting. Unfortunately, it’s not very thick and doesn’t feel very rug-like. I think I will have to make two of them and sew them together back to back. I’ve got plenty of that cotton ribbon to do so. I just hope I’m not totally and completely bored to death with it before I finish it. I don’t want it to become a UFO!

L is for Lace

L is also for LATE, which is what I am with this post! Ah well, at least I’m still on this ABC-Along train….

Since knitting my first lace project, I’m really excited about knitting more lace. Just before I went to the US a few weeks ago I placed an order on Amazon and had the books shipped to the company office. Getting to the office and picking up my boxes was just like Christmas. Presents!

Since I ordered them from Amazon they were bought sight-unseen. Some of the content was a surprise, and not always a nice surprise. I won’t take the time to book review them all (who has that kind of time?) and I’m sure you can find book reviews online and even at Amazon. I just want to show you what I bought and write first impressions about them.

First, “Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting” by Marianne Kinzel.
This book was first published in 1961 and the photos and descriptions show it. I was really expecting more examples and patterns but the only one that is really interesting is English Rose. I had seen this worked up by Ravelers and it’s really pretty. I just wish there were more nice examples in the book.

Next “Victorian Lace Today” by Jane Sowerby.
There are LOADS of beautiful examples of knitted lace in this book. Even if you don’t make any of the specific patterns in the book, it would be very easy to take the stitch patterns and combine them in unique shapes or combinations. One of my favorites is simply called “A curved shawl” and is mostly made of a “spider pattern”. The original inspiration came from an 1860’s Shetland pattern.

Then there’s “Shawls and Scarves” which is a “Best of Knitter’s Magazine” book edited by Nancy J. Thomas.
I was a little disappointed in this book. It’s nice and all, but just doesn’t make me go “ooo ahhhh”. The designs are too basic maybe, or just not interesting enough. They don’t excite me. But there are nice techniques and projects for beginning knitters to tackle easily.

And, “A Gathering of Lace” by Meg Swansen, a superstar in the knitting world.
It’s just the best, BUT I’ve also heard that there are/were a lot of errors in the patterns and that you need to knit with care. I will check out errata online before I do. It’s so great that there are these online communities now to share such information! I must have picked out 5 projects to do out of this book. Then I come to my senses and realize that I’ll never do all that, but I can’t seem to pick just one! My favorite at this moment in time is “Frost Flowers and Leaves” which is a huge square shawl. There are a lot of people on Ravelry who have made it so it’s very popular. This shawl is the reason I went back to the yarn shop in Cambridge and bought more of the scarlet lace weight!

Not strictly lace, but I also bought “The Best of Interweave Knits” edited by Ann Budd.
I only started buying Interweave Knits in the last couple of years so I had some catching up to do. I won’t buy any “Best of” from Vogue Knitting since I have all the magazines since 1984. 🙂 There are some lovely classic designs in here that I can certainly see myself making. I really like the hemp t-shirt made in the round. And the lace in the book? A STUNNING rectangular shawl that is part entrelac, part lace, full on gorgeous and complicated enough that I’d be entertained for quite some time. I do recommend this book if you are looking for a general all around knitting pattern book with something for everyone.

That ends the Amazon portion of our show, but it is NOT the end of our L is for Lace portion.

In the last couple of weeks I also bought some lace patterns from Lacis Publications from Berkeley, CA. I bought the famous “Lyra” pattern
and also a booklet of patterns called “Kunst Stricken, Grosse und kleine Decken”, which, as you can guess, is a German booklet. They come with complete charts so if you can knit lace just from a chart, you don’t have to know German. “Lyra” is a Herbert Niebling design. These are designs from the 20’s and 30’s and were originally meant to be used for doilies and table cloths. However, if you knit them in lace weight yarn or even sport weight, you get lovely shawls. I’m going to make Lyra, one day, you can count on it. There’s a fanatic lace knitter who has gorgeous photos of her work that you should really check out to see what’s gotten me so excited. 🙂

Now the question is, what will be my next project? Your guess is as good as mine. I have so many projects lined up that I’ll be busy for the next year without stopping even without buying another single skein of yarn. This is getting out of hand!!

L can also be for love and I love my stash and books.

K is for KIP

14 June 2008 was international Knit In Public day. There were events in my local area planned that I really wanted to take part in but unfortunately I had to fly to Boston that day. So I wore my Ravelry t-shirt to Schiphol and proceeded to KIP. I asked a total stranger to take my photo with my phone. She and her partner were sitting with Macs on their laps so I knew they were nice people willing to take a photo. I was actually kind of disappointed that no one recognized the t-shirt. Or should I say – no one came up to me and commented on either the t-shirt or the knitting. I was totally left alone in my KIPping. Ah well. Maybe next time.

It’s not my most flattering photo. I look really tired!

In Amsterdam there was a canal cruise planned for KIPpers. That would have been fun. In Haarlem there was a gathering planned in the city center. Next year I hope to be home to KIP with friends!

By the way, I’m writing this now from my hotel room in Burlington, MA. It’s 5am and I’ve already been up for 2 hours. Ain’t jet lag wonnerful? I flew on Saturday so that I could start to get used to the time difference before going to the office Monday morning and start giving training classes at 8:30am! That gives me Sunday to SHOP! Of course shops are open in the US on Sundays and I will take advantage. My first stop is Barnes and Noble since they open earliest. Then I’m off to Woolcott & Co. in Cambridge for some yarn shopping. I’m only supposed to buy for planned projects. I will really try to keep it down to “planned projects”. I’ll let you know if I succeed!

J is for Jogging!

(Update:  I had to remove the image/link with my image and map.  It was totally crashing my blog.  Ah well, a new J image will be added later…)
Sunday I hit a new milestone: 7km jogging, non-stop. That’s my longest run yet! Then I found this website where you can map out your run, share it with others, and know how far you went. I also have my Nike+ thingy to tell me how far and how fast I went, but this mapping is nice too.

I was so enthusiastic after this run that I signed myself up for the Kikarun on 8 June! Oh no! This is a 10km race and I just don’t know if I can do it! But then, I remember, when I signed up for both of the 5km races I felt the same way. I just have to stay injury free and keep up a slow increase and I should be ok. This coming Sunday I plan to run 7.5km. Whew!

I is for Island

I is for Island, namely Terschelling.  We spent the last 4 days there and I’ve already blogged about it a bit here.  This photo is special though.  It’s for the iContest for the ABC-Along 2008.  Why should this photo win?

It was taken on an island and actually represents quite a few aspects of this island.  There’s the lamb, and there are certainly a lot of sheep and lambs on Terschelling.  The lamb is standing on top of the dike that runs along the southern edge of the island.  The dike keeps the island from washing away.  The lamb is looking down into a field that is filled with migrating geese.  They are only a small part of the bird life on this island.  You can never escape the sound of sea birds calling or geese honking!  Also in the distance is a farm house (for the sheep of course) a bit of forest (pine trees are found in planted pockets around the island) and on the right top of the photo, the hint of a dune.  The northern half of the island is made up of sand dunes, mostly covered in grasses, but also some covered in cranberry bushes.  Terschelling is famous for cranberries and any food you can think of made from them.

But why else is this a winning photo?  The lamb is kind of an island himself standing there, looking out.  Normally they stick together and don’t stray far from Mom, or their siblings.  This lamb was an island, if only for a little while.

And where would we knitters be without sheep?  This little lamb provides us with the stuff of imagination, warmth, and at one time real survival.  I imagine some early human communities could thank sheep for their very existence.  Me, I’m very thankful for sheep, and green fields, sand dunes, sunshine and islands to escape to.

H is for Haarlem

At the end of August we will move from Amsterdam to Haarlem. Why? Mainly because housing prices are so insane in Amsterdam that we would never be able to afford a house/apartment on the ground floor with a small garden and no one living on top of us. We found just that in Haarlem at a price we could afford. We don’t plan to move again until we are too old to walk up stairs anymore and have to move to an old folks home.

That explains why we are leaving Amsterdam, but why Haarlem, as apposed to, say, Alkmaar or Hilversum or Utrecht?

Haarlem is only 15 minutes by train to Amsterdam. Haarlem is only 15 minutes by train to the beach, or 30 minutes by bike. Haarlem has a lovely city center with markets and shops and lots of restaurants to choose from. Haarlem is smaller than Amsterdam and feels a lot more friendly to me. We already have friends who live in Haarlem and we visit there more than any other city outside Amsterdam. There’s a lot to see and do in Haarlem that I haven’t seen or done yet, but when Mom comes to visit in September I will take advantage of that time and do some exploring in my new town.

There’s a very nice Wikipedia entry about Haarlem. The photos you see of paintings made in the 16th and 17th centuries of the Grote Markt look exactly the same as it does today. On the City’s web site there are photos, a movie and a live webcam looking down on the Grote markt. I just looked at it and they are having a Kermis (a kind of fair with rides and games) this weekend.

I don’t have many photos of Haarlem (yet) so I was going to look on Flickr and link to a few on this posting. But there are SO MANY nice photos on Flickr that I just couldn’t choose. So, go to Flickr.com and type “Haarlem” into the search box and see for yourself what a lovely city we are moving to!

G is for Gezellig

In Dutch there’s a word that I can’t find any good translation for.  G is for gezellig.  Most dictionaries translate it as “cozy”, as in, “we sat in a cozy pub until the wee hours”.  But cozy doesn’t begin to cover it.  You could never call this photo “cozy” but it is certainly gezellig:

The photo was taken at LowLands, in the rain.  These guys were laughing and having a great time together and really enjoying the event.  That’s certainly gezellig.

Gezellig is a feeling, a state of mind, a state of the atmosphere and something in the air.  It’s the indefinable thing that makes one party a great time that people remember for years, and another party one where people go home early.  It’s feeling like you belong where you are and everyone else belongs there too.

Some people find Dutch birthday parties gezellig:

Some people can’t stand Dutch birthday parties (and believe me, there are a lot of birthday parties you are required to go to here).  Some are gezellig and some are not.  Tante Mies obviously thought this was a good one!

Gezelligheid can be found in big crowds at special events (Rugby world cup):

Or with a small group of friends just hanging out:

I don’t know of any other country where gezelligheid is so important and is part of everyday language.  If someone says “Let’s all meet for a coffee later.” the usual reply is “Gezellig!” in anticipation of a good time.   My best advice to find gezelligheid is to come to the Netherlands.  Why else do you think I live here? 🙂

E is for Erwtensoep

Erwtensoep (pronounced, roughly, “er-ten-soup” with a very soft “n”) is split pea soup. You would think the Dutch invented it, and maybe they did. It’s very traditional food and is perfect for those cold dark stormy nights in winter. DB hates erwtensoep and so does his sister. I think his mom is so happy that I appeared on the scene just so I’ll eat all those delicious traditional foods, like this soup and haring (herring). This last December I came home from their house with 3 frozen dinners of erwtensoep, in separate containers, just perfect for quick dinners during the week. I love the stuff.

And because I love it so much, I’m going to type out the entire entry from the book “The Flavour of Holland” by Hilary Keatinge & Anneke Peters. Give it a try. It’s the next best thing to sitting in a farmhouse out in a polder.

There are probably as many versions of Dutch pea soup as there are people in The Netherlands; Anneke prefers to use pork shoulder for the soup as it is less fatty than the trotters used in her grandmother’s day; the carrots give it a sweet flavour, the potatoes supply the body. As there are numerous kinds of smoked sausage it is up to individual taste whether you use pork, beef, a mixture of the two, or your favourite Polish variety. This soup is a meal in itself and needs no further accompaniment other than slices of dark rye bread and ontbijtspek or any cured bacon or ham. Ontbijtspek is a smoked streaky bacon, sold in wafer thin slices; it can be eaten without any further cooking.

Ingredients:

1 lt (4 pts; 2 qts) water
500g (1 lb; 2 1/2 cups) green split peas
500g (1 lb) piece of pork shoulder (including bone)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. thyme
3 cloves
250g (1/2 lb; 1 cup) carrots
200g (7 oz; 1 1/4 cups) onions
250g (1/2 lb; 1 cup) celeriac
250g (1/2 lb; 1 cup) leeks
250g (1/2 lb) smoked sausage
salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
a few sprigs of celery herbs
slices of black rye bread
mustard
100g (1/4 lb) Dutch ontbijtspek or any thinly sliced cured or smoked bacon

Preparation:

  • Put the water, split peas, pork shoulder, bay leaf, thyme and cloves into a large pan and bring to the boil.
  • Remove any scum which rises to the surface.
  • Cover the pan and stirring occasionally, simmer for 45 minutes or until the peas have cooked to a puree.
  • Peel and roughly chop the carrots, onions and celeriac, slice and wash the leeks.
  • Lift the pork shoulder out of the soup, cut the meat into small pieces, discard the bone and return the meat to the soup with the smoked sausage (in one piece) and all the vegetables. Cook gently for about 30 minutes.
  • Remove and slice the sausage, return to the soup.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

Presentation:

  • Chop the celery herb, sprinkle onto the soup.
  • Serve accompanied by thin slices of rye bread spread with a little mustard and topped with ontbijtspek.

Note: For the best results make this soup the day before required and leave it partially covered in a cool place.

Eet smakelijk!