Winter Grapes and Making Choices

I just finished a new hand spun yarn.  It makes me think of fat and juicy red, purple and green grapes!

Grapes Hand Spun Yarn

I’m really pleased with it.  It was very difficult for me to decide how to spin it.  I was torn between long color changes (think Noro!), or something more barber pole-y.  Barber pole won, as you see.  I just love the bright contrasts I get with this type of yarn.  It’s a very traditional “hand spun” look.

I spun this on my Ashford Traveller and I really loved working with these colors once I finally made a choice on how to do it.

I have a bit of a problem making choices.  It’s quite difficult for me to choose one thing from a long list of options.  It’s hard for me to let go of all the other possibilities, and that’s what has to happen when I choose one thing.

I used to have a very, very hard time in restaurants with huge menus.  It’s much easier now since I just look at the vegan friendly choices.  And, in Indiana, it’s usually a very limited number of items on any menu – so that makes it much easier for me.

I find I rarely eat out anymore; I used to love to dine out, but it isn’t the same now, I sit there looking at the menu thinking “I can make nicer things much more cheaply (and pretty easily) at home”.  So, I’ve found that we just don’t go out very often now.

However, if I lived in a city with lots of fabulous vegan eateries, I’d be at a restaurant all the time!

So, the grape yarn is in my Etsy shop already.  Go take a look if you want to see a few more pictures of it.  It really is luscious!

Let me know how you like it.

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My Very Favorite Vegan Cookbook of 2012

Someone asked me recently which new cookbook of 2012 I liked best.  I’m afraid I will show my greedy little sweet tooth here, but the winner is 150 Best Vegan Muffin Recipes by Camilla V. Saulsbury.

150 best vegan muffin recipes

I use this cookbook three or four times a week (I have a lot of teenagers who eat endlessly).  The things I like best about it is that almost all the recipes use easily available ingredients and the recipes are very easily customized to your family’s tastes.    I have switched her recommended soy yogurt for coconut when that was all I had, with great results, which makes it very useful when cooking for someone with a soy allergy.

The author includes a tip with almost every recipe and some of them are quite useful, for example, how to choose a good mango, or how to store wheat germ.  She also suggests substitutions that can change things up a little bit.

So far, I’ve only found one stinker – Mashed Potato Muffins – and, to be fair, she states to mash the potatoes with a fork, which I think must mean they should be chunky.  Mine were very very smooth, potato puree really, and the muffins just weren’t anything special.

But, the others I’ve tried are fantastic!

My favorites (in no particular order)

  • Gingerbread Muffins
  • Dark Chocolate Muffins
  • Pumpkin Spice Muffins (I see my copy has a note in it in my handwriting which says  “add walnuts” and another that says “add ginger for pumpkin gingerbread”.  I’ve tried it both of these ways and they were smashing.
  • Chai Latte Muffins (favorite of the teens)
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.  I add a tiny sprinkle of sugar to the top of each of these before baking to get a crunchy top.

Tonight’s menu is potato and kale soup, toasted french bread and to finish, the lemon poppy seed muffins.  Can’t wait!

Holiday Doings!

We did our first little sales event this past weekend!

There was a holiday celebration sponsored by the city of Carmel, IN.  There were carriage rides and lighted trees, beautiful shop windows everywhere, and lots of holiday music.  Many of the area merchants had special events going on and we were invited to set up a sales table on the second floor of The Simply Sweet Shop.

carmel photos 021

They had a cute little gingerbread house right in front.

carmel photos 022

This shop is in a darling old house, and has lots of unusual candy.  There is also a a tiny kitchen where Chef Terry prepares delectable lunches and pastries!  If you are in the area, you must have lunch there.  They have a really great menu, which includes lots of vegetarian choices, even vegan food is easily available.  Yay!

Simply Sweet Shoppe is located right in the arts district in Carmel, I plan to have a nice day out there sometime soon (after New Year’s I think) poking around the shops, and of course, lunching at the candy store!  Vegan panini with a side of tabbouleh?  Yes, please! And maybe a bit of nice dark chocolate to follow.

So, Cheryl arrived first and set up a very beautiful table.  She has a very artistic eye and a talent for making things look pretty!

Sales Table

Most of the day was quite slow, but several pairs of fingerless mitts did find a new home.  We also met several other local artists, and had some knitting time together.  I fear we will not be able to knit together during the holiday weeks, as there is so much going on then, so it was fabulous to have a nice long time to chat and knit.

While we were there something funny did happen.  The owner of the sweet shoppe asked us to hold a couple of things for her, so we took them off the table. But, we did not take them out of the Etsy shop, and that was a mistake because one of those items sold that afternoon!  We had to explain to the very understanding shopper in front of us that the item she wanted to purchase was no longer available.  She was disappointed, but fortunately very understanding!

The other vendors had an array of products.  One of them (Pop Your Tab Jewelry) was making necklaces and earrings from recycled pop tops from cans.  Here’s a sample.

Pop Top Earrings

She had a lot of very creative ideas.  Here are a pair of Peanut Butter and Jelly Earrings!  See the tiny cell phone and the teeny star fish on the other earrings?  Cute ideas.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Earrings

They had some adorable necklaces with word charms – words like ‘love’, ‘peace’, etc.  I believe those sold very well; I saw a lot of her shoppers were younger girls.  I think it’s great kids want to wear ‘love’ and ‘peace’ displayed on their person!

What I liked about these was the recycling ethic displayed.  I love the idea of wearing something that might help me be mindful of my footprint on beautiful Mother Earth.

You can email them at jamiejo.ayers@gmail.com to learn more about their creations.

Amanda Wood, a very experienced event planner, was there too.  She plans weddings and fabulous kid’s birthday parties (among other things).  She has a lot of creative ideas and is offering a “Soda Pop Saturday” party.  Kids get dropped off (parents make a reservation) one Saturday morning a month, stay a couple of hours, receive an old fashioned soda pop in a bottle, do a craft, play games, get a healthy snack.  Parents can do errands or (my choice!) enjoy a nice, peaceful, leisurely breakfast where they can actually talk to each other.  What a novelty.

Here’s her table display.  And here is her facebook page.

Soda Pop Saturday

There was another jewelry vendor – very different products from Stella and Dot.  Here’s a bracelet I liked.  White tigers!

White Tiger Bracelet

Her table was lovely.

Stella and Dot

Unfortunately, I’m unable to find her contact info, but I will make it a mission to find it.

There was a painter named Debbie Slack there.  She does several different kinds of paintings (see more on her facebook page).    I loved the painted glassware!

Mommy Juice

Mommy Juice

Holiday Lights Wine Glass.  Holiday lights are just about my favorite holiday motif.  They are pretty, shiny, colorful, and anyone can appreciate them.

Holiday Lights wine glass

She also had a painted martini glass.  This is such a versatile item, it can be used  for serving fancy desserts or little nuts or candies on a holiday buffet.   I might order one (or more) with holiday lights on it!

Martini Glass

There were several nice teenagers who offered woven scarves to raise funds for an orphanage in Bolivia.

Woven Scarves

Here is info on their fundraising project.

Orphanage Fund Raiser

The world debut of one of my new scarves took place at this event too.  This is an entrelac scarf knit from Noro Silver Thaw.  It’s not in the Etsy shop yet, but will appear there in the next few days.  Lots of visitors had to touch this one!  It’s incredibly soft and cuddly.

Silver Thaw Entrelac

The weather has finally become a bit more seasonal here in Indianapolis.  Today’s high of 39 has already been hit, and we will be falling all day.  The weatherman says there’s a small chance of flurries this afternoon.  Time to dig out the heavy coats and all the hand knits!

Vegan Eating and Another Etsy Shop Update

People ask me all the time “what do vegans eat?”   I was at the dentist for my routine cleaning a couple of days ago and the hygienist was saying how little build up I have, must be that I have “good saliva”.   I asked her if what we eat has any effect on tartar build up.   She said she thought it probably does.

So, I mentioned I eat a vegan diet, and of course, her first question was “what do you eat???” in a shocked voice.  I laughed and said “plants”.  She then asked routine question number 2 “where do you get your protein??”.  I replied “seeds, nuts, tofu, and vegetables”.  Thinking back I should have added “the cows eat only grass (unless they are force fed corn), they seem to get plenty of protein”.  But, it’s a good policy not to be too snarky to the person probing your gums with a sharp instrument.

She couldn’t fathom what kind of meals I eat, and I’ve heard that a lot before, so here’s this week’s dinner menu.

Monday – Taco Salad and quesadilla made with vegan cheese (Daiya is my favorite vegan cheese, kudos to my Kroger for carrying it!)

Tuesday – Pasta with jarred sauce and roasted vegetables

Wednesday – Sauteed Tofu in bottled teriyaki sauce with rice, green beans and a raw vegetable salad

Thursday – Vegetable Soup (homemade in my pressure cooker) and a bought italian round bread from La Brea Bakery

Friday (today) – Couscous and curried vegetables, I will probably sprinkle some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) on mine

Saturday – Veggie plates (like Cracker Barrel, only vegan)  Baked potatoes, salad or maybe cole slaw, carrots, and probably green beans (we love them a lot!), maybe corn.  It’s possible I’ll get ambitious and make some french bread or something similar.

Sunday – Potato and cauliflower curry (with peas), basmati rice, probably with a raw vegetable salad.

All meals here are served with seasonal fresh fruit (right now sliced peaches or nectarines, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, quartered oranges, etc.)

Doesn’t sound too spartan, does it?  Kids seem to like it, and we are all pretty healthy (my cholesterol is awesome!).  My 17 year old daughter was texting me from school (study hall) on Tuesday – here is her text verbatim  –  “tofu tofu tofu 🙂 can we have tofu tonite pls pls pls”  I was laughing pretty hard, never thought I’d have teenagers begging for tofu!

I try to keep meals pretty simple for the most part.  Vegan cooking is just like SAD (Standard American Diet) cooking; it can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.

We had another big update in our Etsy shop this week with lots of gorgeous new knitted accessories.  I’d love to hear feedback on our photos and products.  Suggestions on what you’d like to see in the shop are also welcome.

Here’s a great crimson ruffled silk scarf.

This is an unusual wrap/scarf that Cheryl knit (these are all hers, actually).  She has a fabulous eye for patterns, she will knit something I think is nothing special and it always turns out wonderfully.  She gives me lots of coaching on pattern selection (thank goodness).  This is Noro yarn in beautiful jewel tones.  The wrap is knit in wedge sections that make it curve around the body.


The red hot chunky cowl.

And, it’s partner, the watercolor version.

The pink variegated scrunchy cowl

The mohair rainbow cowl

The pinky-peachy hand dyed cotton ruffled scarf

The neutral wool/silk/angora cowl (maybe my favorite of this batch, it reminds me of the winter woods).  This is Noro yarn.

And, to finish – the Pink Roses Cowl.

I’d love to hear which is your favorite!