April 2011


I, like many knitters, have been dabbling in a little design work here and there for awhile. Just small things, like panels for baby socks, tiny people and animals, and the occasional somewhat short-waisted baby sweater.

So when I was asked to design and knit a half-length shawl for a fund-raiser my zoo is throwing in June, I was both excited and horrified. I have never attempted to design anything as exciting as a lace shawl, and I’m not the fastest knitter in the world. And there is one more thing you should know about my typical knitting designs – but if you are a knitter, you might want to sit down first.

I don’t like to do knitting maths.

That’s right, my typical design method is to just start knitting and eye-ball things. Little or no swatching. Definitely no calculator. Occasional rip-backs because I fouled it up too badly to fix on the fly. This is making the shawl project (using tiny yarn, tiny needles, beading and lace) more difficult than it should be. But, as per usual, I will just continue to knit until I either have a disaster or a shawl. I will be taking it to the Caribbean next week (because lace-weight alpaca LOVES the beach), and hope to have some lovely pictures of it for you soon.

For those of you who might be interested in doing something similar – I recommend getting in touch with your favorite local non-profit organization. I have noticed that many organizations and schools hold silent auctions, and are often very excited to be able to offer one of a kind items by local artists.

In case you live in the Philadelphia area and are interested in obtaining this monstrosity work of art, it will be auctioned off at Elmwood Park Zoo’s Beast of a Feast on June 4th. Proceeds go towards funding the zoo so it can continue to educate and promote conservation efforts, as well as towards a conservation project in South America.

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So to say that my lunch and food-related whims are fickle is like saying that March weather in the northeast is mildly weird. I am notorious for loving my dinner and absolutely refusing to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day – something which usually pleases my husband because there is more for him. I cannot explain this other than to admit that when it comes to food I have two settings – quickly bored and completely obsessed. There is no real way to predict which I will be, it seems unrelated to food quality or content, and even favorite foods (I’m looking at you Broccoli Salad!) sometimes end up in the “I’m bored of eating this” category.

I am confessing all of this food-weirdness to you to set up yet another one of my food experiments. I recently came across this book – and was immediately intrigued by the idea of home-made bento boxes. Lots of different food items in small portions? Adorably packaged meals? An excuse to keep ginger in the house? Sign me up right now! Plus, the author, Makiko Itoh, includes many tips about preparing food ahead and freezing it – which goes hand in hand with my recent attempts to be less wasteful with food.

So far we have tried two of the meals – one with miso-tofu nuggets, and one with sweet and sour meatballs – and have been very pleased with the results. My husband may have even said “I want this for lunch every day!”

Some quick tips for anyone also intrigued by this book:

  • Get it! It is very well written and has lots of procedural tips for those of us who are not well versed in Japanese cooking techniques.
  • I am finding that it is taking me a lot of time to do. Some of this is because I am not yet up to the multi-tasking needed to get finished quickly, and some of this is because I don’t have a rice-cooker yet. However, we are getting about 4 lunches each time, so if you think of it as 2 days worth of cooking, it feels better.
  • When you pull a bento box out at work, be prepared for some jealous ribbing. I have been compared to Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club, and had incredulous looks shot my way when I admitted that I had not picked up take-out from anywhere.

In the end, while I may not try to create bento boxes every day, the really cool things about this experiment, so far, are that it has made me very aware of how much food is a lot of food – it is pretty amazing how little food is needed to make one feel full – and it makes us both feel a bit spoiled at lunchtime. Even though I’m making the food myself, it is a bit like opening a lunch that my mother packed for me – I know there is love in the food, instead of just lunchmeat. Which is either a really poignant observation, or the girliest thing I’ve ever said…

Might be a little obsessed with beaded lace right now.

Specs: Unique Sheep Chasca in Justin Gradiance; Unknown succulent house plant; Size 3 needles; Silver-lined Cobalt beads.