Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hallows

The origins of the end-of-October seasonal holiday are those of last harvest. It's not a moon or sun phase holiday. It's not a religious observance in the strongest sense of the word. My interpretation/observance may be different from others. That's what you get here in Buttercupia.

So all year long, we've been growing things and creating things and putting things by, knowing that the dark of the year is coming. Back in August, we had a good harvest that took us through to here. Now we go back out into the fields to see what else we can come up with to eat and to nervously assess if we have enough. This concept works in both a literal and a spiritual sense. What have we wrought in our lives over the prior months? What yield did we take from our gardens, metaphorically and actually? What did we accomplish? Do we have enough, and is anything going to go to waste?

So we get together. Those who have more pass it along to those who have perhaps been less productive or less fortunate. (That lives on in children going from door to door begging candy.) Feasts are given with the bounty that we can't preserve. We finish the work of clearing the last grain and fruit and squash out of the fields and putting it into a form that will sustain us. Canning, drying, freezing. I've been in a bit of a "cook and freeze" kick this past week or two and I think the season explains it.

In the "olden days", people had a good reason to be nervous about this time of year. The growing season was at an end. All the grain and veg and fruit they were going to get was in the pantry now, and had to last a while. There weren't any grocery stores. Empires nervously calculated if there was enough winter wheat put by to make bread for the populace. Sometime it wasn't, and sometimes wars and revolutions happened as a result. So yeah, people get a little nervous. Customs arise out of necessity and ritual arises out of custom. That's how we become civilized.

So this year I look into the freezer and into the craft room and into the cupboards and into my heart and figure out if I've done enough to survive, to take us through the coming dark and into the spring, into the light. This is a tough time of year for me, personally. Family angst, bare branches, cold mornings, ache in my bones and joints that tell me I'm running out of reserves and I have to take more care. Dreams of my youth that tell me I'm older now and I'd better watch I don't run out.

I think it's been a good year. We have a full freezer, a nicely-stocked pantry. We're not going to go hungry, despite my fruit and vegetable anxiety. Inside, I've grown too. I'm trying to be more tolerant and understanding, while learning about my place in the world and figuring out what brought me here. Figuring out what will move me forward, keep me growing as a person and as a citizen of the planet and the human race. It's not always easy. In some things, like empathy and outrage and words, I have extra. In other things, like tolerance and understanding, I may need to go from door to door and collect a little extra from my neighbors. It's a process.

I know we'll survive until Spring, though. I know that Yule will find us rejoicing at our survival and prosperity as we share those special bits of bounty that we hid for the darkest times. I know my work, both public and private, both for pay and for joy, will continue to develop and I will continue to strive for a sense of pride in work, and maybe sometimes I'll find it.

May the last harvest find you all prosperous and happy.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Potato Leek Soup

My own version, started with Emeril's recipe and moved on from there.

About five pounds of young white potatoes, sliced thin or diced.
Three large leeks, cleaned and chopped
One large sweet onion
Half pound pancetta, cubed
Half a stick of butter
A pint of heavy cream
Most of a bottle of dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
Garlic to taste

2 tsp Rosemary
3 Bay Leaves
Tablespoon dried parsley
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Salt to taste if needed

In large soup pot, combine onion, garlic, pancetta, and butter. Cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and the pancetta is cooked. Add the leeks, stir to coat with oil. Add potatoes, wine and stock, and seasonings. Bring to boil, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender.

Mash potatoes in the pot. I used a hand masher, you could use an immersion blender if you like. Add the heavy cream, stir, and simmer until cooked to taste.

If you're into puree type soups, you can run the whole thing through a food processor when it's done but I like chunkier soups, plus I don't have a food processor.

Also, I cleaned the potatoes really well and left the skins on. I like the nutrient boost from the skins, but if you're a purist, you'll want to peel them.

Pictures later, maybe.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Move me on to any black square

It's been a while since I posted here and really no excuse-just busy. Two weeks ago, my younger daughter Anna was here. Last week, I had a cold. And this week, well, no reason in particular, I just felt overwhelmed.

I've been knitting like a mad thing. Am currently on the seventh hat and have four pair of "Mama Janes" knitted. They still need finishing. I'm down to 1.5 pair of socks to get done before the dread winter holiday so I don't think I'll be rushed this year.

I mentioned Anna was in town a couple of weeks ago-she was in for a wedding and we had a nice but very brief visit.

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We had dinner on Sunday at my mom's house with some other family and of course the wonderful sister reunion of the two of them. I know how much they miss each other, and I'm glad Anna has a better car now-maybe she will be able to visit more.

We went to Idlewild the following week. We haven't been since the week after we got married, and it was a really nice time. Here's a slideshow, but I'll pull out some favorites.



It was their "HallowBoo" event and not all the rides were open, but there were lots of people (and kids) and I did ride a few rides. My leg held out better than I expected, too. Some favorites from the train ride...

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It's really unworldly beautiful up there.

They had some funny/seasonal stuff set up in the woods.
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But the scariest thing I saw all day was in Storybook Forest.
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F...E...A... hmmm, what letter could be missing???

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Not all was scary though.
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Truly, one of my favorite places.

A few random crafting photos and I'll close. I'm overtired, overwrought, overworked, and have a lot on my mind.

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(this yarn is handspun BFL and like knitting puppy kisses. It's amazing. Best yarn I ever made.)

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(Angee from Cookie A's Sock Innovation book. A gift)

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(My "alaria" pattern [see sidebar] in Fibranatura Yummy.)

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Handspun cashmere neckwarmer.

Oh, and check out this awesome basket I won at the Western PA Wildlife Center's Harvest Festival.
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(plus a gift card for a local restaurant)

It's been an interesting and busy few weeks, but nothing momentous or earth-shattering, just highly unmotivated to write or thinking "I'll write later" and it doesn't happen. I need to stop doing that.