Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pumpkin Plants Drive Me Nuts and More Loser Mo vs. Barbara Walker

Well, the weather here in my beloved Pacific Northwest is still just amazing.  We have been having highs in the low 80s and our night time temperatures are in the high 50s (that's 28 and 14 to all of you metric people).  Now, because of this fabulous weather, my garden is going crazy.  (By the way, did you notice that I used the word "fabulous"?  I RARELY use the F word, mostly because I'm a loser mo but also because most mos use it WAY to much.  You just can't have that much fabulousness in the world.)

On with the show.  Here are a few images of the craziness in my back yard.

This is my tomato and pumpkin jungle.  It's hard to tell by the picture but these tomato plants come up to my nose.  Now, to put this into perspective, I'm 5', 11".  These guys are so big and so loaded with fruit that they are bending and breaking the tomato cages.  Also, please note the giant green leaves at the bottom of the picture.  These are my pumpkin plants.  More on them in a bit.
Look at these crazy plants.  They are insane.  It's going to be a huge pain when all the fruit sets.  I'll have to pick them all and can/freeze them.  However, there is nothing like a vine ripened tomato.

Okay, now on to the pumpkin issue.  Last year, I decided that I was going to make pumpkin pie from scratch.

Looks good doesn't it.  You know you are totally craving some now.  YUM!

Now my goal was very different from getting the can of Libby's and making a pie.  I do that every year.  What I had in mind was to go out and get the pumpkin, carve it up and turn it into a pie.  I mean how totally New England Thanksgiving is that.  I was so channeling our Pilgrim settlers until I discovered that they didn't make pumpkin pie.  They actually took the pumpkins and filled them with cream and sugar and the baked them in the embers of the fire.  Sounds kinda nasty doesn't it.  Well, I guess all good things have humble beginnings.  So, after I discovered that factoid, I decided that I would channel Martha Stewart because she would Totally make a pie from a whole pumpkin.

Actually, the process isn't too bad.  All you have to do is cut open the pumpkin, clean out the seeds and roast it until it's soft.

See, wasn't that super easy!

This is what you would do with any other squash; although, I really don't like squash.  It has a really nasty texture and then people always cook it with butter and brown sugar.  So, if you have to make a dessert out of it to get people to eat it as a side dish, then you shouldn't cook it at all.  Eat a real vegetable like a Brussels Sprout.  Sorry...digressing again.

When the pumpkin is soft, let it cool and then scrape the flesh into your food processor and give it a whirl until it's nice and smooth.  You are now at the "what you get from the Libby's can" stage.

So, simple enough you say?  Well, too true; however, you can't use just any pumpkin.  You have to find one that is grown for baking.  Those lovely huge jack o'lanterns are for crap when making pies.  The reason being is that they are grown for carving and not for flesh.  Therefore, they make really stringy non-tasty pies.  Who would have thought???

Anyway, after much research, I settled on this pumpkin.
This is actually called a Cinderella Pumpkin.  It's the pumpkin that they modeled Cinderella's carriage after.  Of course, it's original name is Rouge Vif d'Etampes.  I think that it translates to red stamp but my French is not the best.  But who cares; it's an amazing pumpkin.  The one that I had made five pies.  AND....they were the best F'n pies EVER.  That's right Martha!  My pumpkin made FIVE pies that were better than any of your pies.  Take that!!!!  I totally want to take Martha on and show her what a real loser mo can do.  Ooops, digressing again.

Well, thanks to this great pie experience, I decided that I would grow my own Cinderella Pumpkins this summer.  They must be a pretty popular pumpkin because I didn't have to order the seeds from a seed company.  I found them on the seed rack at my grocery store.  Lucky me!

Now, why do they drive me nuts you ask?  Let me tell you.  It appears, that somewhere along the evolutionary track, pumpkins decided that they wanted to have two very different flowers; a boy flower and a girl flower.  Yup, two different flowers on the same plant.  Okay, so really, no big deal; the boy flowers pollinate the girl flowers and you get pumpkins.  Oh, but if it were that easy.

Let me tell you what's really going on from the gay guy perspective.  You see, pumpkins produce a ton of boy flowers and very few girl flowers.  Everyday I go out to the garden and I'll have ten or more boy flowers and not one girl flower.  What the hell?  Why can't they just be like the tomato, one flower equals one tomato.  It's really crazy making.  For this entire season, I have only four pumpkins from five plants.  Ugggh!  How am I supposed to be a good mo and make 8,000 pumpkin pies from my own home, grown pumpkins that can feed all of Christ's soldiers if I can't get enough pumpkins!  AHHHHH!

Damn, I hate it when I go down that scary path.

Okay, back to the gay guy perspective.  The other morning, I was out in the garden lamenting the lack of pumpkins when it dawned on me what they are doing.  (This is really amazing1)  Pumpkins are really just replicating the population at a straight bar.  That's right; pumpkin patches are really the straight bars of the plant world.  Here is my thinking.  At straight bars, there are always way too many guys and not enough available women.  So, what do straight guys do?  They go to another bar where, again, there are way to many men and not enough available women.  If a guy is lucky, he actually meets and girl and they strike up some sort of relationship, e.g., too many boy flowers and not enough girl flowers.

This is my pumpkin patch, five straight bars with with too many men, not enough women and only four viable relationships out of the whole evening.  Damn, I almost feel sad for straight guys, only, I wish they would stay the hell out of my pumpkin patch.

Okay, enough about my garden woes and on to my throw down with Ms. Walker.

Now, I was going in order; however, I seemed to have had a bit too much wine one night and got mixed up as to what page I was on.  So, we are going to jump ahead a few pages to page 15.  (Don't worry; I'll go back to the missed samples.)

Okay, page 15, same sport weight Baby Ull on US 3.

Here we have the Waving Rib Pattern and Quaker Ridging.

The bottom section is the Waving Rib Pattern (I still cant figure out what they are waving about) and the top section is Quaker Ridge.  Oh and yes, those ARE the most adorable poodle salt and pepper shakers.  They were helping out with all of their cuteness.  Actually, I have them there to hold down the edge.  I didn't want to block this sample because it's easier to see how textured knitting can really affect your gauge/tension.

For this sample, I cast on 46 stitches.  The stitch count stayed the same.  As you can see, just a simple combination of knits and purls can really tighten up your fabric.  Just so you know, I am a very loose knitter; so, for the tight knitter, this can be a huge issue.  REMEMBER, always do a gauge swatch, and YES, I know that it is a total pain.  Just do it, damn it!

Okay, now to the merits of the patterns themselves.  First up, Quaker Ridge....mehh, why bother.  It's super boring.  While you will see lots of ridges in gansey knitting, they are always a border to a more interesting pattern.  This is just bumpy lines in my opinion.  Again, mehh...

Second:  I actually like the Waving Rib pattern; although, I would give it a very different name.  What I like most about it, is that it is totally reversible.  Look at the back side!

Isn't that the coolest basket weave pattern.  I'm having visions of a reversible cardigan here.  Think about it.  This pattern makes a nice dense fabric that is really awesome on both sides.  You can't get better than that.
 This one is definitely a keeper.  I have a ton of bamboo, merino yarn that might be begging for this as its pattern.

Well, what do you think about his pattern?  Wish me luck with my pumpkins. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Barbara Walker and being a Loser Mo in Santa Fe

My birthday present this year is a trip to Santa Fe, NM, to see opera and visit my home state.  Why such a nice present you ask?  Well, it's one of those years that mark a certain point in life.  I prefer to think that it didn't happen; so, we will just say that I'm still 39.  However, Santa Fe is definitely happening.

I had forgotten about the Super Mos here in this city.  Wow!  They wear perfect blazers with crisp pressed shirts and pants and VERY expensive Italian shoes, while sipping cocktails and talking about some one's nice home but how it "tragically" has no view.  OMG!  I don't know how many Mo points I need to catch up to these guys.  What I can say, is that I was wearing VERY expensive Italian shoes that I actually bought in Florence.  You have to have some street credentials here in Santa Fe.

The operas have been great.  We saw La Traviata first.  Of course, this opera brings out ALL the Mos.  If you don't know it, Violetta represents the gay man's biggest dilemma, whether to fall in love or party and fornicate forever.  Truly, this is such a struggle for us Mos.  Speaking of Mos, here we are at the opera.  I'm the cute one with the sexy smirk on his face.
This is the view from our seats.  This was the set for La Traviata.  Yes, it's very minimalist but it worked.  My friend Pat wouldn't have cared for this set.  She's old school.  If there isn't a velvet chair and a chandelier, it's just not Traviata for her.

The second opera was The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein.  It was a very cute operetta.  I highly recommend it if you want something light.  For you beer fans, you might think of it as the Hefferveisen of opera.  Unfiltered, fun but not appropriate for all seasons.

Last night we saw Rossini's La Donna Del Lago.  This is a rarely performed opera but it seems to be making a comeback.  It was the BOMB although the first act drags a bit.  It takes place in Scotland during some war between the clans and the king.  Of course, there is a beautiful maiden that the whole story revolves around and she ends up saving the day.  Don't get you hopes up for opera and bagpipes; it's not happening here.

Opera isn't the only thing we have done.  We have been hiking and site seeing.

 This is Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch New Mexico.  The base of the trail is at 6500 ft.  You hike about one and a half miles and you end up here..... 7000 feet and with some incredible views.  Now, when you come from 600 feet and try to hike at 7000 feet, you suddenly feel very, very out of shape.

This is the Sanctuary of Chimayo about an hour outside of Santa Fe.  If you are not familiar with this church, I will tell you about it.  There are many stories about the miracle that led to the building of the Santuario. The most common tells of a villager named Bernardo de Abeyta, who was a Penitente, the brotherhood that kept the Catholic faith alive in New Mexico when priests were few. On Good Friday, in 1810 or 1811, Abeyta was performing the rituals of penance when he saw a light bursting forth from a nearby hillside. Upon digging at the source of the light, he found a large crucifix, which he called the Miraculous Crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas
Bernardo de Abeyta and other Chimayo villagers formed a procession to carry the crucifix to the nearest church, 8 miles away in Santa Cruz. But the next day the crucifix was missing from the altar, to be found back in its original place in the hills of Chimayo. The procession was repeated two more times before it became clear that el Señor de Esquipulas wanted to remain in Chimayo, thus prompting the building of the original small chapel on that site. Then the miraculous healings began, growing so numerous that the chapel had to be replaced by the larger adobe mission which is the current Chimayo shrine. Named el Santuario de Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas, the shrine was finished in 1816, and is now commonly known as el Santuario de Chimayo.  
In a small room next to the chapel is the well of Holy Dirt.  Yes, I said Holy Dirt.  There are many miracles that have happened attributed to the Holy Dirt.  People leave their crutches there as well as testimonies about miracle cures.  It's a very powerful place.  Anyway, being a good Catholic boy I got some of the dirt to bring back home.

Now, being that New Mexico is such a large and very sparsely populated state, I bought along my knitting for the long drives between destinations.  I decided that I would continue on with my Barbara Walker throw down.  So here we are on page 11. Same drill as last time, US 3 with what I believe is a sport weight.  Also, my sample is backwards from Ms. Walker's.  The bottom is Seed Stitch; the middle is Moss Stitch and the top is Double Seed Stitch.
I'm a HUGE fan of textured knitting.  I like it almost as much as stranded knitting.  The big thing for me here is that I like to knit sweaters and I really like ganseys.  Traditional ganseys are made of  many different combinations of knit and purl stitches and maybe an occasional cable thrown in for fun.  While I like all of this three stitches, I'm least fond of Seed Stitch.  It doesn't do much for me. OH!  Sorry, I'm at a hotel and I didn't want to iron anything so none of these is blocked.
Okay, turning to page 12, we have Sand Stitch, Dot Stitch or Spot Stitch, Broken Rib and Double Broken Rib.
So, I was really lazy on this one.  Sand Stitch's pattern shows up on the even side rows, which to most of us, is the wrong side.  That is why I am showing you the wrong side of the work.  The bottom section is Sand Stitch.  I have to say that I really don't like it.  It just looks like really messy knitting on the wrong side to me.
Now, the reverse side of Sand Stitch is Dot Stitch.

It's the bottom section again.  I really like this one.  It has lots of different effects.  One that I really like, that you can just see on the far left, is that it has the illusion of little diamond shapes.  I can definitely see myself using this on a gansey.  NOTE, if you do this pattern, keep track of where you leave off.  I forgot what row I was on several times and had to rip back a few rows to fix things again.

Now the next two are Broken Rib (middle section) and Double Broken Rib (top section).  I like both of these quite a bit.  My favourite of  the two is Broken Rib.  I have used this on a gansey and it looks really good over large areas and sleeves.  In one of my gansey books, the Broken Rib is called Moss Variant and Double Broken Rib is called Betty Martin Pattern.  Who knew Ms. Martin was so famous?  Okay, enough for now as I have a plane to catch to get me back to my beloved Pacific Northwest.