Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Free Pattern - Summer Bracelet Bag

This handy-dandy little bag is perfect for going out on a hot summer evening when you don't want to lug a big purse around or carry your beloved Felted Bracelet Bag. It's also a nice gift, and takes 2-3 hours from start to finish.

Summer Bracelet Bag

Yarn: Knitpicks CotLin (less than one ball; possibly two bags could be made from one ball)
Needles: Size 3 circulars or straights
Notions: tapestry needle, two thin bangle bracelets

Half linen stitch

Row 1: sl1, *sl1 wyif, K1
Row 2: sl1, Purl to end
Row 3: sl1, k1, *sl1 wyif, K1*, end K1
Row 4: sl1, Purl to end

Cast on 29 stitches. Work half-linen stitch for 3 1/2 inches, or until desired length, ending with a wrong-side row.

Decrease rows: sl1, ssk, ssk, work in pattern until the last five stitches, end k2tog, k2tog, k1. Work wrong side as usual. Repeat these two rows until 7 stitches are left.

Final decrease and bracelet tab:

(wrong side) sl1 p2tog, p1, p2tog, p1
Work 4 rows in stockinette.
Bind off these stitches.

Make two. Seam bottoms of pieces together. Seam sides up to the beginning of decreases to leave an opening at the top. Place bracelet against each tab and sew securely.

The Holiday Craziness begins!

I'm not doing much gift knitting this year. A few small things, really. But a friend and I decided to trade crafts this winter. So I made a bunch of bracelet bags, and I got a supply of handpainted gourd Santas, snowmen, and ornaments. This idea came about when she saw my little black bracelet bag that I use for going out when my big giant purse isn't needed. But several of her gift recipients live in Florida, where a heavy felted bag isn't exactly the thing, so I came up with a pattern using smaller needles, cotton/linen yarn in a nice stitch pattern, and thin bangles. I made them the exact size to hold an iPhone, your ID and money, and maybe a key.

Here is the full array:

And the felted bags:

And the not-felted bags:

I was really pleased all around. The bracelets came primarily from eBay, an awesome source for mismatched/vintage bangle bracelets. The thin bangles for the cotton/linen bags came from

Felted Bracelet Bags Details:
Pattern: From Crazy Aunt Purl
Needles: Size 13
Yarn: Mostly Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky leftovers (the pink is Worsted, held doubled) with KFI Dazzle (sadly discontinued)
Notes: These work up in maybe two hours. Less, probably. Lamb's Pride goes crazy furry when it's felted, so I trimmed the excess with sharp scissors. The bracelets are from eBay, and I like the fun, mismatched look. I love this pattern, and the bags are fun and unique. I really love Laurie's patterns, which she calls recipes. This would be an easy felting project for a beginner because she spells out every step (with pictures!) and makes everything very clear.

Cotton/Linen Bags Details:
Pattern: My own. I used the idea of a bag on bracelets from the felted version, but changed the stitch pattern, gauge, direction of knitting, etc. It is right here!
Needles: Size 4
Yarn: Knitpicks CotLin (I think I could get two bags out of each ball, but it could be close.
Notes: I was really happy with how this turned out. It's a lighter version of the felted bag, nice for summer. I think this would be a really fun gift for the girls on your list. Each took about 2-3 hours.

Other knitting: I have some little things to finish before Christmas. Hjalte is clicking along on the front, which surprises me. It seems to be going faster than the back.

Reading: I just started Room With A Clue by Kate Kingsbury, the first in her Pennyfoot Hotel series, and it's a blast. Very Upstairs/Downstairs or Gosford Park.

Writing: Hmph.

Cooking: Lots of fall cooking, and lots of Lilah Bug Bakes products. I have apple butter, Pears in Bittersweet Chocolate, and Pears in Pinot Noir available.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Geez, is it November?

It must be, because we've already had Halloween:
And it's getting chilly enough for Lilah's hat and mittens (which she loves):

And I am still knitting scarves:

And my word, I have finished the back of Hjalte!

Lilah went as a black cat for Halloween, and I decided to make her a Kittyville Hat to top off her costume. How fun! I don't think it took me more than 2-3 hours. I cast on 76 stitches instead of 84, then decreased 4 on the first stockinette round to have a multiple of 12. I tried it on her as I decreased, so I didn't do as many rows for her smaller head. I definitely didn't do 4 plain rows between each decrease row. Anyway, a fun little pattern, and very cute. I don't do pompoms, though. Or bobbles, for that matter.

My Lace Ribbon Scarf is getting longer and longer. This is my purse knitting, and gets worked on mainly in the car or at the playground while Lilah runs out toddler energy. And I am so relieved to have seen the back of the back of Hjalte (hee!). But now I have to do almost the same thing again so there's a front. Argh. This is the neverending sweater.

Reading: I have been in a Harry Potter re-reading slump. In fact, I've done a lot of re-reading this year. I think in 2008, I read over 200 books, and I'm barely over 100 for 2009. I am starting the Enola Holmes mysteries (a juvenile series featuring the sister of Sherlock), and then I'll shift into literary fiction.

Writing: Argh.

Cooking: Oh, my, yes. Lots of improvisational pasta. Batches and batches of apple butter, which you can purchase at Lilah Bug Bakes. I've made a spent grain bread from fermented apple starter, and lots of butternut squash stuff. And sweet potatoes. And I've conquered my fear of kale. If I remember the specific things I meant to post about, I'll do it next week :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

So it's really autumn now...

It's a rainy, rainy day, so pictures today are not great. Still, I finished something! And it hasn't been a month since I last posted, a bonus!

Pattern: Love Bites Scarf from Gherkin's Bucket
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock in Archangel (one skein)
Needles: Size 5

Notes: This pattern is fun and easy. I sometimes forgot it was time for a fang mark row, so they're not as evenly spaced as they could be. Whatever. My chosen yarn doesn't really fit the vampire theme, colorwise, but who cares. I love the yarn, which is soft and squooshy and subtly shifts from one gorgeous autumn-ish color to the next. The indoor photos really don't do it justice. I really like this scarf, and it'll get a lot of wear. It came off the needles in a tube, but a quick steam-ironing* flattened it nicely.

*I bought the ironing board in summer 2007 when we moved here...and just took it out of the shrink wrap today to block the scarf. Stuff like this is why I don't put "housewife" as my occupation when I fill out forms. I'm pretty sure real housewives iron. I usually put "woman of mystery."

Other knitting: I started a Lace Ribbon Scarf in Misti Alpaca. I'm making it a bit narrower, eliminating two lace repeats.

Hjalte is still going...slowly...

Reading: Mostly Harry Potter re-reading. I did read part of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for book club. I'm not as into it as I expected. I love quirk, but odd things bugged me. Like, I was fine with Lizzy and her sisters being trained in zombie combat. But at other bits, I would get mad and say "Lizzy would never say that to Mr. Collins! It's just too rude!"

Writing: Not really.

Cooking: Oh, yes! First, last weekend was Lakefest, and I sold jam there. A lot of jam. Over 70 jars. I still have some stock, but a lot of my flavors are completely sold out. I rescued a jar each of my favorites for personal consumption. The best part for me was when the flavors I had out for sampling would sell quickly. Talk about validating. It's also fun to watch people's reactions when they try them. One woman said, "That's so good it'll make you want to slap your grandma!" How much fun is that? I still have apple butter and pear sauces to make this fall - I think apple picking might happen this week.

I made a nice on-the-fly pasta with fennel, onions, eggplant, yellow squash, and crushed tomatoes. I used lemon zest, crushed red pepper, and thyme from the garden to season. I think the squash was unnecessary, but the fennel/eggplant combination with those seasonings was really bright and fresh, but with depth.

I tackled the Dobos Torta from my Kaffeehaus cookbook and really enjoyed it. It involves making six thin layers of cake by spreading batter on parchment paper in circles, buttercream spread between the layers, and a caramel layer on top. It was a bit humid for caramel, but it worked out all right. I brought it to book club, planning to bring half back home to feed my in-laws, but the hostess's dog ate the other half. Since it took four hours to make, that was sort of tragic. I don't think of myself as good at the fiddly, cosmetic parts of pastry chef-ing, but I thought this looked pretty nice:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

And now it's autumn!

Let the sweater panic begin! Will Hjalte be ready for cold weather? Will I fix my Simple Knitted Bodice in time? Do I have a prayer of casting on for Twist and Shout, much less finishing?

I *did* go shopping for layering shirts, and found a camisole to go under Simple Knitted Bodice and a couple of thin, long-sleeved t-shirts to go under short-sleeved things. Amy, I have to say, I am SO glad I'm not the only one who waits for the trends established by the fourteen-year-olds to be widespread before jumping on board. I'm going with grey underneath the Somewhat Cowl. And I really think the white tank is fine under Marie Louise. BUT. I did some blocking of sweaters, and I blocked the HELL out of Simple Knitted Bodice (I counted it as 20 minutes of cardio, seriously), but it is still too short and too snug across the bust. Here's what I'm thinking, though. Instead of ripping out and starting over (which I considered, actually), I'm thinking I could salvage the sleeves up to the armpits and put them on a holder AND maybe even save the below-the-bust part of the body. To make this wearable for me, I need more length below the waist detail AND more length above the waist detail. So I'm almost thinking I can remove the sleeves and set them aside, then rip out to just above the waist detail and set the bottom part aside. Then re-knit the top part and put the sleeves and body back on, rip out the very bottom edge and knit it longer. Does that sound insane? I really, really like this yarn and this sweater; otherwise, I would never consider re-knitting any part of it. It'd just go in the closet with the other sweaters I don't like. I'm not sure if it would be better to just start's not like it's a tough knit, and it went pretty quickly the first time. It's just that I have Hjalte and Twist and Shout and I'm not sure I want to add an entire sweater plus ripping-out time to the mix. If I do the rip-out-in-pieces strategy, I will do photodocumentation!

I keep going on the Malabrigo scarf, which I love. Perfect purse knitting. And Hjalte is ALMOST to the armholes. Did I say that last time? This sweater may be the death of me...

Reading; I have to stop re-reading HP and get to some other stuff. I have Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for book club, two books coming out this winter to review, and a backlog of review copies. Plus the new 39 Clues and the latest Bobbie Faye :) I am on Book 4 right now, and every time I read it, I can tell more that Rowling was tired and on a tight deadline. The main plot twist drives me NUTS and it's so long and rambling and the subplots are out of control. It's still a Harry Potter book, so it's fun, but it's my least favorite of the series.

Writing: Not much at all, really. Matt was out of town, and being the only parent is tiring.

Cooking: Ah, Amy, Romesco Sauce! Yum. This is a Spanish sauce based on stale bread, almonds, and roasted red peppers traditionally served in the Catalonian region in the spring with charred baby leeks (yeah, I know weird stuff). It is delicious. I really ate some with a spoon one day. It was nice with polenta wedges. Camping food was pretty funny - most people think S'mores and hot dogs on sticks, but we're a gourmet book club, so even camping we had fancy stuff. The group in charge of making dinner made carrot soup (yummmmmm...) and to-order grilled cheese (choice of three breads; choice of three cheeses). My book club pretty much rocks.

Romesco Sauce (Allison's probably-not-traditional interpretation)

6 Roma tomatoes, peeled and seeded*
4 red bell peppers, roasted**
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 cup blanched almonds
4 oz. white, French, or sourdough bread (I used my leftover sourdough), sliced and toasted
1/4 tsp smoked Paprika
1/8 tsp (or more) crushed red pepper
1 tsp salt
2 TBL sherry vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil (or more)

Place garlic, almonds, and bread in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add peppers, tomatoes, and spices. With motor running, drizzle in oil and vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings.

* To easily peel tomatoes, make an X at the bottom of each, then drop into boiling water for 30 seconds. Plunge into ice water. Skins will slip right off.

**You can do this under the broiler or over a grill or gas range. Place peppers under broiler or over flame until blackened, turn 1/4 turn and repeat until skin is completely charred. Let sit at least 15 minutes. Very, very carefully (pepper has steam inside), peel off skin and remove stem, seeds, and membranes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Looking Back: Sweaters I Have Loved

I have a history of making really bad yarn choices. And bad pattern/body type compatibility choices. Often both on the same sweater. Knitting was my first craft; I never did sewing or anything that would give me a foundation in garment construction. Since I adore my Gathered Pullover, which is also the most recent sweater I've made myself, I'm hoping I've learned from my mistakes. But for that theory to work, one has to ignore my attempt to merge Tussie Mussie with Rowanspun 4-Ply and convince myself the gauge was okay and then and tweak the pattern to remove most of the interesting features. I'm okay with that, actually - I cast on before I was active on Ravelry, and now I check Ravelry for pattern/yarn compatibility AND modifications (the only reason I love Gathered Pullover, which I would have hated without the mods). And I'm definitely more of a process knitter, so it's not a great tragedy to me when I don't like the result. Whatever, I had fun knitting it. However...I've knit myself ELEVEN sweaters. And only one gets a lot of wear. This is on my mind, because in the fall, I start to take cold-weather clothes down from the closet, so I have a stack of sweaters I don't wear. Poor, sad, unloved sweaters. Instead of being hard on myself for making mistakes, I thought I'd go through my sweaters and think about the positives: what I liked about them and what I learned.

Pin-Up Queen: This is actually a pretty nice sweater. It's from the Stich 'N' Bitch pattern, but I modified the sleeves to be a long stockinette bell sleeve (which I quite like). I used Cascade 220, which is a nice strong yarn that still has softness. It's a blue-green color that I like a lot. It predates blogging, so I don't have a picture. I really need a camisole to go under it, though, so I don't wear it much. The layering thing is something I really haven't mastered. I'm sort of a one-shirt-at-a-time girl, but I'm trying to embrace the versatility of layering. Hey, maybe I should go shopping...

Belle Epoque: The yarn (RYC Lux) was nice to work with, and the pattern was interesting to knit. However, an empire waist is not the best look for me, and I didn't like the elastic band method of forming one anyway. So it's more or less a comfy sack-shaped garment. Again, not the best look for me. If a pattern shows up that would be perfect for the yarn, I will definitely frog it and turn it into something wearable.

Tubey: This was a process knit. Everyone on was all excited about the creative structure, and I was, too. And it was interesting to knit. But I should know better than to knit something tube-shaped (I am NOT tube-shaped) and the design means an uncomfortably high neckline in the back.

Tempting II: This one I'm blaming on design. Sure, it's quick and easy, but an off-the-shoulder sweater pretending it's not one by using a buckle at the neckline...meh. I also lengthened the cap sleeves a bit, and I don't like the look of the longer sleeves. I do wear it sometimes, because hey, it's Rowan Calmer, which is always nice. This is the knit that made me start scrutinizing patterns more, and not just assume designers are right all the time.

Picovoli: This was fun because of the picot edging. I also added short rows, which was a great experience. I will NEVER wear this tank top, though. I followed directions exactly, which makes for a too-short, too-high-necked tank with no give (I used Knitpicks Shine, which I won't use again for sweaters...nice yarn, no stretch).

Marie Louise's Lace Sweater: I love this sweater. I haven't actually worn it in public, though, because it's quite open and I hadn't found a tank to go under it. I have a white one I think works (see above re: layering issues), though, so when it's cooler, I think I will start wearing it.

Somewhat Cowl: I like this one. Good yarn, good pattern. I ended up with a bit of a ladder at the center, though. But I realized...I don't think I've done actual blocking on this sweater! So I'm doing that today. I'm also on the fence about the short sleeves. It makes it not that practical. People who know about layering stuff: can I wear a long sleeved t-shirt under this?

T-Twist: This one is SO not my fault. The design incorporates center decreases that make a poof that looks like a third breast. It WAS fun to knit, though. Frogged.

Hourglass: Despite its name, this one is pretty sack-shaped. It was a fun knit, though, and I learned to do a sewn-edge hem, which I love. I also learned that Jo Sharp is some scratchy wool.

Simple Knitted Bodice: This was really fun to knit. I love the shaping method. Next time, I'll pay attention to the cup size of the model before casting on, though. And remember that I have a long torso and should just automatically lengthen every pattern. Another sweater I haven't actually attempted to block, though, so I'm doing that today!

Gathered Pullover: And my favorite, the Gathered Pullover. Thanks to Ravelry, I thought through the pattern and modifications that would make it a sweater I want to wear.

Ha, Holly, the Twist and Shout model totally looks like a mannequin :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Trying something new

So I was thinking that I miss blogging on a regular basis, but I also feel like I should only blog if I have something interesting to say. I don't know whether that's true or not today, but I'll give it a whirl.

One of our summer trips was to Wisconsin, where one of Matt's high school friends was getting married. This was a bit high school reunion-ish (in a good way) - we got to see friends we hadn't seen in ages, and their children. My friend/co-book-blogger Holly and I actually got to hang out in person for the first time in years. I notice that I avoid putting pictures of myself up here, so I'll suck it up and post this one:

Holly also happens to be an excellent photographer. She has a business, Lily Bella Photography. Since we haven't had Lilah's photos taken in a long time, and I have been in awe of Holly's pictures for quite some time now, we arranged for Holly to try to get some photos while our families met up at the zoo. Lilah was thoroughly uncooperative at first (she's shy for a bit around new people), but Holly managed to completely capture her personality.

Lilah twirls all the time. She often asks to wear a dress "so I can twirl!" I was tickled to have a great photo of her twirling.

And since I already put up one picture of myself, here is one Holly snapped of Lilah and me:

Knitting: I'm making slow progress on Hjalte. Very slow progress. I really like it, but yikes. As Buffy would say, it is a job of work. I enjoy cabling, though. It's really addictive. I'm really dying to start Twist and Shout. Incidentally, I am making it in a Forest Green Cascade 220. Any comment on that would be appreciated. I tend to make sweaters for myself that are disastrous. My Gathered Pullover is the most-worn sweater I've made for myself.

Reading: Yes, I'm still re-reading Harry Potter. I just can't help myself. My book club has had talk of a Harry Potter Addict Support Group offshoot, but I don't think any of us is that committed to kicking the habit...

Writing: Not much. I have childcare for Thursday, so I may try to make some headway on the murder mystery.

Cooking: Oh, I was assigned to appetizers for my book club camping trip, so I came up with polenta wedges with romesco sauce and hummus with fire-toasted pita. The romesco was really yummy, and I've had it leftover in pita with grilled zucchini...nice.

Will I blog tomorrow? Who knows. Lack of photography skill is part of my slow blogging since text-heavy posts are not usually that interesting. And I don't see that changing. Still, it's nice to not have to remember a month's worth of reading, writing, cooking, and knitting to cram in one post...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back from hiatus

I never intend to take a blog just happens. The summer was just not about knitting, and it's been very busy. Believe it or not, I started this post two weeks ago and still haven't finished it. So...what's going on around here?

There's some knitting:

That's the Love Bites Scarf, and it's a fun knit. The yarn is Malabrigo Sock (mmmmmmm...) in Archangel.

I've also been inching along on Hjalte, which I'd taken a break from during the summer. Nothing is less refreshing than knitting a wool/silk cabled sweater when it's 90 degrees and humid!

And the ill-fated Tussie Mussie...I'm half through the second sleeve, but motivation is quite low, as it's clearly too small for me and it's BORING. So I'm going to start my Twist and Shout instead, but maybe after the back of Hjalte is finished.

There's some reading, but I'll send you to On My Bookshelf for reviews. This is actually a pretty good time to visit the book blog. It's Book Blogger Appreciation Week, so we have giveaways and fun stuff all week. I'm rereading Harry Potter right now, but I read a couple of excellent literary novels, A Year of Cats and Dogs by Margaret Hawkins and Seducing the Spirits by Louise Young. I talked my book club into reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for our October meeting, so I'm waiting for that to arrive.

There's...not much writing. Noodling around with poetry. And this fragment of something popped into my head and cracked me up. I always refer to Autumn (the season) as "she" and someone was utterly perplexed by that. This is my response: "Well, of course Autumn is a woman. All that aging gracefully, exchanging the frivolous colors of summer for more muted tones, sweeping in with a soft rustle of falling leaves. If Autumn were a man, he’d come screaming up in a bright yellow convertible wearing a hairpiece and a twenty-two-year-old bimbo."

There's been so much cooking, I don't know where to start. I have a cache of over 100 jars of jams and sauces as my stock for our Lakefest celebration the first weekend in October, so I hope I can sell much of that. I have a website, Lilah Bug Bakes that will soon be updated with current stock supplies. I have a number of recipes I should post, assuming I can remember how I made things... I have to do another test of Kahlua Brownie Cheesecake, which was quite a hit, but needs some adjustment. I also need to figure out in tablespoons how much Kahlua is in three glugs :) Maybe I'll post more than once every couple of months so I can get recipes up here...

Friday, July 03, 2009

Ah, Summer!

Autumn is, hands down, my favorite season. I grew up in a part of California that lacked real, distinct seasons. We had the fog in winter, when temperatures dipped dangerously low (read: high in the 50s), and the blazing heat of summer (August was often entirely in the triple-digits...but it's a dry heat!), but not the classic divisions between the two. I never smelled the earthy, burnt-leaves aroma of real autumn until I left for college in Atlanta. In high school, I would write poems about an autumn I'd never known in person, and once I lived in a place with seasons, I was in love. That said, I adore summer. The summer of my childhood was bare feet, reaching from the cool refuge of the pool to pick grapes off the vines, walking with a friend to the Thrifty for a double scoop of ice cream, going to the lovely, air-conditioned library to get the weeks' giant stack of books, and the annual pilgrimage to the central coast, which was frigid compared to the central valley. Good times. Of course, through the dim haze of nostalgia, I do recall some pretty loud arguments about the thermostat (my dad denies this now, but in the summer, it was set to 84, which is HOT...and explains all the time spent in the pool), sunburns, and whining about boredom, but let's ignore all that. Summer is magical, and it's fun to watch Lilah enjoying it. If I so much as mention the beach, she takes off her clothes, runs upstairs, and starts looking for her swimming suit. We find sand all over the house, even if it's been a while since the last beach outing. We have squash and tomatoes to harvest. I can step just outside the house and pick enough basil for impromptu pesto. We can swing on the porch and read books, and we finally got a grill so we can cook outside. It is nice, let me tell you.

All that rambling was to distract you from a dearth of blog posts mainly attributable to a total lack of knitting progress. Hjalte is creeping along, but it's hard to knit a big cabled sweater in the summer. I'm actually further along on Tussie Mussie - I've finished the body up to the armholes, and I'm partway through the first sleeve. I finally found my size 5 dpns so I can do the part of the sleeve that's in the round. But really, it just not all about knitting right now. I did teach another friend to knit, and she's doing great and really enjoying it.

Writing: Still in the noodling phase. It's lovely to be writing again, but Lilah's sleeping has shifted a bit again, making it hard for me to get anything done early in the morning. Maybe after our trip, I can get into a routine.

Reading: I've been re-reading, as happens in the summer. I read Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, which is one of my absolute favorite things to read. I also read Twilight. Yes, I believe if you look back, you can find somewhere I wrote that I was NOT going to get sucked into Twilight. There may have been a solemn vow. But I could not put that book down. I thought the ending was sort of lame, like Meyer decided when the book was almost over, "Hey, I should probably make something happen!" But I still ordered the other books in the series. Now I'm reading The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who wrote The Shadow of the Wind, which I loved. This book is beautiful and gripping and a fantastic read. It's one of those books where the translation is so amazing, I wish I could read the original. Check this out: "All I took from the pension was a change of clothes and the case containing my father's gun, his only memento. I distributed the remainder of my clothes and personal belongings among the pension residents. Had I also been able to leave behind my memories, even my skin, I would have done so." Or this: "When the first breath of dawn touched the windows I opened my eyes and found the bed empty. I went out into the corridor and as far as the gallery...I went through the whole house, which already smelled of her absence, and one by one blew out the candles I had lit the night before."

Cooking: Oh, wow, I have to blog more frequently just to keep up with the cooking news. Let's see, we went to pick blueberries and I made Agave-Sweetened Blueberry Ginger Jam and Blueberry Pinot Sauce (insanely good). With wild blackberries, I made Blackberry-Sage and Blackberry-Zinfandel (yum). We've been grilling, and pizza and artichokes are my favorites. I threw together a pesto pasta salad that was really good. Just roasted asparagus, roasted peppers, halved grape tomatoes, and pasta tossed in pesto sauce (basil, pine nuts, parmagiano-reggiano, salt, pepper, and lots of olive oil). When I make pesto, I usually just chuck some stuff in I think that's actually about it. Oh, I did make cupcakes for a birthday party. I used Martha Stewart recipes and baked them in ice cream cones, like my mom used to when I was a kid. Then a more artistic person than I turned them into microphones using black icing and licorice cords (I frosted with pink buttercream and then turned them over).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Almost Midsummer Already?

It's been a while, since late spring a couple of weeks ago, and now it's summer. Something ate one of the two teeny eggplants in the garden, and the zucchini are still in flower, with a few tiny squash turning up. A few tiny green tomatoes are emerging. The knitting has been on two sweaters, so not much progress to report. I'm really enjoying Hjalte now, and I don't feel like each row takes half an hour now that I've gotten used to it. It's still a BIG project, though. And it looks like my boring version of Tussie Mussie is really going to make the jump from swatch to sweater, since I'm at the increases past the waist. I will have to shop for a fun closure to make it a more interesting piece, but a light sweater will be useful here. Hjalte is my complicated knitting and Tussie is my mindless knitting (I actually knit in the dark at outdoor-with-a-fire book club, until someone said something funny that made me drop a stitch), so I'm not starting anything until those are finished. Well, we'll see. I have quite the queue on Ravelry, almost all involving stash yarn (except Fifi, which Amy enticed me with), so I won't be bored.

Reading: I'm re-reading Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, one of my all-time favorite reads. I've been really moving through books for the book blog, and it's amazing I've gone this long without re-reading these.

Writing: Yes, indeed, the writing nook has not seen this much action in...ever. I've been up here a lot, noodling around. Not a lot of page count progress to report, but a bit of poetry, a few half-formed ideas, and a line here and there are certainly better than nothing.

Cooking: Wow, lots of cooking. We finally got our grill our third summer living here. You know what's awesome? Grilled pizza. Mmmmm. I did make it with the fennel and the super-easy, delicious tomato sauce. Matt had pepperoni on his instead. I didn't share the Gruyere for the pepperoni pizza, but made him use mozzarella. I'm still sort of afraid to use the grill, so I did all the prep and Matt was in charge of the grill. I have to get less intimidated by the grill.

More Strawberry-Black Pepper-Mint preserves. What else? Oh! The Great Mojito Truffle Experiment! I had these in my head for a while, inspired by the huge patch of mint in the yard, and I finally did the first draft. And they were a hit! I did one batch with a creamy white chocolate-based center and a bittersweet chocolate version (because that's what I like the best). I think the white chocolate were more what I was going for, but I really liked the bittersweet. I used my book club as guinea pigs, and the truffles were well-received, with the group pretty divided on which version was best. I have to type up my recipes before I forget what I did...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

More stuff

Pattern: Everlasting Bagstopper
Yarn: Dzined Hemp Worsted (body), Pakucho Organic Cotton in Chocolate (edge and handle) - 1 skein each
Needle: Size 5 (bottom and edge/handle), 10.5 (body)
Notes: This was easier on the hands than linen! I made some changes. I wasn't excited about having to sew on ribbon handles (and concerned about how long that would last), so I followed the Ilene Bag with 1x1 rib edging in Pakucho (once I ran out of Hemp) and then did a 20-stitch handle in 1x1 rib. I like the effect, which is very 1973-on-the-way-to-macrame-class. It was fairly quick, about a week to finish, and super easy to do while watching television.

More knitting...I've actually made progress on Matt's Hjalte. Partly, I made a rule that I can only do mindless projects until it's done, which means no Shipwreck Shawl or Twist and Shout. Since I really want to start those, I started working on Hjalte, at least a couple rows whenever I knit. I've finished one repeat of the cable pattern on the back, and it looks great. It's starting to get easier for me, too, and I can almost read the cabling the way I can lace.

When I was looking for my size 5 needles for the bag, I found the 24" in the bottom of my stash container, attached to the ill-fated Tussie Mussie (which I decided to do in stockinette instead of reverse stockinette AND decided to eliminate the nosegay pattern, so it's quite boring) and decided to finish it. I have miles to go:

Reading; The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley was an excellent mystery, featuring a precocious eleven-year-old, Flavia deLuce, in 1950s England. She is hilarious and slightly disturbing, with her fixation on poisons, but she's an engaging sleuth and the mystery is excellent. I'm almost done reading The Writing Class by Jincy Willett, which is laugh-out-loud funny, but also really thought-provoking. The protagonist is a writer who hasn't published in years and teaches writing workshops at the university extension. Her current class is excellent, except for one anonymous prankster. When the prankster's activities escalate, the class pulls together (even though the culprit is certainly one of them) to try and unmask him/her. With excerpts from the student writings and the teacher's bitter, cynical blog, it is a fantastic read.

Writing: Nope.

Cooking: I have really been keeping the kitchen going lately. Lilah and I went with friends to pick strawberries at a nearby farm, and it was so much fun. I've made 41 jars of Strawberry Vanilla and Strawberry With Black Pepper and Mint. I made the usual Strawberry Vanilla, and even that was much better with fresh, local berries. I couldn't get over having jars of jar three hours after picking the berries. I also made a big batch using Pomona's Pectin for the first time. Unlike Sure-Jell, you don't need huge quantities of sugar to get the jam to set, so I was able to use a relatively small amount of agave nectar, and it was delicious. More fruity than the traditional, sugar-packed jam. The Strawberry With Black Pepper and Mint is from Mes Confitures, and it took three days. Most of that time, it was just in a bowl in the fridge, but three days! It only produced 4 jars and some extra, but it is amazing. I'm close to a website launch for selling jam, which is exciting. Tim, Web Designer Extraordinaire, is just waiting on some changes to the copy and some photos of the jam and our strawberry picking adventures. Now that I have stock, I'm ready to unload it :)

The garden is really clicking along. We are going to have ridiculous quantities of zucchini this summer:

We have just a few tomato plants (ha!):

I planted lots of peppers to go with the tomatoes for salsa canning this summer:

My mint "patch" has turned into a forest:

And the eggplant are doing well:

I really want to do a lot more next year in the garden!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Come on Ilene!

I finished the Ilene Bag! When I bound off, I thought, "This bag is too small to hold anything! Maybe it can be my yarn shopping bag or something.

But, boy, does it expand. I loaded it up with a box of cereal, two big (two-pound) cans, and four big apples.

Pattern: Ilene Bag from I Knit You Knot
Yarn: Louet Euroflax Originals, 1 skein (270 yards)
Needles: Size 4 and 6 circulars
Notes: I love the bag. But my thoughts of knitting several to match it, or to make them for family and friends went out the window. I do not like knitting with linen. It is rough, inflexible, and hard on the fingers. I thought the mesh pattern was grueling, and then I started the neverending strap, approximately 14 miles of 1x1 rib on the size 4 needles. Now THAT was grueling. It was an easy knit, pattern-wise, but hard on my hands. I don't know that I'd use it again, although the finished product is very nice.

Other knitting: I have another shopping bag, Everlasting Bagstopper, on the needles, in a hemp yarn that's been in the stash forever. It's pretty similar in design to the Ilene, but the hemp has more give than the linen, so it's not as bad. If I hadn't gotten all excited about destashing through knitting, I might have skipped this, but I do need more shopping bags, and I can get rid of yarn I'd never use otherwise. I've also been trying to do a bit on Hjalte, which has really suffered with Lilah's bad sleeping. It's just been too much for my brain to do a complicated (for me) cable pattern. But I have decided I have to finish it before I can start my Twist and Shout, though I may start Shipwreck Shawl before I finish Hjalte.

Reading: Lots, as usual. Bad sleeping = children's books or cozy mysteries, and lately, it's been children's/YA books. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was fantastic. Right now, I'm finishing up a fascinating police procedural, Internal Affairs by Connie Dial, a first novel by a veteran LAPD officer. It's really interesting to have an insider's view of a police investigation and a close-up look at the bureaucracy that most police procedurals gloss over or simplify. For a reason, of course--it's almost labyrinthine in scope, and Dial includes a family-tree-like organizational chart of the departments that's very useful.

Writing: Nope.

Cooking: Our refrigerator is really terrible. Never keep the fridge that comes with the house, even if you are too lazy to shop for your own and the one in the house is fewer than two years old. Frigidaire is a fine company that makes many quality appliances, but our fridge is not one of their better efforts. I'm telling you this because our fridge unwittingly inspired a pasta dish last night. As it does from time to time, it spontaneously froze pretty much everything in the fridge section. I had planned to make pesto, and had already chucked the cheese and pine nuts in the Cuisinart. When I went to add the basil, I found nearly half of it unusable, with not enough left to make pesto. Oops. So I rummaged through the fridge and pantry and added a cup of ricotta cheese and a can of artichoke hearts. I thinned it out with some half and half (I had to crack the ice on top of the bottle, but it was fine otherwise) and served it over tagliatelle. Yum! I'd still rather have basil pesto, but it wasn't half bad.

It's almost berry jam time! I think a pick-your-own strawberry adventure is in the works soon. I wonder how Lilah will like that....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Herding Cats

Don't worry, Lilah only likes carrying the stick; she does not touch the cats with it. But I love this picture, in which she appears to be a suburban cat-herd:

Yes, I finished the Mini Clapotis in time for Mother's Day, and it was even cool enough in the morning for us to wear out matching shawls:

I have approximately 27 pictures of Lilah in her shawl, but I'll just add a couple more:

Pattern: Clapotis from Knitty
Yarn: Noro Matsuri left over from my Clapotis
Needles: Size 7 circular
Details: I did fewer increase rows, and ended up with 71 stitches instead of 107. I did the pattern number of straight rows, though, and it's a bit long for Lilah, but she'll be able to use it as a scarf when she's older. She really, really likes it. We had fun wearing our matching shawls! This was a super-quick project, and used just over 2 skeins of Matsuri (I had 2 1/2 left from my Clapotis, so that was perfect!). Fun, fun.

Other knitting: I'm using up some stash yarn in one-skein projects. Right now, I'm doing an Ilene Bag in a skein of Euroflax Linen that I've had in the stash since...who knows? At least a couple of years. I was thinking of giving it away, but though of a shopping bag--Ravelry provided patterns galore, and I liked this one-skein bag. It's easy, but hard on the hands. Linen is not soft or stretchy or pleasant, and the mesh pattern is a little grueling. But it'll be over soon, and should be a good, useful bag.

Reading: Lots and lots. I just finished The Green Beauty Guide, which I didn't really like overall, but it DOES have good stuff in it, so I'll keep it. The author's tone is very negative, there are some inconsistencies, and the information is buried in pounds and pounds of text. So I have to go back through it and make notes on how to actually implement a more green approach to cleansing, moisturizing, etc. I also read the latest entries in some really good children's series, The Sisters Grimm and Percy Jackson, and the first in a new series, The Red Blazer Girls (very Nancy Drew!). Lilah hasn't been sleeping well, so I haven't been up for reading anything overly involved.

Writing: Ha.

Cooking: I did a nice lemon-swirled cheesecake. I made lemon curd using this recipe. Then I made this cheesecake recipe. I used a 12-cup muffin tin to make individual cheesecakes, but I had a ton of batter left over, so I made some more crust and used a pie plate to make a small cheesecake. The muffin pan baked about 25 minutes at 350, and the pie plate took about 35-40. It was fantastic. I didn't use all of the lemon curd, but it was still nice and tangy.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Uncharacteristically Frequent Posting

It must be the weather or something, but this is the most regularly I've posted in a long time. I could have actually posted this finished object the day after my Bottoms Up! Bag post, but it was a quick little thing.

Pattern: Super basic, but it's from Design Sponge
Yarn: Handspun from Stefaneener Ha! I actually found her post about the yarn right here!
Needles: Size 6
Buttons: random army green buttons that wouldn't stand out too much

Notes: It's a knit rectangle, so there's not much to say. Super easy. Loved working with the handspun. Not sure about the loop-and-button method of closure, but right now, we're just leaving the cozy on the press all the time, so it's not an issue. I do wish I'd sprung for some vintage buttons when I was at the bead shop, though!

Other knitting: I'm doing the mini-Clapotis for Lilah in the hopes I'll be done for us to wear our matching shawls on Mother's Day :)

Reading: I finally read The Historian! I actually knit the cozy while reading it since it was mindless stockinette mostly. I quite liked The Historian, and it doubles as a doorstop.

Writing: Nothing at all.

Cooking: I made the pasta with beans, greens, and lemon from Cooking Light again. We like that one. More baby squash.

Get ready for zucchini and squash recipes all summer long:

That's just one of the five zucchini or squash mounds. We had a high germination rate, and they're enjoying the rain we've been having. They actually grew so fast I thought they might be weeds, but if you rub your fingers on the leaves, they smell distinctly squash-y.

My peppers and tomatoes are also thriving. In fact, I need to thin them out since not all of the pots were kind enough to germinate only a single seed dead center in the pot:

I planted several varieties of tomatoes, but I didn't have labeling stuff outside with me, so I have no idea what's in which pot. Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Arkansas Traveler, and some kind of cherry tomato. Oops. It'll be a nice surprise when they fruit. Anyway, I need to pick up some buckets to transfer the tomatoes from the small pots. My basil germinated, but hasn't done much else, so I need to get to the garden store and get a few plants. I'm really disappointed in my herb garden out front. I did have germination, and it gets lots of sun, and I've been watering when it hasn't rained, but the growth is just sad. At this rate, I won't have basil to eat until there's frost.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

And another thing!

It's not normal for me to post about a finished project (or anything, for that matter) so soon after the last entry, but I finished the Bottoms Up! Bag.

Here it is, before felting:

And after felting:

And here's the cool bottom:

And a close-up of the striping effect caused by the Knit One Below method:

Pattern: Bottoms Up! Bag from Knit One Below
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted in Roasted Coffee and Victorian Pink (one skein each) and Noro Kureyon (one skein in 240)
Needles: Size 11 dpns and circular
Notes: I had a rocky start with this pattern and technique. It was simply trying to do something I already find fiddly and unpleasant (joining 8 stitches in the round) with my first attempt at a new technique, and once I realized it was all wonky, I ripped out and started over. The bottom of the bag ended up perfectly, and the construction is really cool. The base is (obviously) round, then a welt is formed to give the base stability (and it's stable, let me tell you--it's been sitting upright on the counter for a day), then the column stitch pattern is worked in the round, ending with welts. This was much easier than I remember from my last felted bag, which used applied i-cord instead of the welts. The handles are attached pre-felting, which made me worry they would felt together, but they didn't. I probably over-felted a bit, but there's something off about the measurements in the book, which say the bag is 12 inches wide and 10 inches high. With really, really aggressive blocking (I shoved my biggest tupperware container to the bottom using my foot!), I managed a diameter just shy of 8 inches, but the height easily made 10 inches. So maybe the round bottom felted faster? At any rate, I meant it to be a small knitting project bag for a friend, and it's a bit smaller than I meant. But I think it'll be useful anyway. I thought it was cute. I used all but about 5 feet of the Roasted Coffee (the main color), all of the Noro, and had at least half a skein of the pink left.

I really like the Knit One Below technique, since I'm not overfond of other colorwork methods. This one alternates colors, but uses one color per row. I think it's a cool way to show off Noro without paying the price of three skeins of Noro. It took me hardly any time at all to be totally comfortable with column stitch, and I think the bag bottom is ingenious. As far as the book as a whole...the technique creates a distinctive striping with wider-than-usual stitches, so I'm not sure how much I'll use it, to be honest. The look of all the projects is necessarily very similar, and I'm not sure about it for say, sweaters. There is actually a skirt in there that makes me consider rethinking my anti-knit-skirt position, and a couple of wraps. And a pinstripe-ish vest using Noro (again, it's cool to have part-Noro options to bring down the usual Noro project price), some cute baby things. Okay, I guess there are several projects I'd consider, and I think the technique is cool and interesting, so I'd recommend the book.

Other knitting:
That's a teensy project, a French press cozy using handspun from Stefaneener! This is my first use of handspun, actually. I really like it so far, and I needed a cozy to replace one I lost when the press crashed to the floor, soaking the cozy in coffee and embedding it with glass :(

Reading: I'm reading The Historian right now for book club, and it's surprisingly fun!

Writing: Nope.

Cooking: I did do a really nice pesto, but I don't have a real recipe since it was a pantry-buster right before grocery shopping day. I put the leaves from a bunch of basil in the Cuisinart with the rest of the pine nuts (a couple tablespoons), the rest of the parmesan (a quarter cup-ish), a crushed clove of garlic, salt and pepper, and drizzled in olive oil (a couple tablespoons) until it started to come together. It didn't look like enough for a pound of rigatoni, so I whizzed in some cream (maybe 1/3 cup?). I sauteed halved baby squash in a bit of olive oil, squeezed over half a lemon, and tossed it with the rigatoni and pesto sauce. Yum!