Easter!  The kids will be here for the weekend.  They arrive on Friday in time for dinner.  I have the table and menu set: tomato soup with wild rice, potato pancakes and a watercress salad.  Cookies and candy for dessert.  I buy these cute chocolate duckies every year from my downtown candy store and use them as party favors.  They have an orange bow this year so used that color to guide my tablescape.   The yellow/green/orange alstroemeria flowers are from my Safeway--they are so pretty!  

The linen napkins are from my grandmother and the linen tablecloth was a find from the Stanford University jumble sale a few years back.  You can tell it's old, it's thick and fine and in perfect shape.  My best find at that jumble sale was a set of thick, monogrammed, linen twin sheets.  My son slept in them for years until he grew out of a twin, but they are still in great shape.  I read somewhere that Queen Elizabeth still sleeps on the linen sheets that Queen Victoria had made for her over 100 years ago.  Linen, got to love that fiber.

Elsewhere around the house there's a bit of Easter too.
I put my little wooden Easter fellas from Germany on the kitchen buffet.

My friend brought home some manzanita branches from the foothills.
Manzanita is fairly common in California, grows as a large bush and has beautiful dark red bark.
The sage green leaves will eventually fall off and the bare branches will look beautiful for years.
I hot glued some roosting chickens on the leaves and have some Easter bunnies below.

I did some baking this morning.  I always have to have my sugar cookies on hand for any gathering.  If they weren't in the cookie jar, the three men in the family would flip!  I have a collection of cookie cutters, over 100, and below are just a few of my spring ones.  I make them plain, just lightly sprinkled with sugar, just the way my family likes them.  They are my favorite cookie too.  I've yet to try them with gluten free flour, but now was not the time to experiment!  Recipe here.

We've been so busy in the garden and I'm working up a gardening post for next week. 
I'm knitting as usual and have a few FO's (finished objects) to share when I can get photos.

As a Rowan ambassador, I received a lovely box from Rowan,
very excited to share that with you soon.

Knitionary now has a page on Facebook.
Please hop over and follow Knitionary on Facebook
It will be an easy way to follow my most recent posts
and catch some other things that grab my attention.

Have a blessed Easter!

Dinner plates, Cambria from Pottery Barn in Saffron.
Soup Plates, Splendore from Arte Italica.
Bee Glasses are available from Ballard Designs, Target and World Market
German painted wooden critters from Wendt and Kuhn
Duck chocolates from The Gourmet Works 

My favorite Easter post here.  Life is good.
Pretty Easter table here and a very gorgeous one here.
Best cut-out sugar cookie recipe ever.

like me

Hi friends!  I have started a Facebook page for Knitionary and hope you'll pop over to FB and like me, it's a good way to keep up with my posts.   Perhaps you've heard that Google Reader is closing down July 1.   I love Google Reader and it's how I keep up with my blogs and I don't know exactly what I'll use when I have to switch.  I've got followers on Bloglovin', Networked Blogs and Linky and may use one of these.  What are you planning on doing?  How do you follow your favorite blogs?

If you use Facebook, please follow Knitionary.  I'll be over there at least once a day to post something wonderful about knitting, table setting and gardening and to link up my latest blog posts.  Thanks!

dining with a 6 year old

Dining with a six year old may not a big deal for you, but is a big deal for us.  A fun big deal!  It's been years since we've dined with a 6 year old.  I had forgotten that spelling is fun!  Balloons are entertaining!  Also, fortune telling is for reals people.  I had forgotten all that stuff, so it was an enlightening evening.  And she even sang a Selena Gomez song for us!  I had barely heard of her, let alone the song, but now I know she is Justin Bieber's former girlfriend.  Sharing that with you.

This gave me a chance to make a kid friendly menu and set a child-happy table.  Let's talk Ladybug Bands and how rabbits color Easter eggs.

She also solemnly told me she wants to learn how to knit.  Sweet.  I happen to be the right person to ask.

The little wooden critters are from my collection of
Wendt and Kuhn figures, a German company that makes really sweet things!
Their website is precious.

Linking to Naps on the Porch 
and The Dedicated House.  Come visit!

Spring Gourmet Group Party

Our theme was Spring!

I try to share the gourmet group parties we go to.
(A few years back I shared with you our group of 12 and how it works in this post)

This time we are at Margit and Fred's lovely home.
When I first arrived I spent the first few minutes taking a few pictures of the table
and hope to get some pictures of the plated food when it's served.  
I'm pretty lucky if I remember to do that!

The table was all pretty in pinks and greens.

I liked the way Margit mixed fake and real flowers in the same vase.  Low candlelight, love it!
Drinks and appetizers were served in their large kitchen.  That's where people seem to congregate!
Choosing the menu and finding the perfect recipes is difficult!  
Margit did an excellent job!

Spring Menu
  Warm Turnip Dip 
 Asparagus Soup with Lemon-Herb Creme Fraiche 
Fennel Salad with Shaved Parmesan, recipe below

Lamb Steaks with Milk & Honey Cumin Marinade
Spring Peas with New Potatoes and Watercress

Strawberry-Rhubarb Galette   

The dinner was so delicious and want to share all the recipes with you, but for time's sake I'll just give you the one I made, the salad.  It took just 10 minutes to make and was excellent.  I love fennel and roast it often, but have to admit I'd never served it raw.  Now I'm a convert!  Recipe below

Fennel and Shaved Parmesan Salad

1/3 C chopped pitted Calamata olives
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T capers
salt and pepper
3 T extra-virgin olive oil

3 fennel bulbs, halved lengthwise and cored, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped green fennel fronds
2 oz. thinly shaved Parmesan cheese

Shake first 5 ingredients together in a jar.  Toss dressing with sliced fennel and fennel fronds.  Mound onto salad plates and top with shaved cheese.  Don't let the simplicity fool you.  It was perfect.

Serves 6

These gourmet group parties are a labor of love.  The host and hostess obviously have the most work and it's helped just a little with each of us bringing a prepared dish that the hostess has chosen and sent to us earlier in the week.  I have to say it's quite heavenly to be treated to such a fine dinner in a beautiful home with such lovely people that we've known for many years. 

Our hosts, Margit and Fred, have to be the easiest going people on the planet.  Nothing is a problem, everything is doable, there's chatter and laughter everywhere, and it appears to the guest as though it's the easiest thing on earth to have 12 people over for a sit down dinner!  Don't you think that is the trick to having a successful gathering?  Making everyone comfortable and at ease?  And you know I don't mind a beautiful table setting and yummy food one bit!

I wore one of my favorite knits to the party.  Livi (Ravelry link), a Kim Hargreaves pattern knit in the luscious Rowan Cashmere DK.  My very kind dinner partner congratulated me on my Rowan Ambassadorship!  Most guys, in fact most non-knitters don't quite get my excitement over this.  I tried it to explain to him:  Imagine you are a 16 year old girl and the most popular senior guy just asked you to the prom.  Now you get it, right?

Have a great weekend!

Preserving Lemons

 You know the old saying, "When life gives you lemons, preserve them!"
(it's something like that!)

I've used expensive store bought preserved lemons in a Moroccan recipe before.
I loved them.
 When gifted some beautiful lemons, I thought I'd try it myself.

The recipe is so easy with ingredients I already had on hand:
lemons, kosher salt, coriander and fennel seeds plus a cinnamon stick.

Salt Preserved Lemons

Wash glass canning/pickling jar in very hot water.  Scrub lemons well.  Cut the lemon in half lengthwise almost to the base, do not cut all the way through.  Make another similar cut to divide the lemon into 4 sections.  Pry apart and pack with kosher salt and put in sterilized jar.  Repeat with as many lemons as you can squeeze in, I had to cut a few lemons in half to fill up the sides.  Add spices if you like, fennel seed, coriander seed, cloves, bay leaf, peppercorns and cinnamon stick are good choices.  Pack with more salt, I used a bit less than a cup total, and add freshly squeezed lemon juice to fill all crannies.  Shake and turn up side down occasionally, adding more salt and juice if needed.  The picture below is what it looked like the next day.  Shake daily for about a week.  They are ready in 3 weeks and can be stored for 6 months, unrefrigerated.  To use them, you need just rinse excess salt and they are ready for the recipe.

This is my first try at salt preserved lemons.  I'll let you know what I think of them and what recipes I end up using them in!  And since we're talking lemons, have you ever made Lemon Sugar?  So simple.

Lemon Sugar
The easiest way to preserve that lovely lemon flavor.

Scrub and dry 3 large lemons.  Zest just the bright yellow part.  Add 2 cups sugar and rub through fingers to infuse the zest and lemon oil throughout the sugar.  Sprinkle sugar on baking sheet to dry overnight.  Next morning break up crumbles, I had to give it a quick whirl in the food processor.  Store in clean jars.  We had it on yogurt this morning, nice, and I see lemon cookies in my future.

Helpful links:
Original recipe for preserved lemons here and another one here.
Canning jars here.  I love these, they last forever!
You can purchase preserved lemons already made for you here or here.
Here are several recipes using the preserved lemons, 
and also this recipe from the lovely Barefoot Contessa.
My favorite lemon zester here.

And as for the rain forecast, what a dud.
Here we are in California and it's great with all the sun and the lemons and the surf and all that.
And I am a native, the daughter of a native even, so I looooove this state.  But rain.  We need you.
My husband and I hurried though all our gardening chores today,
expecting rain we were this afternoon.
Sooo, we got some sprinkles tonight, but hardly any.  Just a few sprinks.
I'm feeling thirsty.

Pretty Gavotte

A fabulous FO (finished object) to share today!  This is designed by one of my fav knitwear designers, Cecily Glowick MacDonald of Winged Knits.  Some of my most wearable sweaters have been designed by Cecily.  Her most simple sweaters with small details are the ones I like best, just like this one.  This top down in-the-round pullover with a graceful drapey neck was a quick and relaxing knit.  The last two photos show the neck decreases that make the drape effect.  I love 3/4 length sleeves for summer.  Ravelry link here.

For this project I used stash yarn, the discontinued Rowan Cashcotton 4-ply, a lovely mix of cotton, angora, cashmere and viscose.  If knit at the suggested gauge of 28 sttiches per 4 inches,  the fabric is very tight and dense, so going up a needle size and knitting as a sport weight did the trick for this pattern's required gauge of 24 stitches to 4 in.  The resulting fabric was lovely and fluid which was perfect for the drapey neckline.  The palest shade of blue is so pretty, in fact they named it "Pretty"!  I have enough left in my stash to make another sweater in the future.  I've used this yarn before and it washes well in the wash machine and I even put it in the dryer for a few minutes, then dry flat.  The little bit of pilling (I think the angora is the culprit here) comes off easily with my sweater shaver.  As with most angora it does shed some until the first washing. 

Thank you all for your best wishes on my Rowan Ambassadorship!  I'm excited to find out what's in the future!  I've "met" a few of the other ambassadors online already, very fun!

Romancing the Potato

Spring Herb Baked Potatoes
When warm spring-like weather brings my tiny herb garden to life, I am one happy lady.  I love the taste of the new fresh herbs, they are much milder now than they'll be in summer.  I love to overload a baked potato with fresh snipped herbs.  For a fast lunch pop a russet potato in the microwave for about 8 minutes.  Finish it in a hot oven (or toaster oven) for 10 minutes or so to get a crispy skin and fluffy insides.  Split open and top with butter and salt and plenty of snipped herbs.  Today I have a little bit of oregano (trust me, the new spring growth is mild) and tarragon and lots of dill.  This makes a super lunch and also looks beautiful on the buffet table for a delicious side dish.

 We've had super weather here lately, but really hope we get some rain in our forecast.
California, please behave!

Rowan Ambassador!

So excited! I was selected to be a Rowan Ambassador! I will be a "champion of the brand", which I am already, so no big stretch, using social media as a way to promote them. Since I am a fan, it's not going to be too much of a challenge! Big smile on my face!  

Some of my non-knitting friends may think that Rowan is a tiny country somewhere and you're thinking, HOLY COW, but nooooo, not that kind of ambassador!  But you should still think HOLY COW because I am a knitter and Rowan is a very fine English hand knitting yarn company with a wonderful tradition of luxurious yarn and trendy patterns.  Think Rolls Royce, Chanel, Dom, along those lines, not the price tag, but the distinction of the brand!  It's an honor and I am pretty thrilled.  You can read about the company here.  Don't know exactly what it entails, but I'll let you know when I know.  

Must go, my sweet husband just poured me a glass of champagne to celebrate :) And it's not even 5:00!

xoxo Kristen

My Ultimate Recycling Project

In last weeks Wall Street Journal they had an article about seasonal fast food and the Shamrock Shake tops the list.  I know, sit a bit and just think about what I said, seasonal fast food.  People make pilgrimages to McDonald's for this spring treat that's only available in March!  I don't know, but it just struck me as funny to call a Shamrock Shake a seasonal food.   Crazy me for thinking a spring-time seasonal food be more like asparagus or early dill!  I was laughing as I read it because at the time I was drinking my own version of the Shamrock Shake.  I don't know if it's mint or pistachio that makes their shake green, but spinach is what makes my shake green!

I'm sure you all have your own version and mine is probably very similar to yours: non fat plain yogurt, seasonal fruit, 1/2 banana, juice of 1/2 lemon, crushed ice and a big handful or two of fresh spinach.  I made it this morning which is a good enough breakfast for me but I hear my husband in the kitchen making some eggs to supplement.

Now for my ultimate recycling story:  When we recovered our sofas last year I asked the upholsterer if it wasn't too much of a bother I would like the old fabric back.  A month later along with my new sofas I got a HUGE bag of fabric!

The fabric was in surprisingly good shape considering the sofas were over 20 years old.  So what's a girl to do?  Make napkins of course.   They are all different sizes, from 16x16" to 24x24" and I managed to make 23!  They are my every day napkins and will never get ironed, just folded up and put in the drawer.  For my entire married life I have never used paper napkins (except the paper cocktail napkins if I'm having a big party), I've always preferred cloth and don't think it's a bother to throw them in the wash when I'm doing a load.  In almost every load I do, there seem to be a few napkins tossed in.  They last for years and years and I don't mind if they are a little stained or in slightly shabby shape, they are for family and for everyday use after all.  About every 5 years or so I toss them out and buy or make another 2 dozen.  Both my kids also use cloth in their own homes.  They grew up that way and like their mom, don't like paper!

They're pretty!
I guess my old sofa isn't quite ready to die!