Thursday, January 31, 2008

A flower & an FO.

After all those boring pictureless posts, I bring you something pretty:

That's the amaryllis plant my family got for Christmas from my wonderful Aunt Andrea. At the time it didn't even look like a plant, just like something weird & ugly & spherical, but since then it's grown at crazy speed and that's one of its blossoms just the other day! I need to take some more pictures soon, since almost all the flowers are in bloom now and it's absolutely stunning.

I don't have any pictures of that cardigan but I've been working away at it. I finished the body in just a day but the sleeves are taking longer, primarily because they're boring. Also I really hate size 15 needles!

I finally made myself a Calorimetry! I cast on the other night so I would have something to work on at school, should the need arise, since the cardigan was getting too big to carry around & I have to do some math before I continue with the hat. Then I woke up yesterday morning and our power was out thanks to the wind. It was something like 15 degrees outside, with a wind chill closer to ten below zero, and I instantly started cursing myself for (a) having abandoned the hat I'm working on for so long and (b) giving away so many of the warm, woolen, wintry things I've made. And so I spent the morning standing in front of our gas stove, all 4 burners on, with a ball of yarn under my arm that quickly turned into this:


Ok, I really didn't finish it until after school yesterday evening, but it was still the quickest project I've ever done. I really like it, too! The yarn is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes and I'd ordered a skein just to test it out & see if it really was as good a deal as it seemed. My verdict is that it is! It's not the softest thing but it's not very itchy, either. I had no problems working with it and isn't that color (Sapphire Heather) gorgeous? The photo doesn't quite do it justice but it's the prettiest blue I've seen. And, well, at $2 for 110 yards, I can definitely see this yarn becoming a mainstay in my stash.

I'll be doing that pattern a few more times, too. I want to make some for gifts and probably more for me, too. If/when I do find a self-striping yarn I actually like, it'll be great. Actually, I think I did find one I like: Berocco Jasper. Look at those colors! People on Ravelry have made some truly gorgeous things with it, so here's hoping I see it in an LYS sometime soon!

I do have an LYS trip planned for Saturday. I'll be going back to Knit A Round with my beloved Aunt Andrea to return that last skein of Ironstone Harmony & spend the gift card my equally beloved Aunt Amy got me for Christmas. I actually want to talk yarn some more here but this has gotten long already, so I'll make that another post in the near future.

Before I go, though, I do want to make a note of just how hip my family is: my Aunt Amy now has a blog, too! It's The Alphabetical Vegetarian and there's not much there yet but I'm looking forward to reading more. Both of my aunts are witty & brilliant so of course I'm glad to see them sharing some of their genius with the world. If only we could get my mom blogging...we'd have to teach her how to use the internet first, though!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Baking! Breads & Cookie #3.

I made my 3rd batch of cookies for the year just the other night. There are unfortunately no pictures because they've somehow all disappeared since then. You'll just have to trust me that they were pretty in addition to being tasty. I was craving my old favorite, the ever unpopular oatmeal raisin. Yes, that's really one of my favorite cookies ever. What can I say? Oats and raisins are two of the greatest things on earth as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, I almost went with the recipe I usually use, but something compelled me to flip through the meager Dessert section in my New Laurel's Kitchen cookbook. Lo & behold, a slightly more nutritious version of oatmeal raisin cookies! If you're going to make 50 cookies in a year you should probably try to make some of them that aren't 100% terrible for you, right? Right.

Recipe: Oatmeal School Cookies from The New Laurel's Kitchen.

Modifications: Tragically, I only had like 2 walnuts left in my cupboard (probably because I can't stop snacking on them), so I obviously didn't get to use the full amount. Also I left out wheat germ because I didn't have any because I can never find the damn stuff at the store. (I've honestly seen it once in my life, at Target, of all places.)

Review: HEAVENLY!! One bite & I knew this recipe had replaced my old stand-by. Despite being somewhat healthier, these are definitely not any less delicious than your usual oatmeal raisin cookies. Fresh out of the oven they're especially amazing, but I have to admit they didn't keep well. That's ok, though, because they will be eaten before anyone will ever have to worry about keeping them.

So, remember earlier when I said that I am a tremendous failure as a bread baker? No? That's ok, just trust that I said it, because up until last weekend it was true. It might still be true, actually, but there have been TWO recent instances of me making delicious bread! The first was last weekend, when I finally tried out the No-Knead Bread recipe I'd been eying for ages. The New York Times article about the recipe features a claim that it can be mastered by a four-year-old, though Mark Bittman himself revises that to an ambitious 8-year-old. I am older than both of those ages combined and at least a little ambitious with the baking, so I felt up to the task.

I mixed the dough up on a Saturday afternoon and then let it rest for a whole night, trying to contain my urge to constantly peel back the foggy plastic wrap & see what it was doing. After 18 hours of that I got to shape it & let it rise for forever before finally baking it. The patience was definitely the most difficult part of the whole equation but it was worth it because the product was my first decent loaf of non-bread-machine yeasted bread EVER! Admittedly, the crust was too tough & thick in many places, but it was still delicious, especially toasted. I'll probably play around with the recipe some more and hopefully master it someday. It's really amazing what you can do with just a few ingredients & a lot of time. For the record, I used a mixture of whole wheat and bread flours on that attempt.

Yesterday I made really good bread AGAIN! The bread machine was involved but I did some parts by hand & baked it in the oven, so it's still sort of an accomplishment. (For the record, I have nothing against the bread machine & it's actually one of the coolest things I own. But when you let it do all the work for you it's somehow less satisfying, plus the bread is never as crusty as I would like it to be.) The recipe was for oatmeal bread and it came off my bread flour bag. I used half whole wheat flour again, substituted water for the milk & olive oil for the butter, and left out the raisins because I wanted a simple toasting/sandwich bread. What I got was actually the best bread EVER! It toasts beautifully and would be perfect for grilled cheese but is also nice with just some jam or cheese or even on its own. The crust is the perfect thickness, just a little crunchy. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that this bread has been a component of all 3 meals I have eaten today, it is really that good. My family even likes it, too, so I just might have to get into the habit of making it regularly.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Frog City.

Major sweater setback: I reached the last skein of yarn on my Hot Lava cardigan last night and did the math and...that one last skein just wasn't going to be enough to finish it. Woe! I seriously did the calculations over & over & over but there was no way they were going to work out. I was pretty disappointed about this earlier but I quickly moved on to finding other cute patterns for the yarn and I've now started on this one. I think I just might like it better than Hot Lava, actually, and it's the fastest knit EVER! I started it this morning and literally only have a few more rows to go on the body. If things continue at this rate I'll be wearing it before the week's halfway over, which would be awesome!

Amusingly, my spit splices were undetectable while I was frogging, so I now have this gigantic ball of wool that represents roughly 2.5 skeins. Way to go saliva!

There's a lot of frogging going on around here lately. The other night I also knit about half a Calorimetry before I had to come out of denial and admit to myself that I hated the yarn I was using. It's Crystal Palace Yarns Fjord Print (colorway Black Pearls) and I got it in the spirit of branching out and trying some variegated colorways instead of solids like I usually use. I've realized that there's a reason I use solids all the time, though, and it's that I don't like the way print yarns look...or at least I don't like this one. The color changes are too rapid and the colors are too different for my taste. On the off chance that any of you click on the link & like the way that it looks, I'd be all too happy to part with my one skein (though a small portion of it is, of course, lightly used thanks to my half Calorimetry) -- email me or message me on Ravelry if you have any interest.

On the plus side, I really enjoyed the Calorimetry pattern (yeah, I realize I'm late to this bandwagon!), so I'll be making more of those in prettier yarns very soon.

I've been far more successful with cooking and baking lately than with knitting. I made my 3rd batch of cookies for the year the other night and, surprisingly, I've been making really good bread, too. Also I've just been eating well generally, cooking most of my meals at home and actually paying some attention to proper nutrition, which is something of an accomplishment for me (as well as a 2008 resolution). Anyway, details, pictures, & recipes to follow. I hope you all had a great weekend!

Friday, January 25, 2008

LOTS of knitting going on!

I'm definitely in a phase where I do not want to do anything but knit. It's not a bad thing, really, though I'm making myself stop for a few hours now because my hands are starting to hurt and I know I should at least look at my homework tonight if I don't want to spend the whole weekend on it (whether that knowledge will translate into action remains to be seen). I've gotten so much done this week, though!

Mainly I've been going crazy on my cardigan. That first sleeve took me 2 weeks to knit, mostly because I wasn't spending time on it each day. That is definitely no longer the case, as evidenced by the fact that the 2nd sleeve took me about 2 days and was completed just minutes ago. So now I have the "basic shrug" part done & need to create the bolero. Here's the shrug just a few minutes ago:


Isn't it lovely? This yarn is so pretty, though I have a sinking feeling that it's going to pill like crazy. Whatever. Those few rows of seed stitch are the spine of the sweater and the cuffs are also 2x2 seed. I reluctantly made them shorter than the pattern recommended, due to my fear of running out of yarn, but now I'm starting to think they're cute that way! And even with the short cuffs, the sleeves are plenty long.

I'm very nervous about making the bolero part. Ravelers seem pretty divided; some love it & some hate it. There are a lot of complaints about too much fabric in the back, where it does nothing but bunch up & look horrible. I wish I knew more about garment construction so I could modify it to avoid that, but...I don't. So for now I'm planning to follow the pattern and if I hate it I can always rip back.

Also, I started on that hat. After all my whining about needles it turned out I had a pair of circs that are perfect for just plain knitting in the round, if not for Magic Loop. Here it is so far:


Mmmmm, Malabrigo!!! There are no words that could truly express my love for this yarn! I was meaning to follow my friend Yoli's modifications to make the hat a bit smaller, but honestly (and I think largely because I've done most of the work in public) I keep forgetting where I'm at in the pattern and cabling at odd and uneven intervals. Oops? I guess I'm just going to keep doing that, more or less making up my own cable pattern, and if I like it that'll be awesome. If I don't, I'll get to rip back & knit with the beautiful Malabrigo all over again. Either way I win!

The time that I haven't spent on knitting I've spent on (what else?) Ravelry. That site should probably come with a warning label. Until recently I had just about no interst in groups but now I can't seem to stop joining them & reading posts. It's probably all down hill from here, folks...

Also I've been cooking & baking a bit, but I'll save that for another post. Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

This is just a quick note to say that spit-splicing is officially the grossest and GREATEST thing I have ever done while knitting! I hadn't heard of it before tonight, when it came up in conversation with my awesome knitting group. I ended up trying it just now, to join the 2nd & 3rd skeins of my cardigan, and it was SO COOL! No wasting precious yarn, no weaving in ends!!!! Definitely worth a few moments of feeling really weird about the fact that you are playing with spit and wool.

Ok, back to knitting, I just had to share my excitement!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bad knitting day.

For the most part, today was beautiful. It's Martin Luther King Day so I had the day off school, though my university tries to make it a "day of service," since volunteering in the community is a pretty appropriate way of honoring Dr. King's memory. I participated for the first time this year and it was really nice. I brought my younger sister along because she's been talking about wanting to do volunteer work and we spent the day helping out at Arts & Scraps in Detroit. At the end of the day she even won a raffle! The prize was a copy of some essays & speeches by MLK, which I will definitely be reading as soon as I can.

So, yeah, that part of the day was great, and afterwards we decided to check out a new-to-me LYS, The Yarn Tree in Flat Rock. Marj had mentioned that they were having a sale and that was all the motivation I needed to finally go check the place out. It was pretty cool! It's basically an old house packed from floor to ceiling with yarn. I liked it a lot and will be going back, but it was there that I began to suspect that the Knitting Gods (or whatever you want to call them) were not really on my side today. First I forgot my list of yarns I need for my upcoming projects, then they didn't have the needles I needed, then I just couldn't find the perfect yarn (and felt rushed because they were closing in like 5 minutes). In the end I left with only a skein of Crystal Palace Fjord Print, which I will probably use for a Calorimetry. I'm not complaining, but it wasn't quite the super-successful trip I had in mind, though that's primarily my fault.

It got so much worse when I got home, though. See, being the world's best big sister, I'd bought my sister a skein of Berocco Softwist in a beautiful, sparkly off-white. Intending to wind it into a ball, I untwisted the skein into a hank and, knowing that hanks are famously easy to tangle, was treating it with great caution until I set it down for a second...and my poor sister didn't know how likely it was to tangle...and she tried to pick it up, and next thing we knew we had a huge mess on our hands. And so I spent roughly an hour of my life meticulously untangling 100 yards of yarn. I'm proud to say that I got it all out and there are no knots in sight, but it was pretty torturous. Let's just say my sister kinda owes me...and also that I am very, very glad that I am now of legal drinking age because a glass of wine did make it mildly more bearable.

So, whatever I did to offend the Knitting Gods, you'd think so much time spent so carefully untangling and balling up yarn (for someone else's use, even!) would be enough to atone and have them back on my good side, right? Wrong. I think I'm just not meant to knit today! After that fiasco I tried to cast on for this hat I've been dying to make and just kept screwing up. First I knit with the tail instead of the working yarn, then I twisted the stitches when I was joining in the round (a first for me), and eventually I finally got it going...and had to conclude that my circular needle is way too short to Magic Loop it. :( At this point I think I'll just knit it flat and seam it. Yes, of course I HATE seaming, but I've gotten better at it and I do like it better than spending money on needles. My new goals is to save up for a good set of interchangeable circulars, which I'm sure would save me money in the long run anyway. Too bad I didn't think of this plan until after Christmas and my birthday, since it would've been a great big gift to ask for from my family. Oh well. Note to any relatives reading this: If you feel like spearheading the drive to commercialize Easter, or if perhaps you want to start a new Valentine's tradition of buying your beloved niece expensive knitting supplies, I'd just like to note that I'd support that wholeheartedly! Of course I'm just kidding! (...sort of)

Everyone has their off days, though, right? I did get a decent number of rows done on my cardigan today, so it wasn't all a waste. Hopefully tomorrow will be more productive, though. If nothing else, I'm going to Knit Night for the first time in approximately a zillion years!!! I can't wait to see everyone! I think I'm bringing my sister, too, which should be lots of fun, and I'll also bring along the rest of those Reese's cookies. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cookie #2 & lots else.

Last night I finally got around to making cookie #2 of my 50 for the year. The delicious cookies my step-mom had brought over for my birthday were officially a week old, so it was time to throw out the remaining couple of them (couple of pieces of them, I should say -- believe me, they were too good for anything but a few odd chunks & crumbs to be left uneaten) and make a new batch. Coincidentally, I also happened upon a recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Cookies! You can guess what happened next.

Recipe: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies from Six One Seven.

Modifications: None were made intentionally, though I did have slightly less than 20 mini Reese's cups because there were only 20 in my package and...well, could you look at 20 mini Reese's cups without eating at least one of them? Yeah, that's what I thought. Also, I had to sprinkle a lot of water into the dough as I was trying to form it because it was much too dry and crumbly.

Review: It's hard to go wrong with Reese's cups! Still, I think I'd change a few things about this. Like I said, the dough was very crumbly & really difficult to form without adding lots of water. In my opinion, the resulting cookie is a little too crunchy. It's nice dipped in milk but I'd prefer something chewier and softer and will probably aim for that next time. Finally, if you're going to make these be sure to take them out of the oven when they're barely beginning to look done! I took mine out when I thought they still looked somewhat underdone and the bottoms taste a little burnt even though they're a very light brown. Strange but true. Despite my minor complaints, though, these make for a very satisfying cookie! I'll probably make them again, though like I said I might try changing up the recipe to make them a bit softer.


You might remember Marj kindly listing me at her blog just the other day, on her list of "10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel happy about blogland." Now it's time for my list, though making it only 10 is a HUGE challenge! I'll try to stick only to crafty blogs to make it a bit easier on myself (though not too easy, because I have a whopping 46 blog subscriptions in my "crafty" folder on Google Reader). Here we go!
  1. Yarn Harlot: Ok, this was an obvious one, but how could I not include her? If you've ever read her blog or one of her books, you'll know what I mean. She's roughly the funniest woman on the planet and I love seeing her creations.

  2. Diane's Yarn Addiction: Diane may be slightly less well-known but I get excited whenever her blog's updated, too. :) She knits with me on our Tuesday Knit Nights (the ones I haven't been to in much too long!) and I'm amazed at all the great stuff she's constantly turning out.

  3. Colorjoy!: I only found Lynn's blog a month or two ago but it's a particularly good one. Her knitting is very impressive but I mainly enjoy the thoughtfulness of her entries. The experience of reading her blog is really enhanced by the fact that she responds to blog comments with personal emails, giving you a chance to continue the conversation & interact in a way I really appreciate and haven't seen other bloggers do.

  4. Peachcake Knits & Eats Gluten Free: I found Alex's blog a few months back because of her adorable patterns for cute little knitted fruits and quickly got hooked on following her posts. She's a very creative person and her baking, knitting, sewing, and other endeavors never fail to impress & inspire me. (The quilt she's working on right now is particularly awesome.)

  5. My Knitting Island: Svetlana is amazing! I don't even understand how she does the things she does, churning out complicated sweaters & even dresses by the minute, often without a pattern. Go look, you won't regret it!

  6. Hasbu's Hideaway: I only found Hasbu a few days ago, through Marj, but I loved looking through her blog & at her projects on Ravelry. I'm particularly enamored of her tweed skirt, which might be one of the most perfect knit skirts I've ever seen.

  7. How About Orange?: This blogger doesn't knit, as far as I know, but she's a great designer who posts all kinds of cool & useful things, from printable greeting card templates to amazing cupcake recipes. I've found lots of good stuff through her posts.

  8. Short & Crafty Sista: I love Sonya!! She's from Knit Night, too, and she's wonderful. You might want to check out her pink ribbon illusion scarf pattern, it's really cool.

  9. Gluten-Free Girl: Ok, this one isn't crafty at all, but it won't get out of my head until I include it here. Shauna is probably the best blogger I've ever read, period. My interest in gluten-free eating/living is basically non-existent but I devour her posts nonetheless. Her enthusiasm about food and life is absolutely contagious, and if you can read through any of her very sweet entries about falling and staying in love with The Chef without crying...well, then you are not me. I'm getting her book as soon as I can, but for now she's honestly the best writer I've ever read online.

  10. Knizzle fo Shizzle: Last but not least, Marj is amazing! I promise I'm not only listing her because she listed me, but because this list would be incomplete without her blog on it. Not only does the title crack me up every time, but her posts are often downright hilarious and her knitting extraordinary. Beyond all that, she's a really fun person to knit with, has helped me out kindly on some of my projects, and will probably be one of the main reasons for my eventual conversion to "the dark side," a.k.a. sock knitting.

Wow, that took ages! Sorry this is getting so long, but I had to say something about each of your wonderful blogs. Also don't feel left out if your name isn't on here -- it was tough to narrow down, but if I've ever so much as left you a comment you can safely assume I think your blog's the bee's knees. (And Aunt Andrea SOMEONE would surely be on this list if she would only ever update...)


In other news, I'm making lots of progress on my cardigan! That first sleeve took me something like 2 weeks, but they were distracted weeks where I wasn't even knitting on it regularly. I finished that sleeve Friday night & promised myself I'd pick up the pace. So far I'm sticking to that, and as of last night I'm halfway through the back. I'm hoping to make some more progress on it today and I'll definitely be sharing pictures soon. One thing that's helping a lot is the fact that I'm taking my first-ever online course this semester. It wasn't really my first choice, but a bunch of classes that I really wanted were canceled or full, I was somewhat curious about how online classes even work, and it would save me quite a bit of gas money & commuting time, so I went ahead & did it. So far it's not bad and the truly great thing is that I can knit while I listen to lectures!! I have to pause occasionally to take notes, of course, but it's the perfect thing for a miles-of-stockinette project like this cardigan. The lecture keeps me from getting too bored with the knitting, the knitting keeps me from getting too bored with the lecture, and by the time the hour's up I've learned something interesting and made knitting progress. Not bad!

This post has already reached novel length and there's more I could say, but I'll leave you with one last happy bit of news: I won a blog contest!! It was the first time ever and I absolutely cannot wait to find out what the prize will be! The contest was over at Hasbu's and you should stop by today and wish her a happy birthday.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Finally FO: Dashing!

Today was a sad day. My boyfriend Brian is heading back to Montana for the semester, so I hurried up and finished his very belated Christmas gift. It's something he'll use a lot there, hopefully to keep his hands warm while talking to me on the phone!


The thumbs are still mildly disastrous, but in a way I can live with. I think if/when I make these again I'll do a more traditional thumb gusset instead of this afterthought thing -- not only would I probably find that easier, but I saw pictures somewhere of Dashing done that way and I liked the look much better, too. The surprising part is how ridiculously WARM these keep you! I wore them around while waiting for Brian to show up this morning and they kept me much warmer than Fetching usually does. I think it's all that extra length. I might need to make myself a pair at some point, but for now I'm happy that Brian likes his so much. Here's a blurry shot of him modeling them somewhat reluctantly:
"Please don't put this on Facebook."
"Oh, this isn't for Facebook, it's for my knitting blog!"

With any luck I'll be visiting him out there next month. Accordingly, I am planning on knitting myself lots of warm woolly stuff! All I'm working on now is the cardigan, which feels strange. I thought my Ravelry was lying to me, but it's true: I only have one wip. This will not last, trust me.

In other news, I MISS KNIT NIGHT SO MUCH!! I haven't been in thousands of years, mainly due to car issues. I'm hoping I can make it out next Tuesday because I miss everyone like crazy. The good news, though, is that I don't have class on Tuesdays this semester, so I can come directly from home and maybe even bring my wonderful little sister along! I'm looking forward to that.

Speaking of my knit night pals, Marj left me a very kind present at her blog the other day. :) I'll be doing a similar list in my next post!

Finally, I have a somewhat stupid question about knitting books. Are they like other books, in that I can expect a paperback to come out someday if one is only out in hardcover now? Or do I have to suck it up and accept the expensive hardcover edition (and by "accept," I probably mean "check out from the library")? I'm just wondering because I came across some great ones last night but they were all hardcover & therefore like $30. :-\

I did get myself one crafty book, though: the Stitch & Bitch crochet book! Hopefully my beloved Aunt Andrea (a.k.a. the Crochet Crusader) will be proud of me. I'm still more or less counting on her to teach me, but maybe I can learn a few of the basics from the book. There are also a lot of really excellent patterns in there, so I'm glad I picked it up!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oh, blog, how I neglect you!

Ok, so far my resolution to post more in 2008 might not be going so hot. Luckily there's plenty of time to rectify that!

P1050414First of all, thanks to all my Ravelry friends for the birthday messages! My 21st was lots of fun. I celebrated with my family, my boyfriend, & 2 of my closest friends at Xochimilco, a favorite Detroit Mexican restaurant. That picture on the left is of me there, about to take my first legal sips of delicious sangria!

This picture was also taken at Xochimilco:


Back in the day they used to have bulletin boards to display photos of customers' babies. They're still there, and that unbelievably cute one in the center of this, wearing the bonnet? That's yours truly, nearly 21 years ago! My family has been going to that restaurant since long before I was even dreamed of and I don't think we'll stop any time soon.

I have been getting some knitting done, but not much. I worked on Dashing (no, it's still not done, though we're in the home stretch!) in the Secretary of State office last week, waiting to renew my driver's license. I should knit in public more often! Sometimes I feel awkward about it but it's funny how happy it makes the people around you and how much they want to talk to you about it. It made the wait tolerable, anyway, which is saying a lot, as you know if you've ever had to sit on the floor of an unbelievably crowded office for a truly ridiculous amount of time.

The cardigan is slowly coming along, too. With any luck, I'll finish the first sleeve before much longer. Here it is this morning:


I made the seed stitch cuff a little shorter than recommended. I'm in love with the idea of an extra-long sleeve for extra warmth, but also very afraid I'll run out of yarn, so I'm cutting corners where I can. I love this yarn (Ironstone Harmony) and the broken needle has been scotch-taped and is holding together decently. It's not a bad project to work on, but it's a lot of stockinette and therefore a bit boring. I've been trying to work on it while watching TV, but thanks to the writers' strike (or, really, thanks to the networks' greed!) all the TV I've been watching lately is Planet Earth on DVD. If you've ever seen that show, you know that it's not one you can really knit during. It's so spectacular visually that I wind up throwing my needles aside & getting totally absorbed within the first few minutes. I'd highly recommend it, but not if you've got knitting you need to do!

There are a few other reasons for my slow knitting progress of late, and the main one is that I can't seem to stop reading. I've always been a big reader but I go through phases with it, as I do with most things. The last few months saw a brief lull, but in the last few weeks I've just been devouring books. Currently I'm in love with Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, which is about her family's year of eating locally & raising the majority of their own food. I may review it here when I'm done, since this blog is at least sort of about food as well as knitting. If nothing else, I'll be trying some of the recipes! This book has convinced me that I need to try all kinds of crazy things, including cheese-making. :)

On the baking front, no new cookies to report just yet. My step-mom gave me a huge platter of cookies & brownies on my birthday, so I'm waiting for those to disappear before I make any more. I did make banana bread the other night, though, and that was delicious. I'm a big banana bread fan and let me tell you, this recipe cannot be beat! It's really good with both chocolate chips and walnuts, though I haven't made it that way in a while. Next time!

I did get some cool food-related birthday presents, too. A friend's mom put together an awesome gift basket of obscure ingredients + a book called 100 Great Breads, so I have some interesting experiments ahead of me!

That's all for now and hopefully it won't take me another week to post again.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

50 Cookies in 2008: #1, Chocolate Chip!

Some of you might remember that my plan for 2008 involved trying every cookie recipe on the 50 Best Cookie Recipes on the Internet list. I've decided to modify that slightly: this year I'm going to make at least 50 different kinds of cookies to blog about here, but the recipes can come from wherever. A lot of them will still be from that list, but thinking over it today I realized that there are definitely a handful of recipes on there that don't appeal to me, and, more importantly, lots elsewhere that really do.

I think this idea will be an interesting challenge for me not because of the number of cookies (I'd be very surprised if I baked cookies fewer than 50 times in '07), but because of the variety. As anyone who knows me can probably attest, I like to stick to things I know I like. Nearly every time I bake I'm just repeating a recipe I've done before. There's nothing wrong with that, but with all the other ones out there I don't want to miss out! Also, it will be interesting to see how this works out with one of my many other goals for the year, which is, of course, to eat healthier. :)

I decided to kick off the baking year with a classic: chocolate chip cookies. What could be more simple or more perfect?

Recipe: Absolutely the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (from the 50 Best Cookie Recipes list)

Modifications: The recipe calls for butter-flavored shortening but I definitely did not listen to them on that one and went for good old-fashioned butter-flavored butter. I have this aversion to shortening that I can't quite explain -- something about it just grosses me out severely. I thought it maybe resulted from not exactly knowing what it is, so I looked it up but the Wikipedia entry definitely didn't make it sound any more I didn't have any, so butter it was.

Review: The only thing I didn't like about this was the way the cookies spread out during baking, but that very well may not have happened had I used shortening as was recommended, so maybe the recipe isn't even to blame. Other than that, I really can't complain: they were quick and easy to make and the flavor & texture are perfect. My little brother said they were "great," which is pretty high praise coming from a 13-year-old boy. Also, the recipe says it yields 24 but I made many more than that even though about half of them were on the large side. I can see myself using this one again, though next time I'll be sure to stir in some chopped walnuts & other delicious add-ins.

So, not a bad start to the project! Any cookie recipes you think I should try while I'm at it? Please share your favorites -- I'm especially interested in making a good chunk of these vegan and I would definitely consider gluten-free recipes, too, since I know so many people who are allergic.

Also, my 21st birthday is coming up! I'm having a party Saturday and am tempted to bake something really extravagant for it, plus I could use any & all good party food recipes (salads, appetizers, etc.), so please suggest away! Also if you live nearby & want to come to the party, just email me for details. :)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

My brief venture into the world of designer knitting supplies.

Today was really spectacular in lots of ways, but ridiculously frustrating in some others. The day started with a yarn-shopping extravaganza with my beloved Aunt Andrea -- can't complain about that! Except I can, just a little bit: for one thing, I forgot the gift card I was intending to use. That was annoying, but I decided to just make the yarn a birthday gift to myself. Not that big of a deal.

So we wandered around the store and, after lots and lots of deliberation, I settled on the most gorgeous dark green Ironstone Harmony wool for the Hot Lava Cardigan. I'm excited to start that and the yarn is really soft and a great color, one I think I'll wear a lot. Feeling good about that, I headed on over to the needle section and located the circular I'd need for the project. There was exactly one left in the specified size and length might want to make sure you're sitting down before I tell you the price (though why would you be standing and reading a blog?). It was $24! I went into a mild state of shock and even put back the yarn for a bit, dismayed but certain that I would have to be crazy to pay $24 for one freaking circular needle. Aunt Andrea offered to get it as an early birthday gift and I still said no, because I felt like I might explode with rage just from owning something so overpriced, even if I hadn't personally bought it. Eventually, though, she talked me into it.

Now, I might be something of a cheapskate some of the time, but I also understand that you get what you pay for and sometimes it's necessary to pay more than you would like for quality (that's definitely my philosophy when it comes to yarn, anyway). On the ride home after our delicious lunch, I started feeling ok about the needle. Maybe it really would help me knit faster and better! Maybe it would do all the work for me, then clean my room & cook me dinner, and therefore be worth the price! I cast on for the first sleeve as soon as I got home, and what did the $24 needle do?

Did it somehow make the knitting amazingly easy or more enjoyable? Was it a beautiful sensory experience? Did it magically make the project go faster? Did it, in fact, clean my room and cook my dinner?

NO! IT BROKE. IT @#)$ING BROKE! The first time it was kinda cute. I was on only the 2nd or 3rd round when the needle part came detached from the cord part. I stared at it in disbelief for a minute, said "Surely you're kidding me," and snapped it back together. It seemed to hold, and I got another several rounds completed before it happened again. This time, though, it seems serious about it, and doesn't hold very well when I snap it back together. al;dfj;alskfj;askdfl; there are no words for how frustrating I find this!

So, let this be a lesson. If you ever find yourself burdened with way too much money and think, "I know, I'll treat myself to a really fancy "Destiny Lantern Moon" circular needle," DON'T! Not only is the name stupid, but apparently the price does not, in fact, indicate quality. You would probably be better off just giving all that extra money to me, really.

As for me, I'm not sure what I'll do. The sleeve does look beautiful so far and maybe if I'm just really careful the needle will be nice to me... I would just go return it at the store, but it's kind of a lengthy drive for me, especially considering the fact that my car is barely even running at the moment. I think I'll try superglue first, or any suggestions you want to leave in the comments.