Friday, January 29, 2010

The people in my neighborhood..

Meet Ambra.

She invited me to play in her studio with her. Maybe I invited myself, I don't remember. She's a mixed media artist, and a clothes designer, and a blogger, and a mom, and probably a bunch of other things that I will find out when she comes to play in my studio. She made these...

I want to make some of those. She's also working on this...

She taught me some stuff, showed me some materials, and then said the magic words "just try it. you're free to do whatever you want."

Don't have to tell me twice...

It's called an "altered book". If you aren't familiar with the concept here it is in a nut shell: you take a book and you alter it. Pretty much like the name implies. A little more specifically, you alter it by painting, gluing, cutting sewing, stamping, glazing the pages. I'm going to use my altered book experiment/experience to practice ... so some day maybe I can make some of these...

Meet a birthday girl.

After playing with Ambra on Wednesday I got to play with Das Needle gals on Thursday. Mette had had a birthday so we had to celebrate.

With some birthday hats:

And a viking shipful of crab cakes

And some singing and cake

And, of course, some knitting

(Mette's knitting an "apple tree" blanket from Rowan. It's really lovely.)

And some finished objects

(Natalie's FO..."the wonky hat" as she calls it. It' wonky, in a lovely sort of way.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

a little help please?

The sun has come out, these are blooming everywhere,

and except for that little thing called the temperature which happens to be hovering around 40F, it's spring. Well, I'm pretending it's spring because after all the grey and rain, I need for it to be spring.

I started spring cleaning even. Ok, that's not exactly true. The two months of rain caused mold to grown in our pantry to such an extent that we either had to fumigate the room with chemicals or buy a lawn mower that could go up walls and across ceilings. We took the toxic road.

In order to chemical bomb the pantry, we needed to get a few things out of that room the food. And my knitting. Yes, I do have the biggest room in the house for my studio AND I store knitting in the pantry. If you were a knitter you'd understand.

The knitting relegated to the pantry looks like this.

Ya know that mud that collects on your boots when you walk around in nature, 'specially in the spring? Well this enormous bag is the woolen equivalent of 13 years of knitting mud that's collected on my boots. That mountain contains all the projects that I either began and never finished or began and frogged (remember that knit-lingo - means, too ugly to finish).

So, as I was saying, during this fit of spring cleaning, I decided it was time to deal with the knit mud. I divided it into three piles: 1. The Rejects - no hope for these puppies, 2. The Interrupted - still showing signs of hope, and 3. The Mementos - just too damn funny to do anything with, so I have to keep them. The Rejects are getting the unravel. The Interrupteds are getting finished. The Mementos...well, they're going back in the pantry.

Have you ever unraveled a knitted item...on purpose? It takes a lot longer than you would imagine. I am, therefore, going to have to be disciplined, methodical and regular about this job. I'm not going to add it to my 5-minutes-a-day list because a) I'm not even doing the things that are currently on the list, and they are supposed to be fun and b) I'd never freakin' finish unraveling this crap.

So, I need your help. If a week goes by and I haven't shown you an item that I have unraveled, please (gently) remind me to get off my ass and unravel something.

Thank you.

Ps. Wanna see one of the Mementos? This is a bikini top that I knit.

Check out the colors on that work of art! And look closely at the fabric

Doesn't that look just like the comfortable thing you want to lie around in when it's wet and matted with sand and the sun is 110F baking you. Ahhh...pure knitting genious, that one is. Am I wrong? That's just too damn funny to do anything with. Memento

PSS. Don't anyone break my balls about unraveling yet. I am unraveling a piece right now, between sentences. I just forgot to make a photo, and I've already put the camera away, and, well, I'm lazy.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Some days are just better than others. It's January 23rd. I'm sure I've had some January 23rds that were less than, shall we say optimal. I wouldn't really categorize today as optimal but, as my understating Danish pal says, "it wasn't so bad".

Today I put down the crochet needle and we hit the road. David and I, in the Fiat 500, went on a good ol' American road trip. A beautiful blue sky, a winter chill in the air, Van Morrison on the car stereo. We had nothing but 20 euro and some hopes and dreams....

Yeah.....not really. I had asked David yesterday if he wanted to go to the San Remo Saturday market with me to buy some cilantro. San Remo is 18 km away. A road trip? ahhhhhh....NO. Is that a hell of a long way to travel to buy an herb that grows like weeds in other parts of the world? ahhhhh.... yeah. You see, I had an idea that I wanted to make some shrimp fajitas.

I've just learned to make homemade tortillas. This, after a mere 6 years of whining about how the easiest food possible to make at home was not available in my local shops. So many years wasted!! To make up for lost time, I've been making tortillas every day since I learned. I eat tortillas at every meal. Tortillas with butter and honey for breakfast. Tortillas with cheese (aka: a quesadilla) for lunch. Tortillas with soup, or stew, or chicken or ragu or whatever is for dinner. Tortillas. Yesterday I decided I wanted tortillas with shrimp and cilantro (and a bunch of other stuff that I'll let David worry about to make the shrimp, cilantro and tortillas into fajitas).

So we hopped in the 500 and headed to the nearest place where you can buy exotic food stuffs like cilantro.

Let me explain the San Remo market a bit. First, you have to park a long way away. It's very popular with locals as well as the French, who come over the border (their own road trip, I guess), and any tourists in a 50 km radius. So you park down by the sea (why parking by the sea is free and the most accessible is, as an American, beyond me...) and you walk up into the city center to the market. As you would imagine, or not, if you've never been to an open air market in Italy, there are tables, and booths and stalls of things for sale. If I had to make a comparison to a US commercial institute, I would say Walmart. All these tables and stalls are filled with anything you would want, on the most basic level, and in their cheapest form, mostly imported from Asia (with the exceptions clearly labeled by signs with the italian flag boasting "made in italy", written in English). You can buy pots and pans, pants and socks, scarves and jewelry, fur coats and herbs, t-shirts and jeans and underwear, cds and electronics, sweatshirts and cashmere...all at prices better than you would find in the shops. It's basically walmart if each department was independently owned and set up on a folding table in the town square.

Then there is the food market. Ahhhh the food market. The "walmart" section of the market is only open on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but the food...Monday through Saturday. And it's got shelter. There is an actual building you walk into...where you see stalls of fruit and veg, beans and flour, oil and wine, bread and sweets, and chicken, pork, beef, horse, rabbit, and fish. Anything you could possibly want to prepare the most beautiful Italian meal ever. They are also beginning to cater to the foreign contingent and the more hip of the the young italian crowd who want to cook exotic food like, um, say, Chinese, or thai, or mexican.

So we got some cilantro, some ginger root, a couple limes and a few hot peppers. Mission accomplished. Let's go home.

Then David remembered a recipe he'd recently read on a blog written by a chef he knows in Puglia. "let's get some vegetables," he said.

When we got home, he whipped us up some of this

If you'd like to make some for yourself, here's the recipe.

It has already become a new old favorite, a staple for us. We will eat this dish A LOT. I highly recommend it. And if you can get the veggies from some interesting market, it'll taste that much better. No farmers' markets in your area? No prob, just take a little road trip to the supermarket in the town'll seem more interesting than your own grocery store.

Oh yeah, be sure to serve the dish with tortillas and you, too, will have a not so bad day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yo, Gramma!

NOTE: Please turn on the following music to accompany your reading today, thank you.

I can't stop. I just can't.

I haven't been able to stop. In the evenings I make them until my hand hurts from holding the hook and my eyes hurt from staring at the stitches and my legs hurt from sitting cross legged on the couch for a never-ending bout of crocheting.

"just one more..." I tell myself as my cramped hand chains the beginning of another square.

"just one more...". And then three squares later I ask David for a wrist and hand massage so I can make another one - just like Rock against Apollo, "CUT ME, MICKY! CUT ME!"

I make another one, then I take a jog around the kitchen to get the blood circulating in my legs again. So I can make another one.

Cup of coffee to stay awake longer.

And another

And another

And another

What can I say? Yes, those are granny squares. Yes, they are the crocheted bits that your grandmother made for afghans (or quite fashionable vests, if you were really lucky). Yes, I love them. I'm making tons and tons of them and I will put them together for a beautiful afghan of my very own. What can I say?

What else is there to say but,


PS. I read about a granny-square-along on Alli's blog. I've always secretly loved the granny square and I bet you have too. Here's a very helpful tutorial to help you get started.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

no phone, no light, no motorcar...but we do have internet

So most of you who have been reading here for a while know that Casa Cornwell doesn't have a tv. We haven't had a tv for about 6 years. Whenever I say that I worry that I sound like I'm preaching. Like maybe I think it's some kind of badge of courage I'm showing off.

I assure you it is not and I am not. I'm merely stating fact, like: I have brown hair, or I have two dogs, I'm married, and I'm from Wisconsin originally. Truth be told, several of those statements I feel merit some kind of visible recognition much more than the tv thing, but let's not digress.

I worry about sounding preachy because, well, yeah ok because I don't want to presume to tell anyone that the way I live my life is the way others should live theirs blah blah. Yeah, ok, there's that reason blah blah. But the other reason I don't want people to hear condescension in my voice, the main reason? Because that would make me a big fat hypocritical liar. We don't have a tv, we've got something worse...high speed internet.

When you hear that someone doesn't own a tv, what do you immediately assume about their life? Come on, admit it. You have a mental picture of folks living without the idiot box, or idiot hd flat screen with dolby surround sound. You assume that they are DEEP people, complex people. They are good, clean, smart people. They have intellectual family discussions on religion and politics and art. They read The Economist. The novel by their bed is Tolstoy. They take walks in nature and bake bread. They recycle... voluntarily. You think they're weird.

I know you think that. For God's sake, I think that and I'm one of those people. Of course I mean that I think that about OTHER people who don't own a tv. But not us, because, well, you see, I happen to know the truth about us. And I can tell you it aint the afore painted picture. We do have some Tolstoy in the house but I don't know that either of us have read it and it certainly isn't by the bed. We are spotty recyclers, if I'm honest. And the periodical delivered to the house? Country Living. (I LOVE it! Yes, I am aware of the irony of reading a magazine about suburban women and gay men crafting their way through life and home to faux some "country" that doesn't even come CLOSE the "country" that is my living, but again...let's not digress.)

When I have had a tv in my life, I used it to veg out, to shut down, to stop. I turned it on at the end of the day to signify "I'm done thinking for today. My work for this day is over and now I want to be an inactive recipient." When I had a tv I had specific rules about how it was to be used, much like's ok to abuse it but not til all the work is done, or it's dark. Which ever comes first. (exception to this rule was Sundays in winter, come on, football, duh) Tv would never have been the source of morning news or entertainment in the way that a beer couldn't be the source of morning nutrient.

I rarely watched anything educational or informative on tv. Not even the news...if we can stretch to include the news in the educational/informative category. (I did, however watch all the Ken Burns documentaries when they came on. Those are just freakin awesome, even if you don't want to learn anything). On Tuesday nights I would feel good about myself because I religiously tuned into PBS tv. Public Broadcasting, how terrifically noble and intellectual is that?! Tuesdays was "Mystery" night so I could watch Poirot or Morse or Rumpole.

So now, here we are in Maberga, two deep and complex people who have replaced their tv for a computer. We read endless blogs, watch the Daily Show, we listen to radio comedy and drama, we surf YouTube, we skype and email and, yes, we Facebook (is that a verb?). Is some of this useful, or work? Sure but only a very small fraction. The rest? Vegging out.

And the worst part of it is, I haven't made up any arbitrary rules for myself about the internet. The internet is a tool, it's not a tv. Why would I limit my use of it? Well, let me tell you why... during dinner lately we've taken to putting on an episode of This American Life...during dinner! I NEVER watched tv during dinner. Why is listening to the radio different? David and I don't talk to each other while we're listening. We are totally inactive recipients. Aren't we? And after dinner? Two or three more radio episodes, a movie on the computer or ... are you ready.... a Poirot, Morse or Rumpole episode if the BBC is sharing.

I'm thinking that maybe we should get a tv and get rid of the internet. We'd probably read more and take more walks.

Moral of the story...if someone tells you in a braggy, I'm-better-than-you sort of way that they don't have a tv. Ask them how many hours a day they spend on their computer.

Ps. If any of you have a hankerin for a Gilligan's Island episode after hearing that theme song - turn off the tv and go here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

rain wet rain mud wet rain damp wet mud rain wet rain fog wet mud rain wet gray mold rain mud rain wet gray gray gray mud rain fog rain damp rain storm rain mud wet damp cold rain rain gray wet gray gray mud gray gray damp wet rain rain rain rain rain rain mud mud mud fog gray mold gray gray wet gray gray rain fog gray storm rain wet rain mud wet rain damp wet mud rain wet rain fog wet mud rain wet gray mold rain mud rain wet gray gray gray mud rain fog rain damp rain storm rain mud wet damp cold rain rain gray wet gray gray mud gray gray damp wet rain rain rain rain rain rain mud mud mud fog gray mold gray gray wet gray gray rain fog gray storm rain wet rain mud wet rain damp wet mud rain wet rain fog wet mud rain wet gray mold rain mud rain wet gray gray gray mud rain fog rain damp rain storm rain mud wet damp cold rain rain gray wet gray gray mud gray gray damp wet rain rain rain rain rain rain mud mud mud fog gray mold gray gray wet gray gray rain fog gray storm rain wet rain mud wet rain damp wet mud rain wet rain fog wet mud rain wet gray mold rain mud rain wet gray gray gray mud rain fog rain damp rain storm rain mud wet damp cold rain rain gray wet gray gray mud gray gray

That's what it feels like being me right case you were wondering.

And just to share my good cheery mood with you all, here, watch this...

I bet that one will stay in your head for awhile.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'll have some random prettiness with a little pork on the side, thank you.

Random Pretty 1.

When I grow up, I want flowers growing from the top of my house, too.

Random Pretty 2.

Meet Jemma.

She comes from the pattern found here, which of course I didn't follow. I actually made my new little friend last summer but haven't posted her photo because she was naked until yesterday.

I love her. I spent most of yesterday staring at her...until I was called to the neighbors to eat more ...


Meet Franco and his salami...

(note: this video was deleted on request. too bad for those of you who missed it...that'll teach ya. Miss one day of OliveKnitting you'll miss a lot)

The above video is a tour of Pork Fest II, the end result. Well, the end of day two. Today they were making the geletina and the grasso. We weren't invited to that meno male (meno male is not this case it means something like "thank god!").

Saturday, January 09, 2010

So what do you get for a guy for his 70th birthday who isn't having a party because "only the bourgeois have birthday parties" but still you're going to his house and you know he's passed 70 years? Remember Rolf?

Well, let's go to the Maberga Designs' Knit Department and see what's on offer...


No. Too common.


ummm? Let's look again... Too circus tent-ish.


NO. Definitely too blue.


YES!!!! Perfect. "meet Rolf" is a lot like "where's Waldo". Perfect.

Gotta run now. I need to hoist David off the couch where he's recovering from Pork Fest II so we can go to a very german dinner party. It's a marathon day, luckily we've been training.

PS. David made VIDEO of today's pig party...if technology permits, I'll try to post some.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

with just 5 minutes a day, you too could...

So this year I've decided not to do the new year's resolution thing. It's really just a set up to make one feel really badly for not doing something, or for doing something if one's resolution was to quit doing something. Have you EVER accomplished a new year's resolution? Have you ever KNOWN anyone who resolved anything as a result of a new year promise? I haven't and I haven't.

Besides, if one really took the time to look honestly at oneself, their life and all the changes they want to make...dang. Well, let me just speak for myself, that list would be bella lunga (that means really freakin long, in italian). And logistically, what do you do? Pick one a year until you're way, impossible. So then you pick more than one, thus increasing your probability for accomplishing none? Now there's a good plan. No thanks.

So I listened to this podcast today which was an interview with the woman behind "one pretty thing". She talked about the genesis of the site, where she gets her material, and how it is humanly possible for one person to follow 4000 craft blogs. No, that wasn't a typo. I didn't mean 40 or 400, I meant 4000. Four thousand, three zeroes.

She said she spends 12-14 hours a day managing her website, most of it being surfing the net checking out craft blogs. When asked when she gets time to craft herself she said that she tries to put in 5 minutes a day on things that she's making. She said that she has 2000 things in her craft to-do queue. That's a lot of crafty time. 'Specially if you break in into 5 minute increments. Anyway, she said that it works...anyone, no matter how busy can find 5 minutes in a day, and 5+5+5+5.....=a lot of time. She's got a point there.

So I decided. This year instead of a resolution I'm going to try some 5 minute things. I don't currently have a job that requires 12-14 hours a day so I figure I can afford a few 5 minutes in a day. I'm going to choose some things that I want to do, that I always tell myself that I want to do, and the resolutions, never get done. I'm picking some fun things and some things that challenge a part of me that needs challenging. There are no work or chore related items allowed. Here's the list as of today...

1. exercise. Yeah, I know, this is ridiculous to think that 5 minutes of daily exercise is going to result in anything, but, 5 minutes a day of exercise is 5 minutes more than I currently do. And, that's like, um, over a half hour in a week! Um, yeah, ok, it's ridiculous but it can't hurt, can it?

2. these socks.

They've been on the needles for, well, I don't even know how long. They gotta come off. 5 minutes a day til they're done.

3. reading. Reading something besides blogs or my before bed novel, that is. Something from that long list of non-fiction I continue to accumulate. And since I'm the world slowest reader, 5 minutes a day should allow me to whip through a book just about every decade. That's doable. My current book is this:

4. studying italian. Yeah, like my exercise plan this might seem ridiculous but again, it can't hurt, can it?

The beauty of this plan (my rules), I can change the things on my list whenever I want. Brilliant.

So, if you'll excuse me now I've got some verbs I want to look up, and I've only got 5 minutes.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Weaving in all ends.

The knitters in the group will know that the last thing you do before you're able to don a newly knit item is "WEAVE IN ALL ENDS". Every single pattern written ends with that last instruction. "WEAVE IN ALL ENDS".

It's actually a rather stupid thing to write in a knitting pattern. I mean, come on...if you made it all the way through every knit and purl and decrease and yarn over, all the casting on and casting off, it should be rather obvious that something must be done with all those dangling threads hanging from your otherwise beautiful garment. It's like if there were instructions for having a bath that told you to DRY OFF at the end. If you've made it through the soak, shampoo, wash, shave, and rinse parts it's pretty obvious you should dry off, no?

Well, having said that, it seems like whatever instructions I'm following for writing this blog are missing the final step "FINISH THE STORY". I suppose that should be obvious when writing but it seems that this blog has a lot of dangling threads...hanging chads if the metaphor works better for you.

For example, is anyone wondering if Casa Cornwell has water yet? Dang, I wrote that post about the plugged tubes like a week ago and then never told you how or even IF the situation was resolved.

It is. Thanks for wondering.

And the reversible sweater? Anyone curious if that feat of knitterly engineering genius has had its ends woven in? Probably not, but I'll tell you anyway...

It is. Thanks for being curious. (check that out!!! I can wear it right-side-up, up-side-down, forwards OR backwards...amazing.

And friends, let's talk about the birthday jacket(if you don't know about this you can read here OR here). Yeah, let's talk about it. Maybe none of you have brought it up because you were thinking that this attempt, attempt number 3 in two years such as it is, just might be a sore subject. You were thinking that maybe jacket number three might have come to the same fate at numbers 1 and 2. Well, thanks for being polite but I'm here to tell ya that sucker is DONE!

Except for weaving in the loose ends, of course.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Pig Tales

One of my favorite books ever, and for sure my favorite holiday book is "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote. It's a beautiful, autobiographical tale about Capote's relationship with an elderly aunt, Miss Sook Faulk, during his childhood years in Alabama. Beautifully illustrated by Beth Peck, it is full of, well, Christmas memories of the sweetest and most touching kind.

It starts with the elderly aunt making the proclamation, "Oh my! It's fruitcake weather! Fetch the buggy!"

I woke up last Friday to discover that it's pork weather here in Maberga. Fetch my fork.

Yep. It's that time of the year when pigs go to heaven, or where ever dead pigs go, so that our friends can make some sausage.

Last friday we got 2...count 'em, TWO, not one but TWO invitations to share in all the head stew, blood pudding, liver, brain, fatty festivities.

David and I have been going to these events since we moved here. At first they were a really fascinating cultural and culinary experience. I remember my apprehension the first year. I was so excited to have been invited to take part until, on the day of, I heard the 6am squealing and subsequent silence after the single gun shot. I remember telling David that I had watched that pig grow up and there was no way I was going to be able to eat ANY of it. (you'll notice I didn't say I would never eat pork products again, I just wasn't going to eat that pork's products. I'm a hypocritical carnivore...I'll eat meat as long as I didn't know it when it could smile at me). And then after seeing the care and attention that our friends gave to this pig, how much they valued every dead part of it, how each piece of, well, ALL OF IT was going to be eaten or used in some way, it was really impressive. My feelings changed dramatically over the course of that one day.

At this point in the story I'd really like to wax poetic and philosophical and sentimental and all that, telling you that chewing on a big pig's ear that morning 6 years ago was the tastiest pork experience of my life. I'd like to say that I've never before or since eaten anything so wonderful. I'd LIKE to say that but it would be a lie. Have you ever eaten a pig's ear? Yeah, well, it's just what it sounds like. I can, however, tell you without lying that my respect for the pig, his life and the process of the slaughter was so profound that I actually did eat that big freakin, bristly ear.

I noticed at this Saturday's slaughter that the experience, while still the same, has changed.

After 6 years of attendance neither David nor I are able to help in any fashion, with anything. That will probably never change. I've watched the ladies cleaning those intestines in the ice cold water for long enough that a) it doesn't gross me out any more and b) I actually know the process. And still? No doing. I'm not allowed to touch the shit, so to speak. And David, far as I can tell, hasn't progressed too far from his initial responsibilities of slaughter photographer and general comic relief.

The schedule and menu were the same. Work from 6am-11am when some pork steaks come off the grill. They are consumed standing up (usually at the grill) with pieces of bread and the first jug of wine of the day. Then there's a lull in the action for the men, who usually stand around drinking, while the women simultaneously clean the intestines and prepare lunch. They wash their hands a lot. By 1.30pm we are seated at the table with sauteed liver and onions, cabbage in tomato sauce, pasta in tomato sauce, and a huge pot of pork... in tomato sauce. By 4 or so we are on the 3rd jug of wine and are still munching on the fruit, cheese, nuts, and panetone (italian fruitcake). The day ends with coffee and grappa and discussion of what time to begin the sausage making on the following day. David and I are still not included in the second (or third) days' events since they involve work.

While all that was the same, I noticed that this year I didn't feel like I was taking part in some Medieval Times dinner spectacular. It wasn't some show that was staged for my education and entertainment. It's no longer a field trip to Old World Italy where I get to see how things used to be done before the supermarket craze. Nope. This year I saw it for what it is: some folks, working together, and sharing their abundance with friends and family by gorging through a pork marathon.

There were some other things I noticed this year, too. Like, I don't feel the need to eat the ear any more. I don't need to prove to the pig or anyone else that I value his life. I know now that I value the pig - so much so, that it's a waste for me to eat his ear. I don't like pig's ears.

And I noticed how grateful I felt when the blood and the brains were saved for some special dinner that I'm not invited to.

But the biggest thing that I noticed this year was that the festive feeling of the pig slaughter is fading, if not gone all together. I don't mean for me. but rather for the folks doing the slaughtering. The one we attended last weekend was its hosts' last. They will not keep pigs any more. They've become more aware of the work involved than the value and abundance of the food.

This could be because each year the celebrations are smaller, attended by fewer and fewer people. A lot friends and family now just don't want to spend a day eating pork. It was explained to me that the older generation's diabetes, cholesterol and heart problems and the younger generation's complete lack of interest keeps them away in increasing numbers.

At the end of "A Christmas Memory", Capote is shipped off to military school so he and Miss Sook Faulk's fruitcake seasons come to an end.

I'm afraid the same fate is awaiting pork season in Maberga.