I am loving working on my sweater of many colours, but it has become just a little bit too large to comfortably carry around in my purse. I mean, I could always buy a larger purse, but I am generally most comfortable with one that fits my wallet, cell phone, a paperback novel, and a small knitting project. The last time I carried around a Mary Poppins-sized bag was back when the kids were really little and I always had to have diapers, extra onesies, blankets, and bottles on hand. I’m really glad to be past that stage, to tell you the honest truth.
But if I was leaving the sweater at home, I needed another, more portable project to occupy my hands during downtime. (I know that I can always read, but I can actually now read and knit at the same time, so long as the pattern is simple and I don’t have to hold a physical book open.) So I dug around in my stash for a ball of sock yarn that I bought before Christmas so that I could get started on gifts for next year — or maybe something for myself for a change? Who knows, it’s usually far in advance for me.
I bought the yarn during the Christmas stocking rush and I knew I’d drive myself crazy trying to complete yet another pair of socks in time for the holiday, so I didn’t even try. I’m really liking how it’s coming together now, though. The self-striping pattern is really cute and the yarn itself is actually quite soft (75% superwash wool, 25% polyamide). The yarn is Flotte Socke 4f Christmas by Rellana Garne in color 2401. One way or another, even if I knit the sweater at home and the socks on the go, these Christmas socks should be done in time for the holidays.
If it sounds a bit like I’m trying to justify starting a second project while the first isn’t complete, honestly, that’s exactly what’s happening. I learned a long time ago that if I have too many projects on the go at once, I end up finishing nothing! I try very hard to limit myself to one type of project at a time, i.e. one knitting, one sewing, one costume (except during final con crunch), etc. Working on this pair of socks seems like I’m breaking a rule somehow.
Over time, I hope to try every ramen restaurant in Ottawa. What with ramen becoming more popular, this process has become more difficult, but I think I’ll manage! Recently I had the chance to check out the Sansotei Ramen location at 1537 Merivale Rd.
A few things you should know before I even talk about the food: they’re closed Mondays, they don’t take reservations, and they’re really popular right now due to positive reviews in the paper. The last two factors mean that even if you arrive shortly after opening for dinner, as we did, there’s going to be a wait. The line only gets longer as you progress further in to the dinner hour, with people squashed into the tiny vestibule awaiting their turn, and then a line going out the outer door and down the sidewalk. Although turnover was fairly quick (ramen is generally supposed to be a quick meal), the entrance looked like the above the entire time we were there — although to be fair, it was a Saturday.
Now to the food. I tried the tonkotsu ramen black (i.e. pork bone broth with black garlic oil) with chashu pork, which is one of my favourite dishes. It’s also one of the more complicated ones to make, so I find that it’s a pretty good test of a restaurant. I was very happy with my soup! The broth was rich without being too fatty, and bursting with flavour. The pork was melt-in-your-mouth. The noodles had just the right amount of chewiness. I have to admit that my favourite ramen place in Ottawa is still Koichi Ramen (formerly Ginza Ramen) in Chinatown, but Sansotei is definitely giving them a run for their money. I would definitely recommend this restaurant; it’s well worth the wait in line.
I know I’ve been posting so many pics lately of my “new” vintage pieces that I’m preparing for the upcoming market season, but I’m so hyped! I’ve found so many cool things that I can’t wait to share with you all. For example:
I’ve featured the Daisy pattern (1969-1970) on my blog before, but this is the first time I’ve had a casserole with the clear lid. It was also printed in the same pattern on a white lid during the same run.
The Early American pattern (1962-1971) was also called Early Canadian; the pattern is the same, but it was named differently for the different markets. It came in multiple colourways, and all of featured designs printed in 22-karat gold. Since microwave ovens only started to become affordable for home use in the early 1970’s, and common beginning in the 1980’s, the company wasn’t able to foresee the issues surrounding metal decoration for dishes. Therefore, as with all Pyrex dishes with gold designs, this one isn’t microwave safe — but it is still good for fridge, freezer, and oven.
The Wheat pattern, from 1978, is a little more versatile than its fancier brethren, since the non-metallic screen-printed design is microwave-safe.
Last but not least, I found two versions of the Market Garden print (1971-1982), which remains as colourful and detailed as the day they were printed. These dishes were labelled as JAJ pyrex, which means they were made before 1973, since Pyrex made in England was only labelled as such between 1921 and 1973; after that it would have been labelled Pyrex England, when the company changed hands. I do find that there is quite a stylistic difference between the dishes made by the American and English subsidiaries of the company. Overall, the ones with American or shared designs tend to be plainer and simpler. However, many of the ones released solely in England are much more complicated, often with multiple colours, finer lines, and designs that are closer to photos than line drawings. Which one is better is entirely a matter of personal preference, though; functionally, they all work just as well.
I needed a quick and easy dinner recently, something that didn’t take a lot of prep because it was a busy weeknight and I was already running around like a chicken with my head cut off. So I threw some sticky rice in the instant pot, steamed some spinach in the microwave, and fried up a couple of eggs per person.
I topped the steamed spinach with a sprinkle of furikake (which is one of my favourite easy ways to liven up some dull vegetables, by the way), and it was done! It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was healthy, fast, and cheap. I’d estimate that it was less than $2.00 per serving — and it could have been much cheaper if I’d gone with the less pricey basmati rice instead of sticky rice. Sticky rice is probably the most expensive kind of rice available at the grocery stores around here, although I’m sure there are other, more expensive kinds available in specialty stores.
I needed a new knitting project to work on after completing my socks of many clours and another pair of wrist warmers (which I swear I will post photos of eventually). Neither of these projects made a big dent in the bag full of sock yarn scraps that I was hoping to work my way through, so I thought I’d try a larger project. I decided on a top-down cardigan for Thing 2 based on my favourite how to improvise a top-down sweater tutorial.
It hasn’t been very fast going, since the yarn is a smaller gauge than I usually work with for sweaters. So far I have completed the shoulders and knit down the chest about halfway. But I have worked my way through reasonably-sized balls of leftover yarn, which is encouraging. I’m trying to progress gradually from oranges and earth tones (Thing 2’s favourite colours) into blues and cooler colours further down the sweater. So far, so good! Thing 2 seems very enthusiastic about the project, although at the rate I’m knitting it may not be complete until it’s too warm to wear it. Hopefully she won’t have grown out of this size by next fall.
I just received the email confirming that I’ve been accepted to the 613flea on March 9th — only three Saturdays away. Sadly, this means I’ll be missing the market this coming Saturday, February 23rd, as I have schedule conflicts that day. Even so, I’m really exited, and I have so many “new” items that I can’t wait to show!
A perennial favourite is the Tuperware Pick-A-Deli; it’s so popular that they still make them new (although the colours have changed over the years). I believe that they started making this design as early as the late 1960’s, although I’ve had a hard time finding a firm date on that one. It’s really great for storing pickles in vinegar, fruit in juice or syrup, pickled eggs in brine, carrot or celery sticks in water — just about any solid food that you’d generally store in a liquid, really. The trick is the strainer with the handle, which lets you lift the solids out of the liquids easily without making a mess.
Tupperware pitchers (or, as we called them in our household, juice jugs) are also very popular, and they’ve come in many shapes and sizes over the years. Variations on this look are still available new as well! For people of my generation, there’s something about the older styles that conjures childhood memories of Kool-Aid or frozen juices from concentrate, served in matching tumblers in the summertime.
This last one, now, made me laugh when I found it. I never knew that Tupperware paired up with Blockbuster to make popcorn bowls. I’d guess that this happened sometime in the 90’s, when now-defunct Blockbuster was at its most popular. Apparently this kind of promotion ran more than once, since now that I’ve known what to Google, I discovered that they also came with a “Blockbuster Music” logo. It’s essentially a 26-cup Fix-N-Mix bowl with different branding, which was originally intended to throw your salad fixings inside, add some dressing, and then close the lid to mix it all together. It could still be used for the same, but I have a feeling that the Blockbuster version was marketed to put popcorn in, add butter, salt, and/or other seasonings, and then close and shake to mix. How else were you supposed to use a large plastic mixing bowl to “make it a Blockbuster night”?
I was perusing my cookbooks the other day for a quick meal that wouldn’t require a lengthy trip to a grocery store, and I decided on Ground Beef Stroganoff from The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook (Coco Morante, 2018). It’s very different than the stroganoff that I was taught to make way back when (I learned so long ago that I honest can’t remember), but it was still quite nice. The only alteration was that I made the dish using lactose-free sour cream instead of regular sour cream.
I really liked that this was truly a one-pot meal; the sweating of the onions and garlic, the browning of the meat, and the cooking of the noodles are all done in the Instant Pot. This is the kind of situation where the saute function really shines. And I really liked that the short pressure cooking time was just long enough to get the prep mess cleaned up and the table set. What a great meal for a busy weeknight!
One of the things that I really like about birthdays is that it usually means going out for dinner. When it’s a large group of people like it was for the dual birthdays this past weekend, that usually means a kind of place where everyone can find at least one thing that they like — which often means a buffet or all-you-can-eat kind of place. This year my friends chose 168 Sushi Buffet. We’ve eaten there for a number of other celebrations, and it’s usually pretty good food. I mean, it’s not fancy, no bones about it, but it gives everyone a chance to try a little bit of everything, and I really like that.
As a bonus, this meal gave me the chance to try out the little ring light that I had purchased during my visit to the US in the fall. Restaurant lighting is notoriously bad (it’s generally kept low for “ambience” — and often to conceal a multitude of flaws), and it’s not like you can set up a tripod in the close quarters between tables. One of my friends was nice enough to act as my light stand, though, so I think I captured a few decent pics. Above we have a group order of sashimi.
Rolled sushi (dragon rolls I think).
And seafood udon soup.
Every other dish went by me so quickly and was picked clean so fast that I didn’t have a chance to get pictures! I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t involved in that process or something, but I found it funny.
So, would I recommend this restaurant, and others in this style? Most definitely! Don’t go in expecting something high-end, but you will get your fill of good food. It’s also extremely popular! There was a long line from the time we arrived to the moment we left.
Over the weekend two of my friends celebrated their birthdays together — the same two friends that I baked birthday pies for around this time last year. I asked them if they would like pies as gifts again this year, and they seemed to think that this was a marvelous idea! One of my friends even requested the same type of lemon meringue pie as last year, since it went over so well.
I don’t think the meringue was as fluffy this time, but I was much happier with the level of browning on the top — which I think can be accounted for by the oven, which we replaced in the meantime. I find that while it does have its own challenges (it runs pretty consistently 50 degrees F hot), it provides a much more even heat overall.
Photo by Karen Turnbull.
Sadly, the meringue topping got a little bit mangled in transit, but I’m assured that it still tasted fine! Once again, I used half of a crust recipe from page 73 of The All-New Purity Cook Book (Elizabeth Driver, 2001), the lemon meringue filling from page 687 of the Joy of Cooking (Rombauer & Becker, 2006 edition), and Soft Meringue Topping #1 on page 798 of the Joy of Cooking.
My other friend requested a change-up from last year with a fruit crumble instead of a pie. He really wanted rhubarb, and he was lucky that I still had some left over in the freezer from last summer’s harvest, because it’s well out of season around here. I mixed the rhubarb with some strawberries and green apples for added flavour and texture, and I did add a cup of sugar to the fruit because rhubarb is so very tart. To make this dish I used the Apple or Fruit Crisp recipe on page 392 of the Joy of Cooking. The final product kind of looked a mess, but I find that most crumbles do! I got to taste a bit of this one and I was quite happy with how it turned out as well. It was like a little bit of summer stuck smack dab in the cold and snow of February.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and while we’re not terribly into big romantic gestures in our household, the kids really do love celebrating this holiday at school. Everyone ends up with a little mailbox full of Valentines, and some sweets to bring home, and often parents send in some nice snacks for the kids to munch on throughout the day. So of course I had to get the girls to help me with some baking to bring along to class.
At Thing 1’s insistence, I made a chocolate sheet cake with chocolate icing for her class. Since she loved her Triforce Cake so much, I used the same recipe: Amelia Bedelia’s Sheet Cake, found at the back of the story book Amelia Bedelia Bakes Off (Herman Parish, 2010), or online via Desktop Cookbook. This time, though, I actually made buttercream icing from scratch — my very first time trying it! I used the Joy of Cooking (Rombauer & Becker, 2006 edition) recipe for Chocolate Buttercream found on page 793. Honestly, the icing was more difficult to make than the cake, but it turned out so well! I used really dark chocolate and my munchkin appreciated it. She isn’t actually a big fan of the thick layers of super-sweet icing that are commonly found on commercial cakes, and to be honest, neither am I. I decorated the icing with a dusting of icing sugar over some heart-shaped cookie cutters, and then I removed the cutters to lay down a heart made of Smarties. I know it wasn’t symmetrical, but the kiddos didn’t seem to care.
Thing 2, however, really wanted to make mini banana muffins for her class. I went back to the trusty recipe in the Joy of Cooking and we together we made the Banana Bread Cockaigne on page 628. There’s a lot of teaching that goes along with baking with a child of that age, especially since they haven’t started learning fractions yet! Even so, this recipe is very forgiving (if you read my blog regularly, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a favourite), and it turned out really well. There were only three left over after she shared them with her friends, and those were promptly snatched up by her grandparents. Not that I begrudge them, because if they didn’t eat them, I would.
I hope you all had a lovely Valentine’s Day and were spoiled with some of your own favourite treats!