Saturday, February 26, 2011

Basque Country

Last year, I was complaining that I wasn't taking full advantage of living in Europe to travel. Well, this year I guess I'm making up for it. We went to Lisbon for New Year's, and a couple of weeks ago, we took a long weekend and went to Bilbao and Donostia/San Sebastian for my birthday.

Guys, it was awesome. Two weeks later, The Limey and I keep are still remarking on what a great time we had and how perfect a break it was. We stayed in Bilbao and took a day trip to Donostia/San Sebastian. (Could also have done it the other way around, easily.) It's one of the places I've wanted to visit for ages, but I don't know why. (I once worked with a Basque guy, briefly; maybe that was it?)

I had a vague idea of seeing the Guggenheim, maybe learning a bit of the Basques, and, of course, doing what I most love to do: eat. And boy, did they deliver in this last category.

Pintxos, people, pintxos: a more elaborate, "foodier", pricier kind of tapas. If I could eat like that all the time, I would. All the bar counters, in pretty much all the bars, held plates and plates of little snack-sized finger foods. There were your standard tortillas and little crusty rolls with jamon iberico, but also beautifully cooked pieces of shrimp, mountains of teeny eels on beds of tuna, slices of grilled peppers or aubergine with or without lumps of soft cheese, translucent slices of bacalao with quail's egg, squid swimming in spicy olive oil. All served on or with bread (to make some of it easier to hold? or as a nod towards its tapas roots?), although for some pintxos, the bread seemed superfluous:I had a little bowl of two or three bites of squid ink risotto and one lovely mussel- the slice of baguette stuck into it seemed pretty pointless. Eventually, I stopped eating most of the bread 'cause I figured it was just cutting into my stomach capacity.

In Donostia/San Sebastian, they were a little more fancy about their pintxos than Bilbao and many bars offered a short pintxos calientes menu, so that certain dishes could be cooked to order. In this way, I had the most perfectly cooked scallop ever, some lovely octopus, and a piece of liver that was just...divine. It was seared on the outside and just warm on the inside and was so soft it was basically pate without the bother of having to be processed.

The great thing, for me, is that they serve drinks in smaller measures than over here, so I didn't feel like I was drunk by the time we got to the third or fourth bar.

I'd consider that I've found my gastronomic home, except for the sad lack of noodles. Honestly, The Limey and I just wandered around either eating, or waiting until we could eat. I guess in between we did manage a little bit of sightseeing.

If you get the chance to see this bit of Europe, go! The Limey and I would happily jump on a plane over there right now, but due to everyone and their relatives thinking this is the year to get married, all my holidays for the rest of the year are spoken for. On the plus side, at least some of those weddings will mean we get to travel and see places we haven't yet.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Tarted-up Camber

A while back, I had a round of meetings requiring lots of flying. And to a knitter such as me (i.e., easily distracted), being on an airplane = uninterrupted knitting time. Still, a very small voice warned that maybe a cardigan in cobweb-weight yarn knit at 8sts/in on 2.5mm needles might not have been the best choice. But that small voice was completely drowned out by the louder, more excited one yelling, And you know what'd be even better?! BEADS!

Tarted-up Camber
Yarn: Cashmere/viscose blend in Champagne from Colourmart, 150g cone, with plenty left over
Needles: 2.5mm Addi turbos
Pattern: Jessamyn Leib's Camber Cardigan

Notes: Well, where do I start? This was my first top-down knit and I knit it pretty much as written except for two major changes and a some minor ones.

The first major change: crazy decision to do this in thread-like yarn instead of the more sensible fingering weight it called for. But I really wanted to use this yarn. I worked backwards with my gauge to figure out what size I should knit that would make the cardi come out to my measurements. This worked fine- the only problem this created was that the neckline isn't wide enough to go around my neck. Not really a problem for me, as I don't ever intend to wear it buttoned all the way up.

I've only put in closures up to about boob height, because I never button cardis all the way up, anyway.

Second: Uhh...I added beads, because what's more fun than wrestling with a bunch of teeny beads on a bumpy flight? Nothing!

I had some bronze-ish beads I wanted to use. To make things easier on myself, they were too small for crochet hooks, and I didn't thread them on first because I had no idea when I started knitting where I'd want to put the beads or how many I'd need. So I did a weird maneuvre with the bead and a needle threader. Fiddly, but effective.

The minor changes were things like hemmed edges rather than rolling, bracelet-length sleeves rather than elbow length, and hook-and-eye closure rather than i-cord buttonholes.

I sewed the hooks and eyes to pieces of beautiful velvet ribbon (bought at Loop) and then very carefully sewed the ribbon to the inside of the fronts- I was really afraid the sewing would pull the fine yarn and you'd be able to see it. Happily, this didn't happen, but the fear of it kept me from finishing it. I'd actually finished the knitting months ago, but only now managed to put in the closures.

The pattern is easy to follow. (Too easy! Jesh made it so you can calculate your numbers for your size and gauge, which made working backwards with my particular gauge to get the numbers required a bit more work.) The design itself is beautifully simple. I've always loved those great vintage heavily sequinned and beaded cardigans but knew I can't really carry them off in my life. I satisfied my need for bling with the beads and the lace yoke provides more interest without going into over-the-top mode.

The result is gorgeous; I love it. However, never again a full garment at this gauge!