NaBloPoMo – the month in review

It’s now 14 months since I started blogging. I started just before the 2nd Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. That got me started on blogging daily, until I was traveling for a longer stretch. Blogging fell by the wayside since it was just too difficult to manage. Then I started up again, until life interfered and so on. I finally got back into the groove with the daily posts of this year’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week.

I found out about National Blog Posting Month directly after that. NaBloPoMo is organized around a monthly blogging theme and May’s theme is. They provide writing prompts to help you get going, although I wasn’t particularly inspired by them. But you can also go your own way – which is what I did. After all, I find crafting and creating to be a form of ‘play.’ I have fun and I experiment, which is a kind of definition. In fact, let’s look at a few of the definitions of play:

Play
verb [no object]

  • to exercise or employ oneself in diversion, amusement, or recreation
  • to do something in sport that is not to be taken seriously
  • to amuse oneself; toy; trifle (often followed by with)
  • to take part or engage in a game
  • to take part in a game for stakes; gamble
  • to conduct oneself or act in a specified way: to play fair
  • to act on or as if on the stage; perform
  • to perform on a musical instrument
  • […]
Threadless Design – Play

See, I think blogging, knitting, photographing, cooking, crafting can all apply. I managed to meet the monthly goal in my own way. I actually managed to set a blogging rhythm for myself and maintain it. And since it worked so well, I’m now going to participate in the WordPress “a post a day for 2012” goal. I’m managing pretty well so far, also because I’m scheduling posts. I’m actually traveling a good part of June, so my I’m writing posts ahead of time so you guys will have regular, daily content. I’ll do my best to answer your comments quickly, and if I have time I can always add new content.

But if you need some reminders when to blog, then this idea is genius: Create a calendar to keep track of when to put up new content on social networking websites. Plus it’s easy to make on your own!

felt blogging calendar
Felt Social Networking Calendar via What Did We Learn

I fail

So, remember how I said that I’d participate in Cheryl Marie’s Knitting Marathon? The one where the goal was to knit 26.2 hours over the course of two days? The duration of the marathon matches the length of a normal marathon. Want to know how I did. I got in exactly 3.22 hours  hours of knitting in. Yes, 3.22 hours, that means that I spent 23 hours of time doing other stuff. I knew that it would be difficult to get in any knitting time on Thursday, but I figured I’d get some serious knitting done on Wednesday. I was moving along quite well, and then I decided to quickly make some chocolate avocado pudding.

Chocolate avocado pudding. Delicious. Don’t believe me? Once I’m done tinkering with that post, how that all works out – it’s a something different kind of post for me, I think you’ll like it. But I had to spend time setting up a photoshooting, photographing and making pudding, and so on. Plus, there were all the  hours spending time doing other life stuff, reducing my knitting time. But that’s realistic, you know? You can’t knit non-stop.

Knitters, unite! Even Shaun the Sheep knits

Do you guys get problems with carpal tunnel or other pains when knitting for a longer stretch? I remember Melissa Wehrle from Neoknits blogging about her problems with tendonitiswhile she had sample submissions due. Fortunately for me, it’s’just’ my hands that hurt – and I’ve developed a callus on my left index finger where the yarn passes over – I’m a continental knitter. I have to say, I’m very very glad to have to  that callus.

I worked on my Erin Go Bragh shawl and I still didn’t finish it. Sigh. I’m in the final stretches. Are you tired of hearing about that shawl? Well, so am I. That thing is gorgeous, but in the end, the rows are. so. long. I do like the pattern, and I love how Veera is able to take the concept of stripes, and come up with new concepts. But I’m ready to be done.

 

We can work it out

It’s Wednesday! That means it’s another Yarn Along day. Well, this past week has been a mix of knitting, blogging, and everyday life. I spent some time hanging out with my friends and my god-daughters, hanging out at the grandparents garden, way outside of the city. I’d hoped to get some good knitting time in, hanging out in the sunshine but instead I was occupied with kids, who had a blast. Have you ever seen two kids competing to get into a hammock at the same time? No? Well, it’s pretty hilarious.

I’d hoped to get more knitting done this past week – remember that knitting marathon? I’ll have a post up in a few days on how I did. I’ve made some progress on my Indian Red scarf. I’m now on section D-E-F-G. You basically knit all those sections at the same time, some in garter stitch, some in stockingette and some in reverse stockingette, and as you go you increase or decrease the sections. It’s a very unusual construction, but now I can kind of see how this will work out.

May 30, 2012 Yarn Along

I need a plane read, and since they really don’t like you reading an ebook during take-off and landing, I was looking for a paperback. I’ve started reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan – I’m just at the beginning, but it’s a really interesting read. The subtitle is “A natural history of 4 foods” – he looks at the food production of four different foods. It’s a very interesting at the food industry, looking at food chains from beginning to end, tracing what we eat. He asks ‘What should we have for dinner’ – a simple question, but which becomes more and more complicated. Hence the omnivore’s dilemma. I’m looking forward to reading more – I’m sure it’ll be interesting, shocking and disenchanting at the same time.

May 30, 2012 yarn along - close-up of the Indian Red scarf

Now for the blog hop part: I’m linking up with this week’s Yarn Along, this week’s Tami’s Amis WIP Wednesday, through Ambassador Crochet’s Wip Wednesday and Frontier Dreams’ Keep Calm and Craft on (KCCO) blog-a-long. Check out some of the other awesome wip posts.

As you might have guessed, the post title is inspired by “We Can Work It Out” by the Beatles.

Monkey business

I apologize to all followers who are subscribed to my posts. I had planned to schedule the post for June 26, of this year, but it accidentally was published as a 2011 post. So now it’ll go up earlier – and I’ve also added content and  photographs, so I hope you’ll like this improved version.

Nephew #2 is a little munchkin, just a few months old. One of the best things about babies and toddlers are that there are so many great patterns out there for kid knits. Well, at least from a knitter’s point of view. Plus, they’re so small, it’s so easy to whip up something really fast – I mean how often can you say that you knit a sweater in a day? Instant gratification.

I’ve knit quite a few baby items, but I haven’t knit up a layette set. (A layette is a baby outfit set). I already had a baby hat that I needed to modify. When my nephew #1 was born, my sister received a lovely little hat as a gift, but it didn’t quite cover the ears. So my sister asked me to add earflaps to the hat. I never did quite manage to get around to knitting the flaps for her. Long story short, I finally managed to finish the flaps. I basically picked up stitches on both sides of the hat, knit for a few rows, and then I shaped the ear flaps with matched decreases, followed by a purl row each time. To make sure that the hat stays on the baby’s I added I-cord at the end of each flap so it can be tied. But the yarn I picked wasn’t quite exactly the same shade as the hat, so the plan was to overdye the hat. It didn’t quite fix the color difference, but it looks much better.

baby outfit set
Monkey layette!

I had also planned to knit some kind of baby booties. The pattern I thought about was for a pair of baby mocs that should ideally be knit in two different shades, or different colors. well, I only had the one skein of basic blue. But the dying gave me a second shade of blue, and I knit up a pair of mocs using the undyed blue and the darker dyed blue, to match the hat.

I had enough dye, so I also dyed a baby onesie at the same time as dyeing the yarn. Since my older nephew really likes Paul Frank, I decorated the onesie with a blue Paul Frank napkin using decoupage. I basically peeled off the top layer of the napkin with the print on it (very carefully, to avoid tearing), and then using fabric decoupage glue, I applied the design to the onesie. After drying, it needed to be ironed, and voila! I have a baby layette for munchkin #2. I guess I could have knit a baby cardigan, too, but babies grow so quickly. I’d rather knit him a cardigan when he’s a bit older and he’ll get more use out of a it.

Blue monkey baby layette
The entire baby layette

Decoupage is a great technique to create or redo items. It’s also a fun activity for kids – my goddaughter decorated easter eggs using napkin decoupage (hollow eggs, the egg had been used for Easter baking). You can use the decoupage technique to decorate all kinds of items – not just clothing. You can decorate everything from jewelry boxes to chairs. I saw these awesome mugs that someone very creative had decorated, using specific porcelain glue. Make sure that you use the right glue for your project. The basic glue usually works on wood and paper – for garments you need specific glue, otherwise the applied object will come off once you wash it. I let my nephew decorate coasters – for those, and anything else that’ll be exposed to moisture, you need extra lacquer to keep help keep the moisture away. Have fun creating your own items!

1. Gift bags for Easter 2. Jewelry Box 3. Tissue boxes 4. Children’s apron 5. Toy box

Monkey business keyholders available here. Photocollage made using the BigHugeLabs website and PicFrame.

A workout kind of post

It really is a problem when your workout affects you knitting. Sometimes I’m so sore that my arms hurt when I’m knitting. Ow. But really, knitting should count as a workout on it’s own. After all, if you’re knitting a bulky project, you’re definitely hauling around a mass of yarn. I remember knitting blankets, and once you hit a certain point, you’re handling a significant amount of weight on your knitting needles and thus on your arms. That’s where circular needles are waaaay better than straight needles.

Like many other people, I’m not a fan of going to the gym. It’s the going part that’s hard. I have to drag myself there, and I’ll be constantly whining in my head that I could totally use a day off. Or I could work in a yoga practice, and that would be just as good. I hate running, so that one is out (too much impact on my ankles and my knees).

iPod and working out
From CollegeHumor – they have a whole series of funny realistic gym workout diagrams

Once I do start working out, and I’m in the groove, I’m ok. A big part of that is that I’ve started listening to audiobooks while working out. That way I’m not constantly looking at the display, counting down every second. Instead I’m invested in a story, and it’s a great way to ‘read’ with your ears. And in the end, I remember that I actually do feel better when I’ve gotten some cardio exercise in.

I don’t want to knock Pilates or Yoga or other forms of exercise. I’ve tried both, and they’re great. Most of my Pilates experience has been on the machines, and boy, you get a whole new appreciation of your ab muscles. I’ve mostly gone to yoga classes, some of which I liked more than others. I really think the teacher makes or breaks the class. I’m now trying to work in a daily yoga practice of sun salutations…

I also play audiobooks during strength training. The thing is, I really need some kind of strap to hold my iPhone. Right now I’m currently wedging it against the workout bench – which is how it dropped and kind of damaged my headphones. Goshdarnit! So now I do have to replace my headphones though – the stop/play button on my headphones doesn’t seem to work anymore. I’m contemplating investing in a an iPod Shuffle or Nano since you can just clip them on, and I don’t have to worry about water damage to my iPhone.

I love when late spring eases into summer, and the weather gets consistently warmer. There are all those great things of summer to enjoy – sunshine, hanging out with friends outside, salad, ice cream, the prospect of a vacation, light and breezy clothing, and so on. But, summer also means summer tops and sleeveless tees. Yeah.  You’re showing of your arms.

If your happy with your arms, yay for you. But me, I’m not happy with them. I have really good arm strength, but I would love to have skinnier arms. More correctly – arms that are more toned. The tailor in India being surprised at the size of my arm muscles when measuring me for a sari blouse, and my Mom telling me to be careful during Karate training so my arms wouldn’t be so big. I’m not a body builder, and my arms are pretty normal, apart from their flabbiness, but a lot of young Indian women have ridiculously skinny arms.

I’m always on the lookout for good arm exercises to help with arm muscle toning and definition. So when I came across this Summer Arms Challenge the other day, I just had to share it with you. I think the workouts are doable, and they don’t look like they take up a lot of time. Want to join me? Or do you have your own workout suggestions? I’d love to hear from you.

Pin is from Zippy Pins – they have all kinds of awesome knitting and other craft themed pins. I’m going to have to get some for my project bags

Cookout!

Do you want to get into the cookout mood? Just start singing “Rollout” by Ludacris and substitute “Cookout” for Rollout. There, now you’re ready to hang out outside.

We finally have less rain. No more April showers which is good since it is almost June. We have more sunshine, it’s warmer which means cookout season has started! It’s warm enough. Yaaaaaay! The kids can play outside, hang out on the swing, play Easter by hiding and finding things (yes, they really do play that). And if all else fails you can always have ‘sprinting competitions.’ The perfect way to grab a few quiet moments.

Fennel and Zucchini, with Feta, Pinenuts and Lemon
Shaved Fennel and Zucchini Salad

Now, while cookout season is great, there are also health risks surrounding the eating of grilled meats – the whole carcinogenic thing is something to pay attention to. If you want to know more, just google ‘grilling health risks‘ or something like that and you’ll find reports on the findings about cancer. (Don’t run an image search – the Google images on cancer are pretty horrific).

There have been and currently are enough cancer cases among friends and family that it doesn’t hurt to prepare plenty of non-grilling options at a cookout. (Yeah, it’s been a rough time all around). For us, a cookout is a collaborative effort where every one brings something, and then it’s not such a workload on the hosts. My favorite contributions are salads that don’t need refrigeration – careful on the mayonnaise, side dishes that can be prepared ahead of time, and dessert options that are non-melting. Pretty much common sense.

I’ve come to be known as the salad queen in the family, so my standard contribution is some kind of crunchy-ish salad. One of my friends always contributes a basic lettuce salad with vinaigrette. So that’s taken care of, and I can play around with different takes on salad recipes.

This one is my current summer favorite: 101 cookbook’s Shaved Fennel salad. Yes, it’s a non-smitten kitchen recipe! It’s so good, I can’t believe that it didn’t make it into the cookbook. It’s really easy to make, you can assemble parts of it ahead of time, and it’s light and fresh. I used to be a bit iffy about using fennel in my cooking – I’m not a fan of liquorice so I only liked my fennel roasted, and the spice had to be toasted enough that it wouldn’t remind me of some kind of digestive tea. You know that little condiment that you get at the end of a meal in an Indian restaurant? That little bowl of fennel with little candied sugar pearls? Yeah, that taste. Btw, fennel ice cream post-dinner instead of that fennel mix? That sounds like a win-win situation.

But – I’ve found that I totally love fennel in my salad. If it’s sliced really thing, then you aren’t chewing on the fibers in the fennel. Plus the fennel gains a surprising delicacy. If you have mandolin, have fun slicing (it’s just way faster), but you can just as easily get lovely thin slices with a heavy Chef’s knife. Same with the zucchini – it has more moisture, so I don’t know who it’ll hold up on a mandolin, but I suspect just fine. I haven’t tried a box grater, but the fennel should work just fine, but the zucchini – I doubt it.

The recipe suggest letting the fennel-zucchini-lemon juice-olive oil-mixture marinate for 20 mins to an hour. Yes, I left the dill out on purpose – I just don’t like it very much. I let it marinate somewhere around 3-4 hours before assembling the salad, and I think the marinade could easily marinate longer. There was no more fridge space left, so the mixture marinated outside, but since there was no mayonaise it it I figured it would be ok. And it was. The arugula was already in the salad bowl, dried, and sitting in the shade. All I had to do was mix the arugula with the remainder of the mix, add the feta and the pine nuts. And voila, you have the perfect cookout contribution. The salad disappeared so quickly, some people didn’t manage to score seconds. Oh, and one friend ate the remaining dressing with a bit of focaccia – she pronounce it delicious. I really recommend you try this salad on your own – you’ll love it.

Featured post image from Stackmatic.

Mother’s Day deliciousness

(Yes, these are petit fours. No, I didn’t make them. But they were so ridiculously cute, so Mom got them for breakfast. Ok, we split them. I think a petit four per person is plenty. I didn’t have time to make a big breakfast anyway since we went to an Indian dance performance on Sunday morning. I will make my own petit fours one of these days, I promise).

Sometimes you’re fortunate enough to be in town so you can actually prepare a meal for your mom for Mothers Day. I already mentioned the salad that I made, but I also made a cake. Yum. I have a huuuuuge sweet tooth. I love cake, especially homemade cakes. You know that someone put in a time and effort to create something that you think and hope the recipient will like.

We have a few standards around here – nothing wrong with that, but sometimes you feel like branching out. And sometimes a recipe lands in your inbox that you just HAVE to make. That was the case this time around. I got an email from Sassy Radish with the recipe for an awesome cannoli cake. Cannoli. Cake. And Crepes. (I love the alliteration). Just repeat these words. You it has to be good. Add orange puree and you have a homerun.

And yet – I just had to tinker around with the recipe. No great modifications, but something to suit my tastes, and the ingredients I had handy. For example, I had a few overripe mangoes that were just too mushy to use in a salad. Ergo – mango puree mixed with the orange puree. I modified the crepe recipe to get thinner crepes. I used orange and lime zest. I used less sugar – most recipes can stand a reduction of sugar, and still taste just as great.

This was my first time to make my own ricotta. It turned out beautifully and I think I’ll try to use as much homemade ricotta as possible. I couldn’t find any cheesecloth for the life of me so I just used an organic baby diaper cloth made of muslin. With that fabric it took 6 hours til I got the right consistency of ricotta. I got about 2 1/2 cups of ricotta out of the recipe. The 2 cups of ricotta filling weren’t enough for me, so I stretched the filling by using that last 1/2 cup with lime zest, and approximately 1 1/2 powdered sugar. I also used less powdered sugar in that first batch of ricotta filling.

The crepes: The first crepe was thicker which was perfect for the bottom layer. But I didn’t like that thickness for the remaining crepes, plus I would only end up with a few layers. I stretched the crepe batter by adding a bit of milk and some water – probably 1/4 cup of milk, and 1/2 cup of water. I used less than a 1/4 scoop of batter – however much I needed to just coat the bottom of the pan, resulting in perfect thin crepes. They also didn’t cook as long, max 1 minute on the first side and about 20 seconds on the other side. I had an awesome non-stick pan where I barely needed any butter to cook the crepes.

And the orange puree. I had 3 mangoes which were going to into that puree. I had one orange – and no zest. My zest had been used up in the ricotta filling, and smarty pants that I am, I didn’t read the recipe closely enough and realize that I’d need two oranges. So, no orange zest, and no simple syrup. The mangoes were sweet enough to make any added sugar unnecessary. The resulting sauce is still ridiculously delicious – I had it for breakfast, for example on my porridge. Mmmm.

The finished cake. Don’t you want to try some, too?

Since I had so much orange-mango puree I used about 1 1/2 tbsp fruit puree between the layers. And since I wanted the finished cake to look extra pretty, I added a final layer of fruit puree on top. It almost looked like a fruit glaze. So good. I refrigerated the cake before serving it made it easier to cut lovely wedges that wouldn’t slide apart during serving. I served the cake with extra fruit puree and a slight dusting of powdered sugar. I let the photos speak for themselves:

crack that w(h)ip

Well hello! It’s Wednesday wip time. And, as Devo said, it’s time to “Whip it! Whip it good.” Oh 80s, sometimes I miss you. Not the fashion, for the most part, more the music. Remember that hair? The perms? The scrunchies. Yikes. Unless you’re out to have extra fun with it – like with an 80s tribute band. Meet the Legwarmers, who are exactly that. I went to their New Year’s Show, and another time for my birthday. Definitely one of the best parties I’ve been to. Just check out their promo video below, and there are more images on their website. It’s a pretty much a requirement to dress up for the concert, so you almost get an 80s overdose there 🙂 I think it’s the best fun you can have with the 80s without actually bringing the 80s back. Imagine if people dressed like that all the time…

So, let’s look at my knitting (and reading). Well, would you look at that! I’ve actually managed to make some progress on my Erin Go Bragh shawl! I’m almost done with the last part of my Color Affection shawl. It has lingered and lingered around here. Which is kind of weird since it’s a fun project. By now the project has taken on dimensions that make it difficult to take it along. It’s no longer a “on-the-go” project. And I have other projects going on that have been getting knitting time, both my Indian Red and my steel sings scarves. But I’ve been trying to finish up my Color Affection, and I’m almost there!

May 23, 2012 wip and reading

I think I’ll finish this one today since I’m participating in Cheryl Marie’s Knitting Marathon. That’s 26.2 hours of knitting, May 23-24. I won’t be able to only knit in that time. Obviously I have to sleep. And then there’ll be lots of other things going on like eating, blogging, household stuff and so on. (I love that blogging comes second – although I’m scheduling my Wednesday and Thursday posts). But I should definitely make some inroads with my knitting. I think my Erin Go Bragh will be finished, and I’m hoping that I’ll maybe even finish my Indian Red scarf. Want to join in too? Shall we see how much knitting we can get done? I’m sure you can start later and then correspondingly finish later.

And the read, that’s a comfort read of mine. I read Tamora Pierce‘s Alanna series as a teen, and I loved it. A girl that wants to become a knight, and despite all the challenges, having to hide that she’s a girl from almost everyone, and so on, she succeeds and forges her own path. Who hasn’t dreamt of being a knight? I loved that series, and I still have my books. This series is a set in the same universe as the Alanna quartet and tells you the story of Keladry of Mindelan, the second girl to try for knighthood. She does it publicly, without having to hide her gender like Alanna, and the book talks about the different set of challenges she faces, the prejudices, but also her successes. I’m currently on book 4 in the quartet, Lady Knight, and I still have aways to go. I like rereading books – good books, that is – you know what is coming but you don’t remember all the details, and it’s like saying hello to an old friend.

Now for the blog hop part: I’m linking up with this week’s Yarn Along, this week’s Tami’s Amis WIP Wednesday, through Ambassador Crochet’s Wip Wednesday and Frontier Dreams’ Keep Calm and Craft on (KCCO) blog-a-long. Check out some of the other awesome wip posts.