National Knit a Sweater Month

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Over the last little while, I’ve come to realize that I’m the sort of person who has a hard time saying “no” to certain things. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to stand up for myself and I’ve never been what you might call a pushover. But when the opportunity to do something I’m keenly interested in presents itself, look no further: I am your woman. You want a loaf of bread? No problem! Having a baby? Let me make you some booties! You’ve written an interesting paper on a topic I care about and want an outside eye to proofread it for you? Yes, please! This tendency of mine to (almost) always take on extra tasks that are of interest to me has never really caused me problems. I welcomed the opportunity for distractions like these when I was in school and had more schedule flexibility, not out of laziness or a disinterest in my own work but more so because they energized me by making room in my brain for things other than my research. Now that I’m in the not-so-unique position of having a day job, taking on all these other tasks, no matter how enjoyable, has left me with little time for myself. This week has been especially bad: between working on a soon-to-be-revealed academic writing project, gift making, receiving conference submissions, substitute teaching spin classes and my very first after hours work event, I’ve not had a single evening to myself this week. It would be reasonable of you to assume after reading this list that I might be done taking on extra obligations until, say, after I’ve wrapped up everything on this list, but you would be wrong. Because I’m clearly a sucker for punishment, I have signed up for the National Knit a Sweater Month challenge.

At this point, I’d expect you to be thinking either 1) yes, you are a sucker, or 2) why!?, or perhaps 3) what the heck is National Knit a Sweater Month? Well, I’m glad you asked! NaKniSweMo, as it is abbreviated, is a relative of the National Novel Writing Month (or, NaNoWriMo) challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. For knitters, our challenge is to knit a 50,000 stitch sweater of any kind in the 30 days of November. I’ve never been one to obsessively count stitches, but I’m told that most adult sized sweaters easily meet the 50,000 stitch criterion, so it’s simply a matter of picking an awesome pattern and getting started. For my very first NaKniSweMo, I’ve chosen Glenna C‘s Burrard.

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Burrard is exactly the sort of garment I’ve been craving since the air started to turn cold. A cozy and stylish Aran cardigan meant to be worn with a few inches of positive ease, it’s the perfect sweater to wear over layers on those chilly days when the cold feels like it’s penetrating your bones. The yarn I’m using Lion Brand’s 100% Pure Wool from the LB collection, which I picked up on my trip to New York last month. An undyed, fluffy single ply worsted weight yarn, the 100% Pure Wool is a pleasure to work with.  As for the making of the garment, this cardigan is a perfect challenge for me at this point in my knitting life. The cables are intricate and stimulating to knit, and Glenna’s pattern is beautifully written and easy to follow with the help of a couple of row counters. Though I do have limited experience with seaming, this is also my very first sweater knit entirely in pieces and sewn together at the end. Knitters more experienced than I say that seamed sweaters like this one tend to fit and hold their shape better after years of wear than do seamlessly knit sweaters, which is very good news. I would hate to only have a short period of time with something that requires so much skill and attention.

As for why I chose to knit such a challenging sweater at a time when I’m stretched pretty thinly time wise, this coming Monday marks the start of my second year as a knitter. With this anniversary in mind, I decided it was time to step up and challenge myself with something I’ve never done before. It remains to be seen whether I’ll be able to get it all done before the end of November while juggling all of my other obligations, but I’ll do my best. One way or another, this sweater will be mine.

Fellow knitters: Are you participating in NaKniSweMo this year? What are you making and how is it going?

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Hot Soup for Cold Days

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Hello.

I’m back.

How are you?

Oh, I’m well. I’ve been very busy. A lot of people seem to enjoy being busy, wearing their in-demand-ness on their sleeves like some kind of badge of honour. Me, I don’t really enjoy being busy all that much. I tend to feel overwhelmed when the competing demands of living a normal life, with a job and friends and family and hobbies and a blog they’d like to maintain, for instance, all come to a head. Since I last wrote here, I’ve had a vacation to New York with my sister (more on that later, I hope), started helping to organize a conference that I’m very excited about, knit about a million (actual count: 5) of the billion (actual count: 14) Christmas gifts I plan to make for friends and family, none of which I can show anyone until after Christmas, and have spent too many, but also not enough, hours transforming my home from a crowded curiosity shop to a living space I’m proud to call my home. None of this has been bad, per se, but now that things are starting to quiet down a bit, I feel the itch to get caught up on my blogging. You may not have missed me, dear readers, but I’ve definitely missed you.

Unfortunately, what’s been lost in all this busy-ness is time in the kitchen. I really, really miss cooking and I’m anxious to get back to it in a more serious way. So, to get back in the swing of things, I’m going to share a recipe for an amazing black bean soup that I first made in the summer. It was too hot back then to even think about sharing a soup recipe with you (I’m crazy, but not that crazy), but this soup is blog worthy alright.  I’ve thought about it often since that first time I made it and I’ve been waiting for the right time to share it with you. That time, I suppose, is now.

Thanks to those of you who have been checking in. I’ll be back here again soon… I promise!

Sopa de Frijol (Black Bean Soup)

Adapted from Saveur

Serves 8

½ cup canola oil

8 oz. dried black beans, soaked overnight

½ tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. ground cumin

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 medium white onions, each cut in half

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 plum tomatoes, cored

4 cups chicken stock

¼ cup crema or sour cream, plus extra for garnish

1 lime, cut into wedges

Fried tortilla strips to garnish (I omitted these)

1. Heat ¼ cup oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add beans, oregano, cumin, 3 cloves garlic, 2 onion halves and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Remove from heat and purée with a hand blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and aside.

2. Arrange an oven rack close to broiler and heat broiler to high. Place remaining garlic, 1 onion half and the tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook under the broiler until blackened all over, about 8 minutes for garlic and tomatoes and about 16 minutes for onion. Transfer to a food processor and purée until smooth.

3. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Finely chop the remaining onion half, add to the pot and cook until soft but not brown.  Add the tomato purée and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add the beans and stock and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes. Purée the soup until very smooth, then stir in crema and season with salt and pepper. To serve, divide soup among serving bowls and top with a dollop of crema and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.