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.