personalizing a purchased embroidery pattern

So this FO is basically one big inside joke—forgive me! But it’s a great example of how you can take a pattern and personalize it for your intended recipient. I’ve actually done so twice with this lion by Penguin & Fish, who normally only says “ROAR.”

lion embroidery

One of my favorite coworkers, Emily (who I used to be in the same knitting group as!), is prone to some, shall we say, theatrics. If frustrations are reaching a tipping point, she will relatively calmly say “ROAR!” to express her anger. Sometimes she is so annoyed about a person she’ll call them “a dumb dummy.” And for some inexplicable reason, she’s always saying “honk” or “hello honk” when answering the phone. And sometimes she gets this urge to spill water on the floor. Perhaps I have painted a picture of a mentally unstable person? No, it’s just Emily, one of the funniest, kindest people I know. For her last day at the office, Beth and I cooked up a customized lion embroidery. He’s saying all her favorite phrases—and even he couldn’t resist tipping that glass of water out. But look, he’s just as sweet and calm as you’d expect.

I stitched it onto Kona Snow and used a cheap embroidery hoop and found various flosses in my stash, so this guy came together really quickly and easily. When I made this pattern once before, from the kit, it was for a friend I met in yoga class. We eventually joined a studio together, then started seeing Iyengar senior instructor Joan White together. So when she was expecting, I embroidered this little guy with a modification: I stuck out his tongue and wrote “simhasana” below; that’s the Sanskrit for Lion Pose. I have only a photo I took with my phone of this and I can’t even find it now! (I did this years ago.)

Who will get a little lion next?

a little nautical sweater

This summer, family beach week is going to be a little quieter, because we’ll be missing a whole chunk of our family. They’ll be staying home, anticipating the birth of my cousin’s baby, the first of our next generation! So while I’ll be laying on the beach, catching crabs, and eating my fill of fried oysters, they’ll be putting the finishing touches on a nautical-themed bedroom for the little one.

nautical placket neck pullover

And to go with that, I knit him a sweater.

Though our family is much more crab-oriented, I thought little whales and anchors would be more easily graphed; I charted out the band of them and put it on a slightly modified Child’s Placket Neck Pullover by Joelle Hoverson. I’ve knit this sweater before, and I know it comes together fast; this was helpful because it took 3 tries before this finally worked right. First I didn’t like the charted pattern—too spread out—and second it was gigantic (a friend with babies saw it and balked, then I looked at the measurements and that one was more like a 2 year old’s!). I did tweak the stitch counts of the sweater to fit my chart as well as the CYC-given measurements for a six month old. Now, I don’t know the first thing about babies, but it looks super small, so here’s hoping it’s a very cool fall in Georgia, because I’d been hoping he could wear it in the winter!

nautical placket neck pullover

The yarn? Good ol’ Cascade 220. Sorry to my cousin: you’re going to have to hand-wash this garment.

nautical placket neck pullover

olive oil polenta cake

Over Memorial Day weekend I had a huge bagful of cherries, the assignment to make dessert for a friend’s barbecue, and no clear idea of what to do. Mom was visiting and we’d already made her signature chocolate cupcakes, but we wanted to do something with the cherries. She found a cherry olive oil polenta cake recipe online that we chose over other cherry-oriented recipes because we had all the ingredients for it in the house and it seemed like a cinch to make—no waiting for butter to soften, no melting ingredients and dirtying a pot!

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It was delicious! A bit more like a breakfast/coffee cake than a true dessert cake, but moist and tender and with a nice crumb. We brainstormed what other fruits would be good, given how fleeting the cherry season is. A week or so later, I tried it with a pint of blueberries (but didn’t take a picture). Tasty, very breakfasty, but needed more blueberries (and for my timer to work; that one got a bit overcooked). Jason said that what he liked about the cherries was that the sweetness isn’t so one-dimensional; there’s a bit of a tang. So when Fresh Direct had a sale on pluots (plum-apricot hybrids), I grabbed some and figured I’d give them a shot.

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The pluots are moister, and definitely tarter, but I cooked the cake exactly the right amount of time and the result is sublime. I also added a generous sprinkling of raw sugar to the top, which was  the right choice.

I’ll try it with straight up apricots, maybe mango, and someday if I can spare pieces for baking instead of eating them immediately, pineapple. At first I wasn’t sure how versatile this recipe would be, and now I am eager to stick all the fruits in there! Try it with whatever you have on hand, and let me know how it comes out!

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(Cherry) Olive Oil Polenta Cake
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup extra-virgin extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup polenta or cornmeal
2 1/2 cups fresh fruit (1 lb cherries, pitted / 1.5-2 pints blueberries / 4 pluots, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces)
Sugar in the raw, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 10″ round cake pan with nonstick vegetable spray. I found that cutting a round of parchment and placing that in the pan, then lightly spraying it, was a big help in getting the cake out of the pan cleanly.

In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high until light in color, about 4 minutes. Add vanilla, olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and polenta. Add to egg mixture and mix until combined.

Spread two-thirds of batter into the prepared pan. If you put a round of parchment in, it’ll slide all over the place, but soldier on and you can get the batter spread and the parchment centered. Cover completely with the fruit, pressing in lightly. Spoon and spread the remaining batter over the fruit as best you can. Sprinkle generously with sugar in the raw to make a sweet crust. Bake until top and edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely on rack. Enjoy!

olive oil polenta cake

 

reuning

It’s hard to believe I just attended my 15th college reunion. Fifteen years?! How can I possibly have been out of college for so long. In so many ways it feels like just yesterday—but going back I realized just how long ago it was.

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

Campus is gorgeous year-round, but particularly in the spring, and boy did it put on a good show for those of us reuning. It was magical to be back. I felt so lucky to have been able to live there for four years and to be part of the legacy that it maintains. But I’ll admit it: it was incredibly weird to be there. I discovered that I had but a few close friends in undergrad (and all but one did not attend). Everyone tells you that one of the best things about going to a reunion is interacting with people you never knew as an undergrad, and that is absolutely true. But it was still weird, you know?

I dragged the friends I attended with (who have become close since graduation!) over campus to visit each of the four dorms I lived in. Back when I was there, it wasn’t very common to change dorms every year—you’d find your “home” and work to stay there (the circumstances of Room Draw playing a factor, of course). But I jumped around. It’s amazing how these 100 year-old buildings smell exactly the same—a decades of mustiness sort of thing, with each dorm having its own distinct smell. The bottom picture above is the entrance to my freshman dorm. We wandered in and found my freshman room. We went into that room you can see on the ground floor on the right: the architecture studio, which I essentially lived in my junior year. And later in the weekend we hung out with some friends whose room assignment that weekend was in this dorm, in the exact room that I saw on my tour while in high school. That room was such a huge factor in my choice to go to Bryn Mawr, and I’d never once stepped foot in it after seeing it that first time. And that was weird too.

The structure of reunion is loose: attend some sessions or don’t, as you please. We mostly did not attend things. We went on a horticulture tour of campus, which was a highlight, and we joined in the singing in Greek. We skinny dipped in the fountain, and we of course made sure to be up in time for the Parade of Classes Sunday morning. I opted to watch it from the sidelines rather than walk in it. I’m glad I did. What I love about being an alumna of this place is the amazing women who came before me (and those who have followed). One woman from the class of 1944 came; I hope to show up for my 70th too!

And just look at this place. I want to go back immediately.

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

bryn mawr college

blogger’s quilt festival: plus quilt

Just in under the wire! I wasn’t going to join in on the Blogger’s Quilt Festival this time around, but when I mailed the Plus Quilt to my cousin I asked if he’d be sure to take a picture of him and his now-wife with it. I expected, I don’t know, just a cell phone shot at arm’s length. Nothing crazy. But I should have known—we are related, after all—that he’d make this something awesome.

plus quilt with the recipients

plus quilt back with the recipients

plus quilt in st louis

Turns out they took it with them to the place where he proposed to her (with the tree)! It’s a park in St. Louis—he did not tell me where. How cute are they to have done that. And then they went with it on to a baseball game where the temps were nippy, and they were able to take a pic with the Arch in the background (below). How awesome is that?!

chalk-writing inspired quilt label

Info about the quilt is more detailed here, but it’s a really straightforward quilt. Blues and greens on their request, and cut so that I had a long bar of a plus and the two small squares, rather than all individual squares. My favorite part is probably the quilt label, which I made after being inspired by the latest chalkboard-writing craze. It was fun to design that and get it stitched up, and I was proud that I finally took the time to make a proper label. It’s that last detail and I tend to not give it the proper attention. Kind of like buttons on a cardigan or something—I just want it done already, why do I have to bother with these bits!?

Anyway, the quilt came together quickly, and as you can see it’s very large (Patrick is like 6’3″ or something). I’d definitely do another plus; it’s such a perfect motif for a wedding quilt and allows for so much variation and play with patterns. I’ll submit this to the Modern Quilt category!