Friday, February 15, 2008

Twin Calorimetries & Cookie #5.

Hi everyone! Sorry for being so quiet lately. It's been an insanely busy week. I was battling a sinus infection, helping out at my aunt's flower shop, and doing lots of school work. Now I'm feeling better, done with the flower shop until Mother's Day, and wishing I could spend the weekend kicking back & relaxing with some good knitting. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen. I have midterms next week & therefore tons of reading/studying/writing/etc. to do, plus I'm leaving for Montana Thursday (yay!) so there are things I want to get out of the way before then. Blah.

I've barely knit at all since completing that hat, though I did take a trip to an LYS just the other day, in search of yarn for a nice neck-warmer. I left with a nice big skein of Araucania Nature Wool. It's very pretty but it's also much thinner than I'd realized at the time, almost more of a heavy DK than a light worsted, and I'd wanted a heavy worsted. Oops. So I don't know what I'm going to do about that. I did find a pattern I liked written for 2 strands of DK held together, so I might use that. I might also just go buy different yarn over the weekend, we'll see.

The cardigan is moving slowly. Well, really it's not moving at all, because I STILL haven't started the second sleeve. I don't know why, but I always convince myself that picking up stitches is some horrible ordeal that I just don't want to deal with yet. In reality it's an easy & quick thing to do, but I put it off anyway. I promise I'm starting that sleeve tonight, though!

I can finally show you the two Calorimetries I made last week, though, since my friend Kenna received hers the other day & seems to like it! :) Here's a picture of her wearing it:


I was so happy when she sent me that! It just feels really good to see something you made being used by the recipient. I'm sure you all know what I mean. Here are some other shots I took of it before sending it off:

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The orange was my favorite color in there and I'm thrilled that I had a button that worked with it so well. Also this yarn makes me want to take back every mean thing I've ever said about multi-colored yarns because it's so damn beautiful, especially with this pattern!

As you know, as soon as I finished that one for Kenna I cast on this one for myself:

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The lighting is all weird/cool because I took these as the evening sunlight was streaming in through my favorite window. I've been wearing it nearly every day & loving how warm it keeps my ears.

For both of these I cast on 96 stitches & only did 5 repeats of row 5. To get 2 out of just one skein, I had to cheat a little on mine & knit to 8 stitches past the marker on a couple of the last rows. I was nervous about that but it worked out fine.

I really need to finally blog Cookie #5, since it's been at least a week since I made it!

Recipe: Chai Snickerdoodles

Modifications: I don't think I made any other than halving the recipe because having that many cookies around didn't seem particularly wise.

Review: I was so excited when I saw this recipe! I love snickerdoodles & I love chai, so combining the two seemed brilliant. Basically it's a traditional snickerdoodle recipe, but instead of rolling the dough in a simple cinnamon-sugar mixture, you add cardamom, ginger, & allspice, too! I love those spices & had fun mixing them up & making the cookies, but the end result tasted almost exactly like a basic snickerdoodle to me. I'm not complaining, since there is nothing bad at all about a basic snickerdoodle, but I was mildly disappointed that the chai flavor wasn't very pronounced. There's a good chance I'll try these again & just use much more cardamom, ginger, & allspice -- if I do, I'll let you know how it goes!

Right now I've got a loaf of this in the oven and if it tastes half as good as it looks & smells right now I'll be in heaven. I keep making breads & not blogging them! Basically that oatmeal bread I gushed about a couple weeks ago is on its way to becoming a weekly staple. Everyone likes it and the few scraps that are left over at the end of the week become the most delicious croutons the world has ever known. I also tried making English muffins for the first time a while back, following this recipe. I was amazed by how good they were for a first attempt, but they still weren't perfect. They were bland and I also didn't roll the dough out thin enough at all. My family still liked them but I hope to do better next time. If nothing else it was satisfying to know that I made them out of a few simple ingredients while the ones from the store have an ingredient list that's about two inches long and filled with unpronounceable words.

Ok, that's all for now, have a great weekend everyone!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

FO: Cabled Earflap Hat.

Hi all! I've gotten a lot of knitting done in the past week and I FINALLY finished this hat I'd been working on for ages:

(let's not talk about how badly I need to get my hair trimmed, k?)

I had actually finished the hat portion a little over a week ago but I didn't like the way it fit, so I ripped back & redid it. That also enabled me to be a perfectionist about the cables, since I'd accidentally done some of them pretty unevenly the first time.

All things considered, I'm not sure how much I like it. It was fun to knit and it's warm as can be, but it looks silly on me. I don't know why I jumped immediately from my recent & dubious conclusion that I can theoretically look halfway decent in some hats sometimes to the idea that I should wear a cabled hat with ear flaps. I think I skipped some steps in there. Also, much as I love Malabrigo, I wish I'd used a more solid yarn. When I used this for Brian's hat it was absolutely perfect, but somehow here it's too stripy and I think it distracts from the cables. But, hey, I'm off to Montana in 11 days, and I bet I'll be grateful for it there -- or here, for that matter, considering that our high temperature today is 15°F and with the wind chill I don't think it's getting above zero at all.

Also, the way the pattern is finished at the top is the usual (and, I think, fun!) step of cutting the yarn & pulling it through the live stitches, but in this case I think there were too many live stitches & the hole left by them is unacceptably big, in my opinion. So if I do it again I'll somehow work another decrease round in there before finishing.

Anyway, the pattern is here and the yarn is the incomparably soft & wonderful Malabrigo Chunky. Project details at Ravelry, of course.

I also made another Calorimetry for myself, out of the same beautiful yarn I used for my friend's. Still no pictures until she gets hers, since they look basically the same, but trust me, it's perfect!

Now I'm just dying to get to a yarn store. I do still need to do the second sleeve on my cropped cardi, make my friend Steve a hat, and maybe churn out a few more of those cute little hearts & things for Valentine's gifts. But what I really want to make is a neck-warmer for myself. I only became aware of the existence of the neck-warmer a few months ago, via this pattern, and my main thought was that it was super-cool but I couldn't picture anyone wearing it in real life ever. Now, though, I've seen the light, thanks to contemplating traveling to Montana in this weather. I only own 3 scarves (probably pretty strange for a knitter). One is the first thing I ever knit, of course, and it's lovely but acrylic and so not very warm at all. The other two were made by friends and are phenomenally warm, but one is so huge it's almost more like a shawl and the other is extremely delicate & full of sentimental value, so neither are really things I want to travel with. But a neck-warmer! It would be quick and cute and get the job of the scarf done without the bulk! I'm so sold on this idea. I have cute buttons ready & everything! I just need to get back to Knit A Round so I can use more of that wonderful gift card from Aunt Amy...

I have been baking quite a bit lately and Cookie #5 was delicious -- I'll post about that soon! I hope you're all having a great weekend.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A disappointing day with some good knitting.

I was so excited to go meet up with my fellow knitters at Caribou tonight but it did not work out. I had a paper I needed to finish first and I definitely thought it would be done by the early afternoon but every time I read back over it I noticed contradictions and flaws, and basically it's 11:30ish now and the thing is STILL not done. Ugh. I've never struggled so much with a paper. Pretty soon I'm going to just save what I have and resolve to turn it in whether I think it's perfect or not, but I thought I'd take a break & post before going over it for the gazillionth (and hopefully LAST) time.

I've been taking lots of breaks, really, to try to clear my head & be able to return to the paper with a fresh perspective. Usually that helps. Today it didn't but I still did some cool stuff with my breaks. For one thing, I finished a second Calorimetry as a gift for my wonderful friend Kenna. I can't show you a picture of it before I give it to her, but I can show you the yarn:

Filatura di Crosa 127 print in colorway 50, "Forest"

Isn't it gorgeous? It's the first variegated yarn I've really liked and I truly love the way it knit up! I'll show you guys when I can.

I also finished seaming the first sleeve on my cropped cardigan, so you finally get a picture:

Isn't it cute? Eventually it'll close with a cool button, and don't mind all that white yarn -- it's just a lifeline. I took much longer to knit the sleeve than to knit the body, and longer still to seam the damn sleeve. I think this just goes to show how much I hate doing boring things. :)

Ok, ok, back to work!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Cookie #4 + a great package.

First of all, I made cookie #4 for the year a couple nights ago. I'm a big fan of anything that involves a combination of spiciness & chocolate, so as soon as I came across a recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate Butter Cookies, there was no turning back!

Recipe: Mexican Hot Chocolate Butter Cookies (last one on the page)

Modifications: Though there is no yield amount given in the recipe (one of the many flaws in its writing), it looked like it would be a lot so I cut just about everything in half. I skipped the espresso beans because (a) we didn't have any and (b) I'm not that big on coffee flavoring, though it can be nice. Instead of rolling the log of dough in crushed nuts, I sprinkled some on top just before baking. That was my step-dad's idea and I think they were more aesthetically appealing that way.

Finally, I used regular old sugar instead of Sucanat. I'm sure Sucanat is a little better for you, but it also comes from sugarcane. I'm 99% sure there are no sugarcane plantations in Michigan (or in the Midwest at all, for that matter), so that means sugarcane products aren't getting to me without lots & lots of fossil fuels. Add to that the fact that regular white sugar is one of the only local products I can buy in a huge supermarket and, well, I'm opting for the white sugar, at least for right now.

Review: The recipe itself is kinda terribly written, to the point where it doesn't even tell you how long you need to bake the cookies! Luckily that did not stop them from being delicious. My step-dad, who ordinarily does not eat much and definitely does not gush about what he does eat, wolfed down several of these and was singing their praises for the rest of the night! The cookies were crispier than I usually like, but the texture suited them well. Also, cinnamon and chocolate is the world's greatest combination and I hope there's a damn good reason it doesn't show up in baked goods more often. From here on out, I'll be mixing the two whenever I can. I have to admit, though, that the spiciness I was seeking wasn't really there at all -- next time, more cayenne!


The best part about yesterday was finding a huge envelope addressed to me. It was my first ever package from Finland! You may remember that I had the awesome luck of winning a Hasbu's birthday blog contest. Here are my great prizes:

There's yarn, of course! Two skeins of Sandnes Garn Fritidsgarn, dark green 100% wool. I'd never heard of it before getting this package but people on Ravelry have done beautiful work with it. I think I want to try a felted pattern, since it seems so well-suited to that. Right now I'm leaning toward mittens, since I've been wanting to make myself a pair...

In the package I also found some crushed caramel-coated almonds to bake with and 2 bars of unbelievably good Finnish chocolate. I'm so touched that Hasbu thought of my baking and I'm looking forward to using those almonds in something! And the chocolate, oh god! I'm usually a dark chocolate kind of girl, but apparently the Finns know what they're doing with milk chocolate, because it is flavorful & creamy & perfect. Kiittää te Hasbu!! (An internet translator told me that that's "thank you" in Finnish -- I hope it's right!)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Bloggers' Silent Poetry Reading.

So apparently today is the Bloggers' (Silent) Poetry Reading, though I didn't figure that out until after midnight...luckily I can just change the post options & you won't know that I'm actually posting this at 1 AM on the 3rd (except because I just told you). Also, oh god why am I still awake?

Anyway, this is apparently some kind of blogging tradition and involves bloggers sharing favorite poems. I'm notoriously awful at choosing favorites (or choosing much of anything, really) so I'm not going to try to define my all-time favorite poem here, but I will give you one of the many I love. For this year, we'll go with "From Blossoms," the poem behind my Ravelry user name:
From Blossoms
by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
I first read that out loud to my best friend & my boyfriend in the back of an ancient van, on a day as completely perfect as the summer's juiciest peach. It was in an anthology of love poems we'd just bought at a tiny feminist bookstore in Marquette, Michigan. Here's one of the many pictures from that day that I absolutely treasure:

Me & my best friend Sara on the shore of Lake Superior, October 2005.

Such good memories! I'm getting ridiculously nostalgic here, but I promise I'm going to bed now so I can get up nice & early tomorrow to continue ignoring my homework, knit, and finally start posting about all that good stuff that I need to post about!

A very quick FO.

I have SO MUCH to blog about, guys! Cookie #4, an AWESOME package from Hasbu, yarn shopping, and more! I'm going to make this just a quick post, though, to show off my latest tiny little FO, and I promise to start blogging all that other stuff tomorrow.

I absolutely hate Valentine's Day, ok? Or...I pretend to. It's definitely a lame Hallmark holiday that encourages people to associate romantic love with the conspicuous consumption of the products of some really brutal industries, blah blah blah. Stupid [hetero]sexist marketing, making single people feel crappy, etc. etc. etc. You know what else, though? Hearts are freaking adorable and I am a big sucker for heart-shaped anything, which means that I secretly love checking out Valentine's merchandise, even if I think the holiday itself is dumb. (Also Valentine's Day = people buying flowers, which means I get to help out at my aunt's flower shop & make some money!) Anyway, you can only imagine my delight, then, at creating this inside of an hour:


It's a TINY WOOLLY HEART!! I challenge you to imagine anything more useless awesome.

I used this pattern but skipped the filling & eyes. I wanted something flat to mail inside a letter or card. I did felt it, though, just to see what that was like -- I did it by hand in the sink, just to the point where it started to get a little fuzzier & smaller. That looked good to me so I stopped. Like I said, I will probably make zillions more of these -- such a combination of instant gratification and cuteness pretty much demands that I do. And imagine all the dumb stuff you could do with them! Valentine's cards! Patches! for other occasions! Magnets! Ornaments! ...Things that you can just kinda have and look at!! See, they are totally useful items.

K, like I said, more tomorrow!