1) Waiting for the train. 2) Wrought-iron vintage bed a friend is restoring and selling - I wish I were the buyer (but last time I checked we were not in need of an extra bed). 3) Yet another batch of strawberry jam. 4) Botanical knit pattern I'm working on, in soft black berry color. 5) I need a recipe for a berry tart.
A Week of Colors ~ summer 2014 Monday, 4 August: berry Tuesday, 5 August: smoke Wednesday, 6 August: fern Thursday, 7 August: golden Friday, 8 August: ocean
I know you have no idea just how much that crate of vegetables I harvested yesterday moves me, but let me tell you. This is a terrible year for my garden, and all the gardens and crops in our area. As I have mentioned perhaps too many times already, the weather has been truly abysmal, and because of it, or on top of it - who can tell? - we've been hit by unprecedented waves of plant disease. They attacked in particular basil and tomatoes. Now, can you imagine summertime without basil (and pesto!) and tomatoes (and bruschetta!)? I can't, but all the manure, the stinging nettle fertilizer, the companion planting, the mulching, and my care haven't helped my garden to thrive this year.
For the past several weeks, my work in the garden has been very unusual, and of the nursing rather than nourishing kind: pull out a diseased plant here, pinch off unhealthy leaves there, pick and discard damaged fruits (remember: do not compost diseased plant material as it would likely infect the compost - pile it away from the garden, and burn it when the season and the weather allow). And, hunt down snails. For the life of me, I've never seen so many snails in my garden before! Snails by the dozens ...
So, this crate of French beans, July strawberries (the poor things must be very confused, as they continue producing as if it were still May), zucchini, one cucumber, a handful of small basil leaves, and a few tomatoes from what remains of the 30 plants I'd originally planted, moves me indeed. Because of its bright and healthy summer palette, and because despite adversities, a garden and nature always gives. And I received so very gratefully.
I find this print, dense with scattered pink and purple blossoms and sage-colored leaves, simply dreamy. It's been sitting in my stash for a while, because I was never sure how to use it. This is how my stash was born and is growing: buying here and there (and mainly at the street market) pieces of fabrics that instinctively appeal to me, and never in other, more rational ways, like buying the right yardage of the right fabric to suit a specific project. Oh, well ... but honestly, how could I not buy that piece of fabric wherever it was that I found it?
The time to use it finally came this month when my girl needed a new dress, as repurposed tunics worn with leggings are too warm in high summer. So I sewed the French pattern robe trapéze ("trapezium dress" ... as much as I love these French sewing patterns, I do wonder about their unoriginal names), which is a pretty buttoned A-line dress with a gathered edging at the bottom.
And I embroidered a little flower to distinguish the back from the front, because you can never have enough pink blossoms on a dress!
Before we could even seriously consider restructuring the hayloft in the barn, the ancient roof clearly needed to be repaired. However, the current owner of our house and of the barn in question - the grand-daughter of the man we originally rented from - wasn't interested in its renovation at first.
The ancient roof, though, isn't just decrepit, but dangerously so, and old terracotta coppiroof tiles fall down through the rotting beams and planks. Some kind of intervention was urgently needed, so the landlady eventually decided on a "tapullo", which in local dialect means a "patch".
These days Angelo the builder - The Builder in our tiny area, and the man who knows everyone and everything (including where to find spare roof tiles, left over from another re-roofing job of the nearby church decades ago, hidden away in the ivy) - is working daily "tapulling" the barn roof.
As used as I've become to country isolation over the last decade or so, it's kind of strange to have someone right out there all the time, talking away (Angelo is a wonderful man, in a rustic sort of way, and swears vehemently at the ancient roof when it doesn't cooperate ... which seems to be happening all the time), who's able to look into our house from the barn he's re-roofing, and who watches me and comments as I work in the garden. This tapulling of the roof, is turning out to be a very interesting experience indeed, in many unexpected ways.
How I love a busy kitchen in the summer, all the wonderful variety of fresh vegetables available, and the tasty meals you can make from them!
Here are some simple Italian summertime must-eats:
Peperonata chopped bell peppers slow cooked with oil, garlic, sage and tomatoes. Eggplants, grilled served in a wrap with goat cheese, marjoram, olives and drizzled with olive oil, these are my favorite lunch. Giardiniera chopped mixed vegetables blanched in white wine vinegar infused with herbs, and then preserved in olive oil (refrigerated it keeps for a couple of weeks) - giardiniera is the main ingredient of rice salad, a classic Italian summer dish, which I make with barley and farro instead of rice.
(I searched online for recipes to link you to, but I couldn't find any in English that were even remotely like the original Italian recipes. However, these are so easy to make that no recipe is needed. But if you'd like one, please let me know!)
I wrote how Hitofude is a very interesting and stimulating pattern to knit, and now that I've finished it, I can add that it's well written throughout, and makes a gorgeous cardigan in fabulous yarn - all in all, perfection.
All the April, May and June showers this year didn't bring good summer fruit. Apricots, wild plums and peaches are plenty juicy, but lacking somewhat in flavor. Also, they rot fast and need to be processed more quickly. One evening, a neighbor brought me a huge crate of apricots he'd just harvested, and told me to use them up within 24 hours. Many had brown spots from a hail storm a couple of days before. Though we love summer fruit, eating several kilos of apricots in a day was clearly unrealistic.
So I made a lot of them into jam (there was also some cake). In fact, all the April, May and June rains this year mean a lot of jam for next winter.
(Note: for the first time ever I'm actually labeling my jam jars. DIY labels take only a few seconds to make, but they are effective, and mean that we won't accidentally open a peach jam jar instead of a apricot one this winter)
I have three projects going in my knitting basket at the moment. I used to be the sort of person who would work on one project at the time, resisting the temptation to start a new project until I'd finished the one before. Mainly I did this because of my fear of the "out of sight, out of mind" tendency: that if I stopped working on a project, however briefly, I'd abandon and forget it forever, and never complete it.
Yet over the last year of my knitting, I've had to break this rule a number of times, for practical reasons. I've started tackling bigger, adult-sized projects, and I've also acquired a taste for complex textured knitting - two things that, I've found, don't always fit with our family life. Adult-sized sweaters, in fact, eventually reach a stage when they're too bulky to easily slip in a bag and carry around (and a lot of my knitting is done while I'm waiting around for kids, making the waiting so much more pleasant!). While textured knitting requires a level of attention and concentration that isn't always possible when I'm knitting a row here and one there while helping with homework, cooking dinner, or playing a board game.
So, lately my knitting projects typically come in threes. Having three projects going at the same time allows me to knit without getting frustrated. My ideal line-up would be:
Project 1: a portable project that I can easily bring on errands, Project 2: an easy project that can be done while multi-tasking at home, and Project 3: a tricky and interesting pattern to be worked on when the house is quiet (and the brain is alert).
Knitting is a very fluid process, with projects changing speed as they evolve. So the portable project may reach the sleeves, require double pointed needles, and suddenly become un-portable. Or the complex pattern that I needed to be alert with at the beginning may finally become interiorized, and easy. Or I may be working away on a perfectly easy knit, make a huge mistake, and suddenly have to apply my full attention for several hours to fix it.
Here's the fluid threesome that's in my knitting basket right now:
Hitofude - almost finished, I just have to find the time to check out (again) how to do an elastic bind-off. Though it's an adult size, this has been my preferred portable project, because the stitch pattern is very easy to memorize.
February Lady - this should really be my easy project at the moment, but for some reason I keep making mistakes, so it's forever swinging between the easy and tricky categories.
Bella - alert, alert, alert brain and concentration for a tricky lace pattern that I'm loving.
What's in your knitting basket right now?
PS Did you notice? All these projects are adult size!