party post!

Last Saturday night we had a party here for 20 people.  It was my friend's birthday and retirement from teaching and thus required a party put on by the birthday girls. 

The birthday girls are old hands at party giving! Here's how we do it: one girl hosts and the others help with appetizers, sides and the desserts.  The hostess does the set-up and the main course.  The BD girl's husband pays for the meat, the booze and the kitchen help.  This is our formula, and it works for us!  And I can assure you, the men love this arrangement, completely off the hook except for writing a check.

When I have a large group for a buffet, I normally don't worry about having a seat for everyone and find that people are fine holding their plate and perching on sofas and chairs around the house. But with the plate, napkin, wine, and the cutlery, it can be a bit difficult, so I thought with 20, I might just be able to make a sit-down happen. I had tables set in the dining room, kitchen and family room.

The round table in my living room was the appetizer center,
then became the dessert station at the end of the night.

We served a tried and true buffet meal, simple and elegant, and for the most part, do ahead!
  Sorry, no pics of this as I was so busy at the time!

Fennel and Paprika Pork Tenderloin, recipe below
Potato and Leek Gratin
Roasted Asparagus

Fennel and Paprika Pork Tenderloin
Serves 4-6

Searing the meat before roasting it provides an additional layer of flavor.  Coat the tenderloins with the fennel crust after searing (and before roasting), so that the delicate crust doesn't burn.

4 T fennel seed, grind in small grinder or use mortar and pestle
1/4 C finely minced shallot
2 t. sweet paprika
2 t. finely minced garlic
1/2 t. ground cumin
2 pork tenderloins, about 1 1/2 pounds total
1 quart water
1/2 C kosher salt
1/4 C sugar
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
2 T prepared mayonnaise
1 T Dijon mustard

Remove silver skin and any fat from pork.  Combine water, salt and sugar in a large bowl, and stir to dissolve.  Place tenderloins in a resealable plastic bag and add the brine.  Remove the air when closing the bag and place in shallow dish in refrigerator.  Let it brine for 1 hour or up to 3 hours.  

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Remove meat from brine, rinse and pat well.

In a large ovenproof skillet over med-high heat, add olive oil to pan and heat.  Place tenderloins in skillet and sear on all sides.  Move browned meats to a large plate.  Combine mayonnaise and mustard and spread a thin coating on top and part-way down sides of tenderloins.  Combine first 5 ingredients above and press into mayo mix.  Leave the bottom uncoated. 

Place the tenderloins on a rack in a rimmed baking sheet, place in oven and roast until the internal temperature reaches 142-145 F (I prefer it at 150), check with meat thermometer after 15-20 minutes and then adjust cooking time.  The meat will be fully cooked with a blush of pink remaining. I found I had to cover it loosely with foil after 10 minutes more or less so the crust wouldn't burn.

Cover loosely with foil and rest for 10 minutes before slicing. 

During this resting, I made a gravy with the pan drippings.  I also added 1/2 jar of some ginger/pear chutney at the end.  Pour over sliced meat.

This is a great do-ahead recipe and can be reheated easily.  It's also excellent cold the next day in sandwiches.  Easily doubled, quadrupled, etc.!

Recipe was given to me by my friend Rene, from an unknown source, perhaps Bon Appetit Magazine.

You know I rarely post a picture of anyone on this blog.  I respect privacy and know that sometimes people are particular about what photos appear online and elsewhere.   I tried to take a picture of the nice wines Victor brought, but my friend Kathy kept photo-bombing the picture, she likes to do that!  I said, "Girl, stop it or I'm going to put you on my blog".  She did it again.  So here she is!  Makes me laugh!

A little bit about Ellie the birthday girl, she is a woman who is always kind and good natured.  She looks for the best in everything and everyone plus she likes to have fun!  Beautiful on the outside, it belies the powerful strength and faith within.  At the end of the evening after everyone had gone, my husband said, "That Ellie, she is such a doll!"  Yep!

Stiches West

Sunday afternoon I went to Stitches West in Santa Clara, CA, not many pictures this year, but it was just a FUN afternoon.  HABU had a great booth. I've always been enamored with this but for some reason have never tried it.  Their tiny threads of stainless steel have intimidated me, but this year I just had to get me some of that stuff.

For this sweater, in the middle, Stella by Coco Knits.   
I met the designer Julie, she was a doll and very helpful.
The lower part of the sweater is stainless steel and wool, the upper part is cotton.

Two skeins of Cotton Gima on the left and 5 cones of Wool/ Stainless Steel on the right.
The threads are so tiny you knit it double.

 Some other views of their booth.

I visited the Never Not Knitting booth again and saw the samples from 
her new Botanical Knits and her darling Little Oak.

 I did a bit of stash enhancement at Webs (their booth is huge!) and a few other spots. 

I was feeling spring-like and bought 2 bags of Rowan Belle Organic Aran
a 50/50 wool cotton in pale green and another in medium turquoise. 
The third bag is a periwinkle Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk Aran.
One or more of these are going to be something from Botanical Knits.
The bottom is a gorgeous grey-blue Bliss Baby Cashmerino
which I plan to be Autumn's End.  I can hardly wait for that one!

(But it's all put aside to concentrate on finishing up 2 sweaters for me and 2 for my granddaughter.)

Wait, one more from Stitches West!
A bag of pure silk, Mulberry by Louisa Harding in vanilla.  Heaven.
Swatched last night and looks like it may work for
Baby Cocktails Baileys Irish Cream!  Beautiful right?
I'm going to give the swatch a good bath today and see what happens to my gauge.

Everyone at Stitches West is so friendly and helpful.  I love a roomful of knitters!

what's happening in the garden

Today was a busy day in the chilly garden.   Roses, wisterias, hydrangeas, trees and peonies have all been cut back starting in January and just now finishing up with the last of it.  Harvesting only onions and the first of the dill. A small patch of violets, the camellias and pots of cyclamen are my only flowers.  I don't garden much in the winter, I like to take a break and wait for spring.  Then throughout the summer and fall we will work hard, so it's nice to take the winter off.

But in a few weeks and lasting for months and months we'll have fresh orange juice every morning.   I love that so much.

I spent some lovely hours in the greenhouse today.  Always around Ash Wednesday, a little after if it's early, or a little before if it comes late, I start my summer seeds.  I love working in the greenhouse when it's cold outside.  Even better if its raining.  It's so cozy inside those glass walls.  My husband built it from a kit 20 years ago.  He put in a brick floor.  I love it.

In March we'll plant the spring seeds that go directly into the garden, the lettuces, carrots, beets, onions and leeks, I can't think what else. But for now, I'm enjoying the break! Stay warm and dry!

Top 10 movies for knitters!

It is a truth universally acknowledged, 
that a knitter in possession of a good amount of yarn,
 must be in want of a movie.

Happy Valentine's Day and welcome to
Top Ten Best Movies for Knitters
with suggested knitting projects included!    

1. Pride and Prejudice, any version. Perhaps the one with Keira Knightly or the one with Greer Garson, or if you have a few nights, the BBC Miniseries with Colin Firth who is the best Darcy ever, remember when he walks out of the lake? I think an excellent project for PandP would be the June Bride Shawlette by Madam Butterfly. We'd better get busy, if Mrs. Bennett has her way, they'll need 5 over there at Longbourn.

2.  Bewitched starring Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman (too bad she's not pretty, eh?)  I ADORE this movie, Nicole is at her cutest and Will is pretty darn funny plus I love her house and her clothes.  She wears lots of little cardis in the movie and think Miette by Andi Satterlund would be perfect for that adorable dance scene they have together.  This is so Samantha!  By the way, for some excellent help with this pattern go to Gail's Miette KAL tutes.

3. Jane Eyre. Of course every movie version is knit-worthy. But let's say that maybe, just maybe, the one with Joan Fontaine and the latest one with Mia Wosikowska are the best two! For either, the must knit is the beautiful To Eyre by Carole Sunday, so handy in a chilly orphanage.

4.  Midnight in Paris.  I am a huge fan of this movie.  I loved meeting up with Hemingway at the bistro and visiting Gertrude Stein in her parlor.  Such a wonderful fantasy film, I just have a big smile on my face when I'm watching this.  Rachel McAdams has some pretty cute clothes in this movie.  Let's make something for her, how about the Boho Eternity Scarf by Sweater Babe.  I could absolutely see her wearing this in Paris.

5.  Downton Abbey.  I know you're already watching it and I don't have to tell you about this brilliant Masterpiece Theater production that MUST NEVER END!  I was thinking of knitting a christening gown for the gleam in Lady Mary's eye, or maybe a shawl for the dowager but they already get enough attention.  Let's find somebody more worthy of our Lady Edith.  Oh dear, can this poor peer of the realm please catch a break in the romance arena?  To give her a little kick-start let's knit her a Boyfriend Sweater, that should do the trick, by jove.  Check out the hottest and newest boyfriend cardi on Rav,  Hey Girl by Chicknits.

6.  Monarch of the Glen where the young, reluctant laird apparent comes back to his family and their ancient castle in the Scottish highlands to "help get things back in order".  Wonderful story and visually beautiful!  57 episodes, it's available on Netflix.  You will be treated to Pantone Emerald Green scenery, a lovely old crumbly castle, oodles of tartan, the sweet sound of bagpipes and lots of baggy, tattered and cabled pullovers.  Let's knit the young laird a new one!  Cable Sweater by Martin Story using Rowan Scottish Tweed Aran of course.

7.  Le Divorce, and when I say Le Divorce I really mean anything, ANYTHING by Merchant/Ivory.  Like Howard's End, Remains of the Day and Golden Bowl, and there's more, and they're all great and in fact these 3 are better moves than Le Divorce.  I chose Le Divorce because it was such a departure from their glossy period pieces.  I appreciated the tension between the French and American cultures and felt it was well done.  But this is a list for knitters and knitters will love the clothes worn by the stars Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts.   We'll instead whip up something for the supremely prim and icy French mother-in-law, Leslie Caron.  I suspect she wouldn't wear anything unless it was made by Coco herself, but if she won't wear this, we will.  Jacket by Phidar Design Team.

8.  Rebecca.  Have you noticed that I like old movies?  So Rebecca, starring Joan Fontaine and Sir Lawrence Olivier is perfection.  I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the times I've watched it.  Still,  I wince each time Rebecca's American "companion of the bosom" puts out her cigarette in the cold cream!  It's all about the details, people, no matter how gory.  I was thinking of making Mrs. Danvers a straight-jacket, there are many ways we could get macabre here, but let's go sweet instead and knit something for the little wished-for Maxim Jr.     Little Oak by Alana Dakos.

9.  To Kill A Mockingbird.  You didn't think I'd forget this one did you?  Could there be a more perfect Atticus Finch than Gregory Peck?  I've read this book as many times as I watched the movie.  Let's whip up something for Scout. It will have to be lightweight, it's Alabama and it looks like it's very hot.  I love the child's version of Wispy by Hannah Fettig.

10.  Rear Window.  Another Hitchcock movie starring the beautiful Grace Kelly and James Stewart.  Remembering back I think the whole movie takes place in Jimmy's small apartment and his shared city garden. What it lacks in locations it makes up for in suspense!  Terribly exciting.   To supplement Grace's lovely wardrobe our knitting assignment can only be the Kelly Cardigan by Erika Knight.

Oh dear, I didn't have room for Vertigo or Meet Me in St. Louis or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or The Good Earth!  Argh!  Note that I only picked one Jane Austin.  Truth is I could have filled all 10 spots with her.  Tell me your favorite movies!  I want to know!!

Thank you for coming by this Valentine week.  I had a lot of fun with my top 10's for knitters and I appreciate all your encouraging comments.  It means a lot to me!

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Whole Lotta Knitting Love, top 10 patterns

In honor of Valentine's Day, all week I've been posting top 10 lists to my Knitting Love Series. Monday was my top 10 yarn choices, Tuesday was my favorite designers, Wednesday was my favorite knitting books and today I share my favorite garments.  The sweaters below made the top 10 because they were fun to make and have clear instructions but mostly because I wear them all the time!

I give all the sweaters below a BIG 10 and would highly recommend that you can knit them with confidence.  Links take you to the Ravelry page.

1.  Pearly by Martin Story.  Hands down my favorite sweater and my husband's favorite.  Fingering weight wool, Rowan 4-Ply Soft, tons of little cables and pearls, knit flat and seamed.  It's the prettiest sweater I've ever made and one I am most proud of.  It was while knitting this sweater that I realized that instructions are really just a guideline.  I could fudge on everything, change the yarn, the gauge, the stitch count, the increases and decreases to make a perfect fit.  I've been doing that on every sweater since because fit is very important to me.  Pearly is the acme of my knitting career!

2.  Effie by Kim Hargreaves, knit flat and seamed.  Ruffles are made separately and sewn on at the end.  I used  Rowan Kidsilk Haze in Anthracite, a smokey charcoal, and oh my, I love the color, the fabric, the fit, the ruffles!  I wear it out to dinner with skirt and jewelry, I wear it to the shop with jeans, very versatile! 

3.  Kelly Cardigan by Erika Knight.  My go-to sweater, I've made this 4 times, each time using Rowan Kidsilk Haze doubled.  If you've wanted to use KSH but have been resisting it because of the lacy features, try it doubled as dk weight.  I promise you will love it.  Knit flat and seamed.  Easiest sweater to wear and besides, every wardrobe needs a little black cardi.  It goes dressy or casual and people want to pet it!
Little Black Kelly Cardi

4.  Genevieve by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. I consider this to be the most perfect top down pullover.  It's simple and mindless with it's ocean of stockinette, but that's a plus in my book, plus it has an adorable and easy lacy neckline.  Very easy to make a perfect fit.  I've made this 3 times.  The yarn is Quince and Co. Chickadee, 100% wool, machine washable and soft, it's a very well behaved yarn.  I love Duck Egg Blue!
Genevieve in Blue

5.  Baby Owl Cardigan, a Penny Straker Design and designed by her mother Janice Straker.  She was the first to knit cables into owls, or at least the first to publish it.  This little sweetie was knit with Rowan 4-Ply Cotton, machine washable for mother's peace of mind.  Knit flat and seamed.  Be still my heart, I just can't think of a cuter baby knit.  Wouldn't baby look dear wearing this to a picnic or a cheery visit to Grandmas?
Baby Owl Cardigan

6.  Water's Edge by Hannah Fettig, top down cardi.  LOVE.  Twice I've made this with Rowan Aura (a big sis to KSH but now sadly discontinued) and knit once again with cotton for my granddaughter.  Easy to knit, easy to wear, fun peplum and so soft and warm in Aura.  I think I'll make it again!  I had to size it down for my grand but now it's available in a child's version.
Water's Edge

7.  Sand and Sea Shawlette and Cedar Leaf Shawlette by Alana Dakos.  I've lost count on how many times I've made these! Both are go-to scarfs to keep the chillies away.
Sand and Sea Shawlette

Cedar Leaf Shawlette

8.  Apricot in Rowan All Seasons Cotton designed by the Rebecca Design Team.  I made this years ago and wore it until it died, but I am still hanging on to it because it's too sad to have to say goodbye to such a loved one!  Some of these pictures are pretty old and I don't look the same, like this one.

9.  Lisette designed by Kim Hargreaves.  This was an instant must-make the first time I laid eyes on it in Rowan Magazine 36.  It's such a pretty sweater but I have to say that I remember it was a bit of a challenge.  I love the lace peplum and the yarn, Rowan 4-Ply Soft.  Mostly I love the memories this gives me.  I knit this when my father was so ill.  He slept, I knit, he would wake up and we would talk.  He said, "You've been busy making something since you were tiny!"  It's true, he almost never saw me when I wasn't making something.  A memory in every stitch.   It's funny how knitting can do that.

10 and 11.  A tie between Lily by Marnie Maclean and Martha by Stella Smith.  Two white summer sweaters that I have worn ragged but still wear them each summer, regardless of their slightly shabby state.  Still, they have held their shape through multiple washings and I pretend not to notice that they have seen better days.  Lily knit in Rowan Cashcotton 4-Pl, knit in the round and Martha in Rowan 4-Ply Cotton knit flat and seamed.
Behold the Lilies


12.  Well, looks like I can't stop at 10 or 11, because how can I not put in Tiny Tea Leaves?  I loved knitting this. I've made several of the grown up version and two of the pint size version.  My granddaughter looks adorable in this Tiny Tea in orchid Louisa Harding Kashmir DK.  Designed by Melissa LeBarre, knit top down in one piece and very fun to make.
Tiny Tea Leaves

13.  Glade, epic in all ways.  I rarely wear this, but when I do pull it out I stare at it for a really really long time.  Bobbles and lace and pleats and picots and ruffles, it's not missing one frou frou detail.  I am so proud of this because I think I am the only knitter that was able to make this fit, and it wasn't easy.  For this reason I would not recommend this pattern unless you are willing to tackle that.  Designed by Martin Story and made with Rowan 4-Ply Cotton. 

14.  Iceland, gorgeous, right?  Designed by Stephanie White using Rowan Cocoon. I wore this to Stitches West one year and was mobbed.   Well not exactly mobbed, but I got a few compliments!
Very fun to make with a lace leaf pattern that is easily memorized.  It's worked from side to side, then the ribbing is added at the end.

15.  Hourglass by Joelle Hoverson.  Everyone loves Hourglass as it flatters all figures.  It's bottom-up in-the-round construction is pretty simple.  I loved the knitted-in hem and the bell sleeves.  Knit in Rowan Lima it's a pretty darn perfect pullover pattern.

So many hours, so many memories, knitting has been such a good friend to me.  Knitting has brought me calm when I've felt anxious, something about the rhythm of the clicking needles perhaps.  Knitting gives me an outlet to be productive and explore my creativity.  It's amazing that I can do something I love, then have something beautiful at the end.  The best hobby ever!

Well that's it, thank you for taking the time to view my favorites I've knit over the years and giving me a chance to show them off.  I have so many more I love.  For someone who has made hundreds of garments over the years, it's hard to limit to just 15.  In reality, several of the sweaters above have been retired or given away, but the patterns I would make again and again.

I'm sure you've noticed that most of the yarn I use is from Rowan.  I fell in love with Rowan because my LYS has always carried a great selection.  I think their quality is top-notch and I'm pretty picky.  Because of this love affair, I applied to become a Rowan Ambassador, a champion of the brand in their own words.  I actually made it to the shortlist of 30 people!  I'll let you know when I know!

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