Cooking, Home, Knitting

back in the swing


With no travel or trips scheduled in the coming weeks, it’s back to the old routine chez Chalson. That’s not to say that I don’t like the old routine; just the opposite – I’m a routine junkie (and a list-making junkie, but we weren’t talking about that…..) Instead, it’s nice to get back to the usual rhythm of things.

The usual rhythm mandates at least one steaming cup of coffee to make the morning more manageable. Or to make me more manageable. Probably both. Either way, dawn is coming later and later these days and sometimes a little extra light is needed first thing.

Waking up

You can’t see it in this picture, obviously, but I’m also wearing my beat-up, fraying, 17-year old (!!!) Navy sweatshirt – a sure sign of cold weather. The first Fall that I had this sweatshirt was the Fall of 1994 and I used to wear it to soccer practice at my new high school. The field was downwind of the school’s incinerator (what? is that weird?) that used to run every afternoon and I can easily recall the smell of fallen leaves and smoke in the chilly, damp air. Funny what you remember, isn’t it?

Aaaanyway, although I’m used to Fall really showing its colors and making its presence felt in early October up in Western New York, here in NYC Fall is slower to arrive. Still, there have been a few hints of color, and in some ways they’ve been brighter than what I saw in Rhinebeck a couple weeks ago!



After a sweltering summer, I’m more than ready to let the cool air linger. Maybe I’ll be the lone penguin who retires to Canada instead of Arizona?

The usual rhythm also includes kitchen activity, especially when there’s time to linger and potter and stir during a quiet weekend. I tend to bake a lot and consider myself a better baker than a cook. So when a recent batch of cupcakes came out of the oven looking like a chocolate explosion had occurred, I was pretty shocked. After chipping a depressing amount of cooked cupcake off the surface of my muffin tins, I was able to dress the cupcakes up enough that in this picture, they look passable! (And as my sister, who rivals my mom as one of the best bakers I’ve ever come across, believes, there’s nothing that some frosting and sprinkles won’t fix.)


These cupcakes are really just a dressed up cake mix recipe that I found in a Country Living Halloween issue a few years ago. Just take a chocolate cake mix and substitute maple syrup for the water and pumpkin pie filling for the oil called for in the mix. What you get is a denser, richer, stickier, spicier chocolate cupcake that is totally delicious and easy….but that also overflows its cupcake papers if you fill the papers 2/3’s full as the directions say. So only fill your papers 1/2 full (note to self for next time….) And the best part? While you’re at the grocery store, buy a graham cracker crust and a can of evaporated milk, and you can make a near-instant pumpkin pie with the leftover pumpkin pie filling! I’m a pumpkin pie junkie too, so this is a foolproof win-win.


To make up for the minor cupcake debacle, I made some homemade soup on the same day. A sweet potato soup flavored with fresh orange juice and ginger – both my mom and I love this recipe, and it’s so filling/healthy/easy/freezable. What’s not to love? We found some fresh olive focaccia at La Boule (my unoriginal nickname for the local French boulangerie) and it was the perfect complement. Luckily, we bought the whole “loaf” so I’ve been eating a serious amount of this all week. Olive oil is good for you….right?

(has anyone else started to notice that those candles/table runner show up in a lot of my photos? apparently, my dining table is my go-to photo studio. i guess Nigella is right – the kitchen really is the heart of the home’s activity….)

Finally, the usual rhythym ALWAYS means knitting. I’ve been tinkering with a few different things lately – a few submissions to publications and another design idea or two that are kicking around in my brain until they want to be written down (seemed to work with Zuni, so I’m trying to follow that same creative process a bit more). I’ve got a fledgling idea for a big lacy scarf, and also a hankering to make another table runner (I love these! Maybe they’re uncool and anachronistic but I love them!)

I’ve also been cranking out a few very simple, very enjoyable knits. I like to always keep some basic projects close at hand or ready to knit whenever the urge strikes – it’s a bit like consuming a palate cleanser between courses – to let my brain relax. Simple projects let me produce some fast finished objects so that I feel renewed to tackle more complex ideas/projects/designs. Simple projects are also the best subway knitting, but that probably goes without saying.


First up are some fitted armwarmers that I dreamt up when I saw this new yarn, Diamante, from S. Charles. This aran-weight wool-blend yarn has a chainette-type construction and metallic nupps, so the bumps you see above are actually sparkly silver bumps. Normally, I don’t go for metallics, but there was something really cool/unusual/cute about this yarn and it’s so much fun to work with. Since the yarn has a nice texture and construction, I just went with simple stockinette and some twisted ribbing. There are tons of great colors to choose from in this new yarn, but I went with an olivey green to match a new winter greatcoat that I got recently. Naturally, when my sister Gab and almost-sister Michelle saw these, they cooed appropriately and I am now making two more pairs. 🙂 Gab’s will also be this olive color, and Michelle’s will be silver, which somehow seems apropos for Michelle – they remind me of Wonder Woman’s bracelets, and Michelle is equally awesome.

Man scarf

It was also past time to make something for Andrew, who generously puts up with my wool-hoarding habits and helps me photograph them too! Prism Yarn out of Florida used to hand-dye this amazing aran-weight 100% cashmere yarn. Sadly, the yarn has been discontinued, but I scored a couple of skeins in the “Smoke” colorway that I knew would look great with Andrew’s winter coat(s). Again, this yarn had enough visual busy-ness going on with its variegation that I just kept the scarf simple with some traditional basketweave and moss stitch. Even better, it’s completely reversible (which somehow, to me, makes it more professional. My brain works in weird ways).

Scarf detail

If there’s enough interest for this man’s scarf (and let’s be honest, there are never enough men’s patterns out there), I could write this pattern up for folks – so let me know! You can just drop me a line on the Contact page above. Andrew put up with my quick iPhone photo shoot to model his new accessory right before he wore it to work this past weekend – a man needs to stay warm even in the office after hours!


Finally, I’m also working on a quick garment project – the Lace Shrug pattern put out by Dream in Color yarns. It’s worked sideways with a fun and easy lace pattern and nice deep ribbed cuffs. I’m using the most squishy, wonderful yarn from Fiberphile Yarns in Vermont in an autumnal brownish-orangish-cordovan colorway. I don’t have any decent pictures of it, so I’ll save the in-progress shots for next time. The pattern is well written, so I’d recommend it thus far.

There you have it – the routine: coffee, cook, knit, repeat. Not a bad gig, eh?

2 thoughts on “back in the swing”

  1. YES…there is a reason why our ancestors landed in the NORTH of Europe…smile!! Autumn is the time for comfort baking, cooking, and knitting and I am so happy that you are enjoying as I do…What an attractive and functional scarf…and NO curling on the edges, thanks to your moss stitch…very pretty!!

  2. I suppose I must agree with Mom, about the frosting and sprinkles. I don’t even care for chocolate cake or frosting, and yet those cupcakes looks yummy! 🙂

    I really do like your scarf, and you can tell Andrew he did very well modeling it, and it looks great on him as well. Your design idea was perfect. Good job!

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