Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Valentines Day...late

Yesterday was Valentines Day and hope each one of you got a little reminder of how special you are...be it from friend, spouse, significant other, child(ren) or just a happy wiggly pet.

Our Valentines Day was memorable...there was a lost floral order, a forgotten phone, a broken website and an office with a broken sewage ejector (which for the record is as unpleasant and smelly as it sounds). There was also a spectacular cheese pizza, some very fine beer and our favorite movie on AMC. The night was not a loss, though I'm not certain The Shawshank Redemption would be classified as appropriate movie fare considering the holiday. Either way, what could have been a very lousy day actually turned out pretty great and I hope you can all say the same or better.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Crafty Bits: Shimmer Scarf

As I've said before, every year me and a small contingent of lady-type-friends gather together to do our "Christmas Shopping" in November. That said, only a few of us actually shop...living a good distance from most major retailers means there are some that come with long lists and lofty goals. The rest of us tag along, heckling, making inane comments and generally getting in the way of productivity. Clearly we're very helpful.

One stop we always make is to the local yarn shop, while not all of us are knitters, crocheters or even crafters in general...everyone can appreciate the comfy chairs and pretty soft things to look at. In 2009 the stop included my purchase of a skein of Misty Alpaca Suri & Silk hand-painted yarn. It was so, so soft. Almost downy. The yarn label says, "Painted to the stitch." and the variety of color in the yarn seemed to support the claim. Colors running from turquoise to plum to golds make up the yarn, but instead of being loud and garish the colors come together like little bursts making one overall softly variegating tone. Overall the scarf that came out of it is a pinkish-orange, but with a closer look you can see each stitches unique color.

My only complaint is one that holds to alpaca in general, knitting it up is like swallowing a giant hairball. Ugh. While the stuff knits and wears beautifully (I sill am in awe of the drape of this scarf) the little fibers that dislodge during knitting get stuck in your throat; constantly leaving you feeling like a Persian cat has taken up residence in your bronchial. Gasp, hack, ick.

This, of course, is off set by just how lovely the scarf turned out in the end. I knit it using the summer shimmer scarf pattern from purlbee and the end result it stunning. A long double wrapped scarf that drapes around the neck with a softness that is unbelievable.


Yarn: Misti Alpaca Suri & Silk
Color: Lost the label...pinkishly orange
Needles: #7 Straights

Pattern: Summer Shimmer Scarf
Source: Purlbee

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Crafty Bits: Angee Socks

According to the history on this post I saved this image in a draft entry on August 9th, 2009 at 8:26pm

...but truly I've had this yarn since November 2008 (I know, I know...that is a long time to sit on such a beautiful skein of yarn). I bought it at our annual Christmas shopping trip to Sioux Falls. It's a Malabrigo sock yarn called Botticelli Red. Sandro Botticelli was a Florentine painter during the early Renaissance period (when art was beginning to focus on realism and developing the technique of true perspective.) He is best known for his painting The Birth of Venus, though I've always preferred the work Venus and Mars. So it is oddly appropriate (though in this case completely accidental) that the pattern I used seems to employ a bit of forced perspective by taking heavy lines of knit stitches that "fade" in and out from each other, making the leg and foot look longer and narrower.

The pattern, from Cookie A's mega-popular book Sock Innovation, was quick and easy though I did them as a "knit night" only project so they took nearly two months to finish. In the end they finished up just in time to wear while I decorated for Christmas, and even if they aren't Christmas Red they're still beautiful and cozy.

Sock Information:

Yarn: Malabrigo Sock Yarn Botticelli Red
Needles: #2 DPNs
Pattern: Angee Socks
Source: Sock Innovation by Cookie A

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Home Cook: Swiss, Ham & Spinach Panini

What's this?!? A new post!

Tonight kicks off the intensive preparations for Thanksgiving at our house. It sounds a little crazy to start cooking on Monday, but Tuesday is knit night and many things must be accomplished between now and Thursday morning. And since I don't like to spend ALL DAY cooking on Thanksgiving, I make almost everything a head of time...mostly so I can watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in peace.

So while I make brine, jellied cranberry sauce, potatoes, rolls, pie and the like over the next three nights, I also still need to feed myself and the husband. It's unfortunate that our kitchen is so small or I'd just stick him with the nightly task of getting us fed, but we're not that fortunate. It's not really a two person kind of kitchen, or possibly, I'm just bad at sharing my work space. But lets not get picky. And since I'm not the only person in this conundrum, I thought you'd like to hear about what is going to save my butt tonight.

Panini - the single best invention to hit the sandwich since cheese. We eat pressed french dips, grilled cheese, grilled rubens, tuna melts, sliced ham and smoked cheddar, cranberry and turkey and many many others. Lately I've been on a swiss, ham and spinach kick. For me the secret is to grill the sandwich then add the baby spinach. I cannot abide the texture of wilted greens and this splits the difference. The heat of the sandwich warms the greens but not enough to make them clingy and disgusting. Best of all? I can have supper cooked and eaten in less than 30 minutes, leaving time to work on all those Thanksgiving 'To Dos'.

Swiss, Ham and Spinach Panini

Thinly sliced home style bread (farmer's bread, sour dough or ciabatta)
Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
Thin sliced swiss or baby swiss cheese
Shredded or thinly sliced ham
Softened Butter
Baby Spinach

Heat stove top grill pan and press top or panini press to medium heat.

Spread an even layer of mayonnaise on one slice of bread and an even layer of pesto on the other; top one side with a slice of swiss cheese. In a small bowl warm ham in the microwave, drain and pat off any liquid. Top cheese with ham and press on top of sandwich. Butter one side and place in grill pan or press butter side down. Butter top, press sandwich with even pressure with the press top or in the press; grilling each side until golden. Remove to a plate and remove top of sandwich and layer with baby spinach. Replace top, slice in half and serve.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Crafty Bits: Waterfall Rib Socks

I know!

I've been gone since May and I come back with socks, of all things. Nothing like a consistent obsession. I spent most of the spring and early summer months knitting a birthday scarf for my mom, which I forgot to take final pictures of before I gifted it. I also finished the summery Lettuce scarf, which is blocked and sitting on my desk waiting for me to re-weave in ONE END that has been taunting me for weeks. Mostly, though, it was a quiet summer.

In June Tim, the dogs and I were geocaching almost every weekend and discovered some truly beautiful places in the area. July was all about events, appointments and traveling; almost every weekend found us on the road going to some party, camping trip or the like. August, well, August was all about work for me. Long weekends in the office or at the kitchen table working out the intricacies of the latest project before the September deadline. I'm still not really sure how Tim and the dogs have spent the last 6 weeks, probably watching lots of movies and playing xbox games. But now I'm free and hopefully we'll be able to enjoy a few brief weeks of fall before the weather gets gray and wintry.

It's ironic that this is the yarn I plucked out of the stash in August. Called Dakota Autumn, it's all warm browns, umber and pinks...a little peek into what the trees and tall grasses will look like a few weeks from now. Fall is by far my favorite time of year, the air is crisp, the colors are vibrant and the light of the day takes on a warm golden tone. Everything feels like it's taking one last deep breath before winter sets in and I adore all, right it down to the last yellow leaf. I have to believe that it was wishful thinking on my part when I pulled this out. Knowing that most of August I was going to be trapped inside, this yarn would remind me of the season waiting on the other side of all that work.

These socks were probably the fastest pair I've ever knit...once I found the right pattern. (It only took me 5 tries to figure out what looked best with the yarn!) Done on #2 needles, they ended up a little slouchier than I prefer, but they'll still keep my feet toasty in the months to come. The pattern is a simple twisted rib called Waterfall and the diagonal direction of the stitches plays very nicely with the colors in the yarn.

*** Notes***

Yarn: Castle Fibers Sock Yarn
Color: Dakota Autumn
Needles: #2 DPN (probably should have used #1.5)
Pattern: Waterfall Rib
Source: Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch (yes, again...like the 5th pattern from that book)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Home Cook: Chocolate Carmel Pecan Brownies

I grew up in a home with a sweet tooth. On any given night the typical after dinner conversation sounded something like this:

That was pretty good, thanks for supper....do we have anything for dessert?

On Saturdays and Sundays the answer needed to be, "YES". We grew up on rhubarb crunch, pistachio dessert, mom's oreo caramel ice cream concoction and a wide variety of cookies. There were rice krispie bars, chocolate pies, box brownies and sweet cheese danishes from the bakery.

One of the first things I missed after leaving for college was all that sugar. It's hard to justify a big pan of anything for you, your roommate and her boyfriend. Three people can't eat a 9x13 pan of sweets and look each other in the eye the next day...though we did try on occasion. The situation became even more dire when I started living solo. It's just not much fun when you *have* to finish something before it gets stale.

Happily the problem solved itself when I began working for the library. I know I've mentioned that there were many days when their tendency to celebrate any little thing kept me well fed, but it wasn't a one way street. I happily took them treats when ever I had a rogue craving for something sweet. One of the first things I took were these brownies...I like to think it was one of the things that made me so popular around the office. Who doesn't like the girl who brings rich, gooey goodies?

And these brownies? Certainly are crowd pleasers. I still take them to work, though these days it's to an office full of guys, which is kind of nice...no one complains about their thighs.

Chocolate Carmel Pecan Brownies
adapted from fbnr Magazine March 2001

1-14oz pkg Caramels, wrappers removed
2/3 cup Evaporated Milk, divided (1/3 c & 1/3 c)
1-18.25oz German Chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup Butter, melted
3oz semisweet chocolate chopped, pieces or chips
3oz dark chocolate chopped, pieces or chips
1 cup Pecans, toasted, roughly chopped & divided
Sea Salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

To toast pecans: Place pecans on a baking sheet, toast for 8-10 minutes or until nuts are golden and fragrant. Stir half way through. Set aside to cool, then chop.

Caramel Filling: Place caramels & 1/3 cup evaporated milk in a medium sauce pan over low heat until smooth, stirring occasionally.

For cake mix: In a medium bowl mix together cake mix, butter & 1/3 cup evaporated milk until well blended.

Assembly: In a greased 9x13x2" glass pan, press half of the cake mix using a buttered hands or spatula. Bake for 6 minutes. Remove from oven. Spoon on caramel and sprinkle with 1/2 cup pecans and chocolate pieces. Drop on remaining cake mix in spoon fulls sprinkling top with remaining pecans and sea salt if desired.

Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before cutting, serve warm or cooled completely.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Crafty Bits: Summer Shimmer & Gloriana

I'm apparently on a scarf kick, I started one for myself with a skein of Misti Baby Alpaca Suri Silk (the color is not as Whoa! as it is in the picture, thankfully) about a month ago. The pattern is Summer Shimmer Scarf from Purl Bee and it'll end up being a light-weight summery scarf though I think I'll use it to dress up a few suits at work. It's been going well and the pattern consists exactly four rows, two of which are "purl to end of row" which means it is perfect for vegging out with while watching a movie...or three seasons of Burn Notice, whatever floats your boat.

Summer Shimmer

******If you are my mother [and I'm guessing you not, because she does not use "that internet-thing"] TURN AWAY.******

On the other end of the scarf like objects is the Elizabeth I - Gloriana scarf. I made myself the much less complicated Town & Country a few years ago and while I love it, I've always wanted to tackle the other scarves that came in the pattern set [Dainty Bess & Gloriana]. I had originally intended for this to be a Christmas gift. I mean I had like 6 weeks or something in November when I started and that should have been plenty of time for a scarf. Right?


Haa! Ha ha haaaa!

Ha. Or you know, not. I have come to terms with the idea that I'm a slow knitter. I mean I plan on starting a stocking hat for a Christmas gift exchange that will happen in February of 2011. But sometimes I let myself get a little overly optimistic...like then. So instead of Christmas, she'll be getting this as a 50th birthday gift in July. The pattern is...complex and it's taking a while to get into it, but now that I seem to have found a groove I think I'll have it done in time. I can do two repeats a night with minimal mistakes, so that's nice. I'm glad I've moved beyond knit a row, rip a row, knit three rows, rip two, knit four, rip one, repeat, because that sucked and if we'd have continued that way things would have ended badly for both of us. That said the results are actually very nice and I may even be sorry to see it go when the time comes.

Elizabeth I - Gloriana