Monday, December 31, 2012


Addendum, December 22, 2013
Since I first posted this nearly one year ago, it has become the most visited blog post, with 119 hits to date. The rate seems to have picked up recently, with the holiday season. I am curious to find out why. So, if you would be so kind as to leave a comment as to how you found this post, why you might have found it, and what you intend to do with the information herein, I would be truly appreciative. Happy Holidays!

Since September of 2009, I have been transcribing several notebooks filled with my dad's handwritten, biographical musings. About a year ago, I was typing up a short section where he reminisced about three traditional Swedish dishes from his childhood.

One of these — gryn— I had heard about. The other two — ost-kaka and greda-kaka — were unfamiliar. Out of curiosity, I contacted my Aunt Jean, the wife of my dad's younger brother Vincent, to see if she might have versions of recipes for making these desserts. She did, and sent them to me.

During my three-week break between fall and winter quarter, I decided I wanted to try to make at least one of these recipes. So today, I finally got around to making ost-kaka, or ostakaka as Aunt Jean entitled her recipe card.

The only ingredient that I had to go out of my way to acquire was rennet. I knew that it is used in cheese-making, and as luck would have it, there is a store that sells supplies for making beer and cheese right just up the street; I pass it every day on my way to and from campus.

In the course of making the recipe, I discovered that it was somewhat cryptic on one particular step. After mixing the rennet into the milk, it said "Let stand and drain off whey." First, how long should I let it stand? A Google search turned up this recipe which said about one hour. (This same recipe also included a specific temperature range for heating the milk. My aunt's recipe merely instructed "Heat the milk to lukewarm.")

All well and good. But then, it wasn't clear how I should go about draining the whey. I could tell that the milk had curdled — it was firmer and less liquid — but I couldn't see that the whey had separated out. It wasn't like gravy where the fat rises to the top and is easily poured off.

I gently stirred the curdled milk to break it up and see if that worked. I was then able to use a large spoon to gradually remove the whey into a separate bowl. My Google search also turned another recipe that suggested using a knife to cut the curds into squares to free up the whey.

Ultimately, I probably let the milk stand for nearly two hours and eventually ladled off more than 3 cups of whey (a significant amount considering I had started with half a gallon of milk).

So, without further ado, here is my revised recipe for Ostakaka.

1/2 gallon whole milk
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. liquid rennet
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream

In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup cold milk with flour; add the rennet. Heat the remaining milk to lukewarm (98–102° F). Mix the warm milk into the milk/flour mixture. Let stand for at least one hour. With a knife, cut the curds into squares; drain or spoon off whey.
Beat together eggs, cream and sugar; mix into milk mixture.
Pour into an 8" x 11" Pyrex baking dish. Bake at 350° for 1-1/2 hours or until knife comes out clean.
Top with lingonberry preserves and serve.

The result is a light, custard-like dish. By itself, it is relatively bland, somewhat sweet. The lingonberry topping definitely adds some flavor, and is slightly tart. Some other fruit preserve could be substituted with good results.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The (Continuing) Saga of the Silk Sock(s)

Before I started composing this post, I reviewed previous posts that had included mention of my endeavor to knit a pair of silk socks. I was surprised to see that I had written about it four times, beginning just over a year ago, followed in quick succession here and here, and then a long gap until a couple of months ago.

Well, I am happy to report that the first sock has been completed to my satisfaction . . .

. . . and I have begun the second sock.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"High-Fiber Diet" and Other Art

A few weeks ago, a couple of friends and I visited the Bellevue Art Museum on December's First Free Friday. In addition to viewing the three current exhibits, we also listened to a talk given by one of the artists, Nikki McClure.

We perused pretty thoroughly two of the exhibits, but because the museum closed at 8:30, we kind of rushed through the third.

In order to take more time with the third exhibit, and also because I thought my husband would like to see all the exhibits, we went down there today.

We started out looking at the bamboo art. One piece barely looked like bamboo. It had been daubed with clay, and then the excess clay wiped away.

Most of the pieces were symmetric . . .

. . . and elegant . . .

. . . but not all.

All the pieces, however, showed a high degree of artistic vision and mastery of the technical challenges of the medium.

The second exhibit featured cut paper artworks by local artist Nikki McClure. As someone who has spent her share of time wielding an X-acto knife, these pieces are amazing in their detail. She must buy blades by the case, because I know from experience that they don't stay really sharp for very long, and these pieces obviously require a blade with a really sharp point.

Some more than others.

The third exhibit, the one I had kind of hurried through, was more of a mixed bag, but there were still some interesting pieces. This one I found very poignant. According to the accompanying plaque, it is a collection of objects found in the artist's father's bedside table after he (the father) died, and the children were cleaning out his apartment.

Rather than simply dispose of them, the artist took them and encased them in tiny white seed beads. Their functionality thus removed, they take on an otherworldly, ghostly appearance.

This piece had the baskets arranged in sort of a line, so that one sort of flowed into the next, in descending order by size. It was more effective than the jumble in the photo. I had thought of taking a picture. Now I wish I had.

 This next piece is woven from paper. The artist cuts the strips using a pasta maker.

 These pieces appealed to me as a quilter.

While I was looking at them, and taking a few photographs, a docent approached me and showed me a smaller piece that used the same motifs and design as in this piece. She showed me the back of the piece, and how the machine stitching was very neat and precise, and nearly as artistic as the front.

Here are some other close-ups.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

'Tis the Season

Some time ago, I made up a number of small foundation-pieced blocks, from patterns from a book called Paper Piece a Merry Christmas. I don't recall what prompted me to make these blocks or what I intended to do with them. But about a week ago, I was rummaging around in my studio and came across them.

Having a fair amount of free time right now, what with being on school break, I pulled out some ribbon and leftover batting, and whipped up about 10 or 12 two-sided Christmas ornaments.


It appears, however, that sometime ago I disposed of the book, quite possibly when we moved in 2009. This is not the first time, nor probably the last, when I will go looking for a book (quilting or otherwise) and discover that it is no longer in my collection.

I looked in the online catalogs of the nearby library systems, to no avail. I did succeed in finding it listed with a couple of library systems a little farther away. One of them is the Kitsap library system, which has a copy at its Bremerton branch. And, wouldn't you know it, I was just in Bremerton two days ago!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Falling Leaves

I designed and made this little quilt several years ago, in a sort of make-it-up-as-you-go-along fashion.

If I recall correctly, I had noticed that I had a variety of autumn-colored leaf-print fabrics in my stash and sewed up several maple-leaf blocks. Then, of course, I had to go get the right background fabric — I tend not to have much in the way of yellow fabrics.

I didn't have a design wall back then, but the quilt is small enough that it didn't matter. I probably just arranged them on a table more or less the way I wanted them, and then proceeded to add appropriately sized yellow strips, trimming as necessary as I went along.

 Before adding the scrappy binding, I marked the top with a simple leaf pattern, connecting the individual leaves with short curved lines to create a "vine-y" look, and hand quilted it with contrasting brown thread.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


We put up our wreath on our front door on December 1. It always goes up early in December; for the last several years, we have purchased it at the Phinney Ridge Winter Festival. We've learned to bring old newspapers to lay it on in the car; the wreath is always sticky with sap.

The Christmas letter is pretty much done. I just need to print out copies.

Monday evening, we put up the tree.

One of the things I like best about December is getting out my Christmas music CDs. I have several, that I have either purchased myself or have been given to me over the years. There are two, however, that I never get tired of listening to — A Celtic Celebration, Volume One and Volume Two, by the Night Heron Consort.

I bought the first one more than 10 years ago, maybe as many as 15, at a little gift shop in downtown Woodinville. I think the shop was called From the Heart; it closed a few years ago. The second volume I ordered directly from Night Heron's web site. You can get them through Amazon now, but that hasn't always been the case.

There's just something about the arrangement of the songs, and the particular instruments, that makes them especially appealing.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Campus Art

I've noticed during previous quarters at school that, toward the end of the term, interesting things may suddenly appear around campus. Often, these are in the vicinity of the Art building, either inside or out.

A couple of weeks ago, this little fellow appeared on the halfway landing of the stairs between the first and second floors.

Then, earlier today, I had occasion to go to the bookstore, where I happened upon this sculpture.

It appears that the 3-D Design class has been busy.

After leaving the bookstore, I was heading back to the Art building. Outside the theater building, I saw this, somewhat disturbing, critter.