Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Chance Ate Sassy

Emily Matchar's new book Homeward Bound has a lot more going for it than just the fact that it shares a name with one of my favorite childhood movies (I heart Chance). Homeward Bound is an honest look at the return to domestic art hobbies that women (and some men) have taken back up since the start of the new millennium, what Matchar refers to as the "New Domesticity."

The New Domesticity is about returning to our roots after the consumer craziness that was the 1990s, Matchar says, and a way for third wave feminists to reclaim the traditionally feminine roles and assert the worth of these downcast occupations. Moreover, the new domesticity is being embraced as a revolutionary way to stop relying on the system for food, protection, and income. It's a return to self-reliance, a la Thoreau, Also, knitting is right fun, yo.

However, there is a negative side to the New Domesticity: women are leaving the workplace in droves, convinced that the 1950s-housewife role is hip and feminist, now that the patriarchy is supposedly dead. The only problem: it's not dead, not even close. Women still don't earn as much as men and are forced out of the workplace if they decide to have families. Maternity leave, standard in all other developed countries, is pretty well nonexistent here (not to mention the recent political references to "binders full of women" and "illegitimate rape"). Still more troubling is the fact that all these women rushing back into the home are giving up the ability to earn an income, relying instead on their lifepartners, which is all well and good unless that lifepartner either a. leaves or b. becomes unemployed.

I'm a sucker for the New Domesticity, but there has always been a few things about it that leave me cold, like how going DIY is still pigeon-holed as women's work. It's all well and good to reclaim women's work and call it worthwhile, but when men still look down on it, the whole operation becomes a giant step backwards. Then, there's attachment parenting, which I've never thought was a good idea. (Be there for and give in to your kid every second? Yes, that will definitely help them learn independence and realize that sometimes they just can't get their way.)

I love so much about the New Domesticity (Hello, cooking and knitting blog...), but I love that Matchar was willing and able to shine the light on it's drawbacks. Chapter after chapter revealed women giving up their independence to become happy homemakers while their husbands paid the bills. I want to learn to can jam as much as the next person, but I am not willing to give up my status as a wage-earner to do it. I worked too hard to get here.

Everyone should grab a copy of this book. It's a fresh perspective on modern culture, politics, and feminism. When it comes to the career world, men are still eating us alive, ladies, even as so many women are proclaiming that feminism succeeded and can take a back seat. It's eye-opening and highly interesting. It says what needs to be said, and let me tell you, as a female breadwinner (who also knits) with a stay-at-home husband, I felt like a real hardcore feminist after reading this book.

Solidarity, my sisters. Let's march.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The blanket. Again.

There I was, knitting up a storm on row 120 of the Maize and Blue stained glass blanket M square when it happened. I ran out of yellow yarn. Fortunately, I'm knitting this blanket, as it is going a brother deficient in laundry prowess (as they all seem to be), in Red Heart Super Saver, so I just hopped on down to my local Jo-Ann's and picked up another ball of the gold colorway. The beauty of RHSS yarns, if you are not aware, is that they do not have a colorway. All of them are exactly the same color. This means I can start mid-top left-hand corner of the M and no one will know that there's a new ball of yarn there, unless I really fudge up the finishing. Either way, the cat seems to like it, so there's that.

I know. I know. There are those among you readers (if you are of the yarn-loving persuasion) who are cringing in their super-fine, lace-knit, mohair-blend gradient shawls that I just enthusiastically admitted that I sometimes (and by sometimes, I mean for the past year almost exclusively) knit with, not just acrylic (low as that is) but RH acrylic. And to you I say: get over it. I love and prefer natural fiber as much as the next knitter, but I'm not uber-wealthy, nor am I wasting wool on a project that may end up shredded by the still-existing claws of my brother's found-in-the-wild but "domesticated" cat. Why I'm wasting a year of knitting time on a blanket that may well suffer this fate is a subject best left for my psychoanalyst, should I ever get a psychoanalyst.

Seriously, though, I am definitely not a yarn snob. I have a few clearance-purchased (or gifted) rare skeins of the good stuff, but usually, I'm just happy if I can manage to afford a wool-blend. I have never owned a skein of madeline tosh, nor have I ever seen a skein of Wollmeise in person. Really, when it come down to it, this blanket looks awesome no matter what it's made of.

No more yarn-related incidents occurred and I finished the M square on Monday night, weaved in ends on Tuesday, and then put the whole thing in a no-spin rinse cycle and delicate dry cycle. After all, it's too cumbersome to bother blocking and I did make it out of washing-machine-friendly yarn.

This blanket is now officially as tall as I am. Four squares down, three to go.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Blue Skies and an Abundance of Cake

Blue Sky is a quiet little diner located in the busy urban corner of Amherst, OH, 40 minutes away from the center of downtown Cleveland. The walls house murals of agricultural and natural landscape. The booths are well-maintained, the atmosphere is friendly, and the menu, expansive. Moreover, in the angled walk in front of the kitchen, there is a gigantic display case full of cake. This is my new local eatery and I'm in love with it, as are my offspring and husband and my parents.

Part of the reason for this is that it's a small local place that serves simple food, mostly from scratch. The other part is that they serve this food in copious amounts. First, there's the soup and sald course. I can't eat their soups, as all of them (even the clam chowder) contain chicken stock. The salad's fresh and that's enough for me.

However, all the soups are made that day onsite and everyone I've eaten with there who has had the soup tells me, regardless of what soup it happens to be that day, that it's delicious. You can also opt for other options instead of the salad, like coleslaw and applesauce. The soup and rolls are complimentary and so, don't allow for substititions, so I just go without soup. There's plenty of food to go around.

Then, the meal comes. Often, this includes a smattering of either white, brown, or sausage gravy, though you can opt out of the gravy if you so choose. My husband nor my son ever chooses this. Apparently, the gravy is also quite delightful. The sausage gravy is so good that my son insists on this particular meal every time we go:

It's called "The Bomb" and involves a full order of biscuits and gravy on top of eggs (cooked any way) and home fries. It's under six dollars. For my part, if my appetite is small, I get the brocolli quiche, a wide slice of egg pie with brocolli and cheese cooked in a flakey, homemade crust, also under six dollars. Otherwise, I get the eggplant parmesan, which is under ten dollars.

Finally, there is the real reason to come to Blue Sky, though sadly often after the meal there isn't room for it: the dessert. These guys have a wide assortment of handmade, fresh baked cakes and pies, and I do mean wide:

That crust of the quiche? It's just a good on the dessert pies, though my personal favorite is a two-tiered shortcake with strawberries in the center and on top with whipped cream instead of frosting. While I thought the chccolate cakes were a bit dry, my son swears he's never had better. And the hot chocolate may actually be athentically made, though I cannot confirm this for sure.

Local food, laid-back people, simple atmosphere. Give Blue Sky a try and if you do, save room for dessert.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Garden of my very Own: Flowering Fauna (part 4 in a series)

As I opened up my blogger this morning (in which google reader is still fully functional. go figure.), I happened to notice that I am nearing 200 posts. In celebration, let us look at pretty pictures of flowers from my yard.

Here is the ginormous lily that was by my front door in August:

There was a red one in the front yard, but sadly, I failed to capture it before it wilted away for the season. Lilies don't seem to last very long. With the lily came the peak of the brown-eyed susan season and the earlier of the hosta flowers.

Once the purple hosta flowers left, the white ones came up right behind them, with the brown-eyed susans still hanging on into September.

Then, just this past weekend, I noticed that some of the rose bushes are having a second bloom.

And beside the chocolate mint plant, a columbine I transplanted from the back yard in the early spring has decided to flower out-of-season, hiding its half-purple/half-yellow underneath the mint's wild tangle.

Meanwhile, the hydrangeas are on their last legs and the kouza fruit from the late-blooming dogwood seems ripe. Whether or not I pick it this year will depend on if I can get a ladder out there to stand sturdy enough for me to not kill myself in the process. Time shall tell.

The perfect sky

Life seems to be coming together. Just this past month or so, I've started feeling the level of steady I've-reached-the-place-I-want-to-be that I thought I would feel back near Easter, when I first moved into our house. I'm happy, motivated, and seeing the beauty in everyday things.

The house is, well, under construction for the next 10 years, but I knew that would happen when I bought it. My dad spent my entire childhood renovating houses, so I know the drill. Even so, with the floor pulled up in the library, I'm starting to see progress in a real way and look ahead to the not-so-distant future, in which the rest other two downstairs rooms have the carpet torn up, subfloor down, and furniture situated so that I can finally get all my stuff out of their boxes and live in an organized way. More than that, dad came down for an over-nighter on friday, and he and my husband put the boiler pipes back together. We will have heat on both sides of the house and one fully-functioning boiler to do the job.

The novel: My agent has given it the go-ahead. Five (or was it six?) revisions later, it's now a full-on, completed book, rather than a novel-in-stories. One more round of editing minor issues should see it off to editors to sample and see if they want to buy it. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the mothering department: My son has found a 4H group that he fits in with, he starts fifth-grade band this week, go to fifth-grade camp next week (probably), and start sunday school at our new church the weekend after next. He will meet his new, hopefully organized and responsible cub scout troop (the last two we tried were not so) at the end of this month, meaning he might actually be able to get that Webelos badge he's pretty much done all the work to attain. We went to the new church this weekend and the people are kind and welcoming (though I do miss the old church, which I attended with my late friend Veronica, so it's filled with memories of her and the people I would never have known if not for her).

Edit: I apparently have some issues to work through with the school, but my son is still happier here than he ever was at his old school, and soon, he will be learning a higher-level of material that will help engage him back into a love of learning he has lost from route, unchallenging schoolwork.

In addition, by the end of this late summer/early fall, the last two of my close, saw-everyday pre-school companions will have tied the knot, the first, Stephanie, two weeks ago and the second, my first best friend and closest-in-age-boy-cousin Jesse (who is marrying Jessie, no joke), this Saturday. I couldn't be happier for them.

The sky even complied for Stephanie's wedding, stretching itself into the perfect, puffy Toy-Story-Wallpaper clouds that just don't seem to exist in Cleveland. This is the second weekend where we traveled to Michigan to find the skies this way, and since I live near Cleveland now and don't see skies like that all the time, I find myself awed by them.

I hope life finds you as blessed as I feel this week.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

113 Rows In

The never-ending Maize and Blue Michigan blanket is my entire knitting life at the moment. This may be the reason I have not been doing as much knitting lately. I just finished row 113 of the M square. At row 112, the M split at the top and it was time to add two more balls of yarn to the intarsia pattern, for 5 total. I still have at least a quarter of the square left to go and this blanket is already taller than my nine-year-old.

To make things interesting in this sea of stockinette, I have decided to learn how to knit backwards. Knitting backwards replaces purling, which I'm not that fond of doing. It involves, get this, knitting in the opposite direction than you knit when knitting the normal way. When knitting, I move from right to left and the yarn wraps around the right needle, which is placed behind of left needle, like this:

When knitting backwards, I move from left to right and the yarn wraps around the left needle, which is placed behind of right needle, like this:

I'm still new at it, so it's slow-going. I figure if I spend the rest of this blanket knitting backwards instead of purling, I'll get pretty fast at it when I'm done. There's still a long way to go, but the intarsia is almost behind me, and that, that is cause for celebration.