Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday is for Snoozing

It's the first sunny Saturday we've had in a while, and I'm hoping spring is really here to stay... Gatsby's got the right idea, taking full advantage of the sunshine. D leaves for Australia today, and with some last minute errands it means that we skipped out on our third pottery class (but we'll go back to make up a class in two weeks). I'll post pics from the last class next time, but as a quick recap we did more coiling and our pots went much better after the instructor showed us how to do it correctly.

I just finished my first week at the bakery-cafe, working the lunch shift from 10-3, and let me tell you, I have a renewed respect for those that work in the service industry and are on their feet ALL DAY LONG. Thank goodness for comfortable shoes. I have to say, I am thoroughly enjoying working there -primarily for the social aspect (after 6 weeks of just me and my 75-y.o. boss), but also because I feel the owner is making an effort in accommodating my interests. The deal we made was that I would do counter help, and in turn, he would let me spend more time in the kitchen to observe and help with the cakes and pastries. The first day was much, much busier than I expected (I didn't know this bakery also served a full lunch menu) but I tend to learn faster when the pressure is on, so it was fine. There are many regular customers who come in for breakfast, lunch, or a snack, and they have all been given nicknames by the staff. I got to meet 'the muffin man', an adorable elderly man who comes in daily to buy a single blueberry muffin which he asks you to deposit into his little round tupperware. So cute. It was quiet on my second shift, so I got to hang out in the pastry kitchen and watch the pastry chef and the baking apprentices make napoleans, marzipan covered pastries, croissants, ice cakes, and decorate cookies. I learned how to do a piping bag with waxed paper, and I practiced writing with chocolate for a while. Eventually, I think I may be making signs for the birthday cakes...I don't think they'll let me near the real goods for a while longer.

The bakery is so far a satisfying combination of being fun, interesting, highly social, challenging (but not overwhelming) and fast-paced (but not too fast) and in turn my mood has been great despite the tiring work (...unsurprising basic behavior principles that I really ought to have thought of sooner). Other than that, I'm still at the private practice (thank goodness for flexible hours), so I'm working the equivalent of full time now, which is also nice. Since coming to Ohio I had been resistant to working outside my field; I felt that hobbies couldn't be anything more than hobbies, especially considering I had just turned 30 and had spent most of my adult life getting a graduate degree to develop a very specific skills set. But then I started reading some interesting food-related non-fiction (my current obsession) and happened upon The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman - a journalist-turned-cook. What started as field research for his book turned out to be something incredibly meaningful and personal for him; a life-changing experience. Anyhow, some people would find this book a bit boring and technical, but I was actually very inspired by his story, and it made me excited about the idea of pursuing one's interests simply for interest's sake. It's not to say that I am enrolling myself in culinary or fashion school next month or next year, but I also don't feel like those areas are quite so impossible or off-limits anymore. Oh, the possibilities. :)

That's it for now. Shetland II is almost done, so that's coming up next. Have a good weekend, folks.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Stipple and an Almost-Job

Is that a successful looking stipple? Why, I think so! I learned the word 'stipple' recently, which is what you call the slashes on the bread's surface, as well as some suggestions on how to do it more successfully. I was gashing away at the bread rather enthusiastically with a serrated knife, and got a bit carried away on the other loaf. But, not looking too shabby, eh? Now if only the inside was more baguetty and less fluffy-bready. I used Jamie Oliver's basic bread recipe and knew it would be a nice sandwichy loaf, so I'm not complaining. It was, however, on the salty side. Next time, I would definitely reduce the salt quantity by half.

In other news, I found myself another part-time job! I'll be working in a bakery, doing service counter stuff but also hopefully doing a little decorating and general helping-out in the back kitchen where all the magic happens. Cakes, tortes, pies, petit fours, cookies, biscotti, turnovers, strudel, the list goes on. I'm quite excited about this. All of this, by the way, sort of developed over the last five days or so, when I saw someone ask for an application at the bakery which inspired me to do the same. Next thing I know I'm committing to 20 hours a week. They seemed a bit puzzled by my application and kept asking if I was a student ('no'), why did I want a job there ('because I like pastries') when I have a graduate degree in a totally non-food related field ('because I want to do something different'). I think my answers were satisfactory. Now if they will only call me to sort out the start date and details...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Finished: Shetland Triangle I

At last, a finished project to show you. Now that this has been gifted, I can post the pics. This was a great take-with-you project which I started on Feb 22 and finished March 9. It's knit in Ornaghi Filati Merino Oro (great yardage for the price!) - held double, on US6 circular needles. The only change I made was adding about 5 extra repeats than the pattern called for - I wanted it to drape over the shoulders. And as with many other knitters, I left off the last pattern row of the edging and bound off very loosely using US11 needles.

Before the wet block: nubbly little mountains

Pattern: Shetland Triangle from Wrap Style
Needles: US6 circulars

Yarn: Ornaghi Filat Merino Oro, 65 g (~ 852 yds)

It's soft, squishy and warm, and in a colour that can hopefully be worn with any number of things. I love this pattern. It's incredibly easy to remember the pattern as well, which means you can work on it anywhere, while watching TV, and not lose track of what you're doing. It was a struggle to send the shawl away (but for a dear friend I managed it) and to fill the void, I immediately cast on for another Shetland Triangle, this time in DK weight yellowy green bamboo yarn.

This is probably a major no-no, but I actually ironed the shawl a little. After drying, it still looked a little bit uneven so I placed an ironing cloth over it and used a light steam to get the rest of the kinks out.

As much as I love dark greys and other wintery colours, I am so ready for spring to arrive. Knitting the second Shetland has been cheery, and I am tempted to dig out my sewing machine to make some spring dresses. Hopefully I'll have another finished project to write about soon. Happy crafting all.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pottery Week Two: Coil Pots

This morning D and I once again dragged our tired selves (I swear, I still haven't adjusted to daylight savings) to our second pottery class to learn more basic clay skills. One of the students in the class (who took her first beginner class 12 years ago!) taught us how to do coil pots, which turned out to be more fun and interesting than expected. The instructor was somewhere in the studio, but with so many experienced students around you can ask questions to pretty much anyone, which is nice ("Oh, beginner? Week 2? You're doing coil pots then" and she set us up on that). The instructor came around occasionally and praised our coiling efforts. Apparently we were doing well. It was a validating morning.

Before this class I thought coiled pots were pretty ugly unless you could make the coils beautifully even, which seemed like an impossible task for a beginner. Little did I know that coiling is also a way to build up height and do a rough sketch for your piece, after which you can then refine, smooth, or carve it however you want. You roll out a base shape, roll out a little tube of clay, score the edges you want to join together with a little water for glue, and then use a pointed tool to blend the seam from inside (and outside, depending on how you want it to appear) to prevent leaking if it's going to be a functional piece. Check out our coil pot progress:

Guess whose pot is whose?

And we did this all without having purchased our clay tools! All you need is clay, a plastic knife, a tub of water, and a popsicle stick (and D used a bit of string, which kept leaving fluffy bits in mine somehow). Next week we'll continue with our coil pots. I think I'll make mine taper in at the top. After class, we stopped at the library to pick out some pottery books to give us some ideas for next time.

In other news, I finished the Shetland Triangle and immediately cast on for another one in the Alchemy Bamboo. I've got pictures of that to post soon. Oh, and I had my second PIF person sign up! Have a good weekend.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Paying it Forward

Wishing the tulips were out already...

This is a fun new group I just found out about from z.knits - I just signed up as one of z's 'pay it forward' recipients - read on to find out what this means:

"It’s the Pay It Forward Exchange. It’s based of the concept of the movie “Pay it Forward” where acts or deeds of kindness are done without expecting something in return, just passing it on, with hope that the recipients of the acts of kindness are passed on. So here’s how it works. I will make and send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment to this post on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I do not know what that gift will be yet, and it won’t be sent this month, probably not next month, but it will be sent (within 6 months) and that’s a promise! What YOU have to do in return, then, is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog. Please remember, you don't have to knit or crochet to participate, anyone who can make a nice handmade gift is welcome to join :)"

What a great idea! It's a Ravelry group, so for those of you who have an account, you can read more about it there. I can't wait to see what z will make (no pressure, I know you've got school and wedding planning!) because she is quite the talented knitter. Now for my end of the deal. I'll make a handmade gift for the first 3 people (with blogs please) to respond to this post.

I hope some of you anonymous visitors to Knitticrafty will sign up so I get to know you a little better, so please write me!

Updated 3/19/08: Hmm. It has been more difficult to fill the third slot than one would expect. I did notice that a lot of other bloggers are having trouble filling their spots too. I think this game would have worked better as a 1:1 ratio instead of a 1:3 ratio. As such, I asked Zarafa if she wants to be my third giftee - she is making me something after all!

1. Lorah (LorahLifeandStuff)

2. Nuttnbunny

3. Zarafa

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Layered Foccacia with Parma Ham, Herbs and Cheese

I finally made a bread where the yeast action kicked in! Hah! Bread making is so much more exciting when the dough cooperates. I used a new package instead of the old jar I had (which I later found out I had been storing incorrectly which probably contributed to its lack of fizzy action).

With the snow keeping us in, D and I decided to do some lunch time baking. We made this layered foccacia from a "Happy Days with the Naked Chef" by Jamie Oliver, and it filled the apartment with yummy smells that warded off the winter chill. I don't think it's a 'real' foccacia (it certainly didn't look much like the foccacia I've seen in stores), but it was tasty and it rose, so I'm happy. After you make the dough, you roll it out and fill half of it with olive oil, parmesan, cheddar, parma ham, arugula (I used spinach) and herbs, and then you fold over the other half of dough, kind of like a giant pizza pocket. It was really tasty. Next time I would put less salt in though, if I use salty things like parma ham and cheese.

I am going to make another attempt at baguette-making now that I am equipped with a new recipe, courtesy of Devonshire, a talented knitter and pastry chef who makes the most delicious-looking sweets ... mmm, I'm hungry again. Check out her blog here.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Nothing like new yarn...

Knitter's Mercantile was having a sale this week, so I stopped by after work on Friday to pick up some on-sale goodies. My first Kidsilk Haze, some Jaegar cotton, and a splurge: 3 skeins of Alchemy Bamboo in a yellow-green. The snow is still going, so I guess we'll be staying put. Might as well sit around and admire the pretty new yarn.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Accidental Baguette

...I was having lunch at Panera (this was my second time ever) and a chunk of baguette came with my meal. I didn't expect it to be very good, but had a bite anyway, and was pleasantly surprised by a not-so-bad baguette! Aside from being a little too salty, the crust and texture were pretty good. Now if only I could get one that had both the right texture and taste.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ceramics 101 at the CAC

Here's my first class report: D and I attended our first ceramics class this past Saturday at the Cultural Arts Center in downtown Columbus. It's a beautiful, large, and amazingly clean work space. At 9am, the studio was surprisingly busy - lots of attendees in this section already working on some pretty professional-looking pieces. Hmm. I thought this was beginner...

It turned out we were the only two beginners - everyone else had already taken a class and was registered in the section to use studio time (instead of a traditional membership, I suppose). Our instructor was lovely (and very chatty) and spent part of the morning showing us around the studio, getting us set up with our clay, and having us set forth on wedging (getting the air bubbles out) and making pinch pots to familiarize ourselves with the feel of the clay. We were told that the beginner's course would involve instruction on pinch pots, coiling, and slab work, and eventually throwing on the wheel depending on time and interest.

Admittedly, I thought 8 weeks of pinching, slabbing and coiling sounded like a drag. I was eager to get on the potter's wheel sooner than that. After shaping clay for 3 hours, however, using only my fingers and some texturizing tools, I was starting to understand why we go through this process -you begin to see how clay behaves as you pinch, flatten, stretch, pull, shape and poke it. By the end of class, D and I each made 4-5 little pots that should be leather-hard next Saturday, ready to be decorated some more.

Afterward, we had lunch at Katzinger's Deli in nearby German Village, and on the way out, bought a baguette from their bakery section. And hey! It was pretty darn good! Probably the best we've had in Columbus so far. Nice golden, crisp, chewy crust, and a dense, bubbly slightly chewy inside. After I got home, I toasted a few slices with olive oil and rubbed raw garlic all over them, with a little salt and pepper. Mmm, raw garlic.

The rest of the weekend was nice too, and relaxing. On Saturday night I had dinner at Spagio Cellars with the girls, and on Sunday we walked through the Short North and had a coffee. I almost bought a ridiculous looking gold polka-dotted dress on sale but finally decided I probably wouldn't have anywhere to wear it. We didn't end up going to the Arnold's fitness convention, but I'm not that sad about it. Today I have the day off, so I'll be doing some more baking, and then going to ballet class.