Wednesday = Yarn Along

Pink Grapefruit Cowl knit in MadTosh merino light in Oxblood
my “p[u]rrrple” grapefruit cowl

And I’m yarning along again after a break. Not that I’d planned a break but life got busy, as it tends to. I’m figuring out that I a) need to plan out time for blogging in my day b) schedule posts ahead of time and c) set up some kind of posting schedule so you guys know when new content will go up.

MadMay 2013 badgeBut back to knitting. As I’d mentioned during this year’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, I’m multiple wip kind of person. I cast-on to keep my knitting mojo going – plus there are always requests, and gifts, and so on. Plus, this is my MadMay – Madeline Tosh May – project.

This is really a fun project. It’s Julie’s Pink Grapefruit cowl and fingerless gloves pattern (her website is Knitted Bliss). Right now I’m only planning to knit the cowl, albeit in a larger size. I love how the star cluster sections look – and the way you create them really isn’t too complicated so it’s easy to memorize the pattern. I’m curious and nervous how the final project will look – you drop the stockingette sections between the star clusters, creating this dropped stitch – pattern effect. I hope it’ll be long enough.

Btw, my nephew asked me why his Mom and Dad can’t knit and that I should teach them so they could teach him so everybody would be able to knit. Lol. Toddler logic.

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

Cake! Cake! Cake!

I don’t think this was what Marie Antoinette had in mind when she suggested that they (the French peasants) eat cake, nom nom. Actually, the original quote is probably misattributed and apart from that, it’s supposed to say: “Let them eat brioche.” Oh, and did you know that there is a House episode titled “Let Them Eat Cake?”

I have a favorite birthday cake. I love love love it – well, if I didn’t love it, it wouldn’t be my birthday cake. The cake? It’s a Mocha Cake. It’s actually my Gran’s specialty. She used when my Mom was a little girl. Well, the cake was distributed among the entire family including the bunch of cousins, and everybody got a teeny sliver. A teeny sliver that everyone savored. And it was a treat – there were no mixers, no KitchenAid so all the mixing and beating of the dough was done by hand. I’ve beat whipping cream by hand, which already was a lot of work so I can’t imagine how much work that was. And since they didn’t have an oven, they had to take the cake to a bakery to have it baked there.

I didn’t take any pictures of the entire cake because it was just too tasty to take the time to photograph it

Gran doesn’t really work off recipes. Neither her cooking nor her baking is full of precise direction. Her Indian food recipes are something like “when the oil begins to pearl but not too quickly” or “when it smells right” or “depending on the meat.” Yeah, not so helpful. You need to really have a lot of experience for those directions to make sense. And my Indian cooking is nowhere on her level that I have had enough practice making those dishes. Whenever I cook something in that direction I end up being disappointed because it’s just not up to her or my Mom’s standards. Which means that I don’t get the practice in to get more cooking experience. I also don’t like going out for Indian food since it’s never as good as Mom’s. A catch-22.

I’m not making fudge, but since Gran fudges her recipes this was very appropriate. And darn it, now I want ice cream

Anyway, Gran has always fudged her proportions, which is pretty contrary to baking since it so based on chemistry – change the balance and you might end up with a cake mess. In fact, the last time I made a Mocha cake with her, she basically asked me dump 1 lb of butter in the bowl, plus a bunch of sugar – just based on her sense of proportion. And a bunch of eggs – I’m not sure how many since it’s a been a long time since we baked together, but it was at least 8 eggs. The mixing bowl was already full with that mix, so we separated the mass, and then she added flour and nuts and coffee according to her judgement. We ended up with 3 and a half cake ‘loaves’ – our neighbors and friends loved us. In fact, one of our friends always hopes that there’s some leftover mocha cake when she stops by for a meal.

The cake is basically a modified sponge cake, with less sugar than normal (so many cake recipes call for too much sugar). Apart from the usual suspects, it als consists of ground nuts, either almonds or hazelnuts, and mocha. The mocha is very concentrated coffee – instant coffee dissolved in very little water. I guess you could also use a very very strong espresso. Once the cake is in the oven you make your frosting. It’s a mix of butter, powdered sugar, more concentrated mocha and ground nuts, whatever you used in the cake. Once the frosting is done you stick in the fridge to keep it cool.

Then it’s time for the best part of the cake – apart from eating the cake of course. The completely cooled cake is carefully cut in half . If you’re ambitious, you can cut the cake into 3 layers rather than two. Just make sure you whip up some extra frosting. Now you’ll frost the bottom layer of the cake before adding the top layer. If your frosting is too, well, buttery and warm, stick it in the fridge til the frosting is cool and spreadable, not too solidified. Then you’ll frost the remainder of the cake. At the end, when you’re done you’ll add walnut pieces, preferable walnut halves as a decorative element. Stick the cake in the fridge to solidify the cake. Make sure to also store the cake in the freezer.

Mmmm, frosting (sorry for the blurry pic)

And then, then it’s time to eat! The end pieces are the ones everyone battles for, but the rest is just as tasty. Plus you savor every single bite since it’s made only once a year.

Star Wars party invitations

But – I think I want a Star Wars kind of cake too. I mean, how creative. And the geek in me would have so much fun. And can you imagine Star Wars cupcakes? You know, headshots as cupcake decorations? I think I need to tinker around with that. I probably will need to make the cake covering out of fondant, or if I really want to be decadent, I could also make them out of marzipan. Mmmm, marzipan.

I’ll also take a Star Wars party – the geek in me would have so much fun, plus it’s so much more practical than a Stormtrooper outfit, or Darth Maul or Leia slave costume. Tasty cake vs uncomfortable costume, hmmm, which one would win… Although, it is pretty awesome to see the costumes that people create. Plus there are apparently many Star Wars themed weddings – not my cup of tea, but I’m sure it’s a great wedding party. (Click on the images for more pictures from the different parties).

a great haul for $35…

vegetables & fruit from the farmer's market
$35 for that haul

I love going to the farmer’s market. You never know what treasures you may find. And it’s great to know that you’re supporting local farmers and that you’re actually buying that what’s in season. Plus, you can’t beat the price. I got all that for $35. Yup, you read that right. That would be: a bunch of beets, one fennel bulb, one Kohlrabi bulb, 3 Cara Cara oranges, 2 red onions, 4 avocados, 2 baskets of strawberries, a bunch of asparagus, 5 Asian lemons, 2lbs of fava beans, fresh peas, a bunch of Cilantro, a bunch of purple basil and red walnuts. Just awesome!

I used to hate Kohlrabi as a kid, but I decided to give it another shot and try it in a salad. The inspiration was this winter salad I found via Epicurious, and since I like adventurous salads I thought I should see if I will change my opinion. The beets will be pickled, the fava beans might just become a fava bean spread, peas for a fresh pea risotto, fennel for salad, the strawberries are so good that they’re not going to make it through the weekend, same with the Cara Cara oranges, and the rest I’ll figure out as inspiration hits.

I know I’ll be going to this farmer’s market again!

M is for millet

millet salad

I’ve been trying out other grains since I’m trying to go gluten-free as part of a detox. I was looking for a millet salad recipe, and I found this one. Genius! A yoghurt-lime-avocado-dressing, millet (I substituted it for quinoa), grilled zucchini and crunchy pine nuts, plus hardboiled eggs makes for a tasty and satisfying meal. And it hits all three groups: protein, fat and (complex) carbohydrates, plus lots of good for you vitamins.

I’m all for experimenting with new salads, so recipes like this one help you think outside of the box. And a delicious dressing – homemade dressings are just so much better than dressings from the bottle. And its really easy to make –  you can whip it up pretty darn fast. Try it for yourself.

 

approx. 365 days later

Threadless T-Shirt Future Envy
Future Envy via Threadless

Hello hello! I bet you were wondering if I would actually get around to putting up a post for the last day of this year’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. And I do, I do, I’m just a bit late. Ok, more than a bit, but I’ll delay putting up a new post so you’ll have a whole extra day with this post at the top of the blog. Today’s topic is all about the future, particular the knitting future.

Day Seven (Sunday April 28th): Looking Forward
One year from now, when the 5th Knitting & Crochet Blog Week rolls around, where do you hope your crafting will have taken you to? What new skills, projects and experiences do you hope you might have conquered or tried?

This could be anything from mastering a technique (broomstick lace, entrelac, etc), trying a new yarn or skill, or a long term wish to crochet only from your stash, or knit every stitch in one of the Harmony Guides. Maybe you have no desire or plans for your craft at all, no new element of knitting or crochet that you dream of mastering, in which case write about why that might be. In a year’s time participants will be asked to look back to see if they achieved any goals, no matter how general, and see which house conquered the art of looking forward.

inspiring quoteSo, let’s imagine it’s April 2014 (sheesh!) and I’m looking back at what’s been going on. Well, one of my big goals for the year is reduce my stash of yarn. It is pretty darn huge, so I really need to start whittling it down. I’m planning to destash later this year, and I have a few projects planned that’ll use a lot of yardage. But really, I need to look at my current yarn first when contemplating a project. Normally I see a project on the pattern page on Ravelry or in my queue and then I think about colors and yarn, and then I look what I have in my stash. Which is still distributed among a few places since I’m still not finished moving (sigh).

I think my process needs to change around – I need to choose a yarn and then find the right pattern to show it off. The thing is though, since so much of my knitting ends up as a gift I’m often limited by the giftee’s request – shape, color, technical elements like cables, lace and other things people stick in their requests. Or in the future I’ll just do the pattern picking and give people only a few options. Especially since no one is as interested in looking at different pattern options as I am. Hmmm. Something to thing about.

According to my infographic, another one of my goals for this year is steeking. I’m actually almost done with the hurricane vest I was working on and which has been hibernating now for a while. I’m really nervous about the securing the steek step. I think I can get in some sewing machine time via a friend (phew!) so I don’t have to secure the steek by hand, crochet hook, or not at all (scary!).

And now that I’ve become more comfortable with knitting various types of projects – lace, socks, toys, garments – I really would like to get more comfortable modifying patterns to the point that I use other design-elements, and maybe even adding my own design motifs. I love seeing how people got started on designing and I’d love to dip my toes into those waters. That’s a big goal though, no idea how likely I’ll be at implementing that. But I guess the motto is to dream big.

caterpillar
What oh what will you be? Let’s meet in the future and see. (Hopefully not a moth!!!!)

And since I’m dreaming big, I’d like to see if I can manage to stay on track with my knitting yardage this year. I’ve knit over 10,000 yards in each of the last two years, so it would be great to manage to keep that up this year. Let’s see if that’ll actually work out. I’ll be taking a look at all of these goals next year, and I’ll be curious to see what I’ll actually have managed to achieve. Most of the time I’m not really good at setting reasonable expectations for myself – perfectionist here – so hmm, I’m not sure if I’ve actually set reasonable goals.

Finally I wanted to share with you the progress I’ve made on my mascot socks, which meant getting in a little photo-op time. This was a post I couldn’t prep ahead of time. So far I’ve managed the leg and heel of the sock and I’m currently working on the foot part of the sock. I’m really happy with the result so far – and you can really see the hexagonal shape of the pattern. Mascot pattern success!

Snicket sock pattern
yay for hexagons! and berries and cream! (apologies for the crappy picture)

And on that note, I conclude. Thank you all for sticking with me throughout this year’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week! I really appreciate all your comments and visits and feedback. I feel like I’ve stretched my blogging muscles and taken a new look at my knitting and knitting skills,  and that’s the point after all. I’ll hope you’ll still come back and visit – after all, my mascot project isn’t finished, all those wips need to be cast on for and MadTosh Mad May 2013 is around the corner. Plus a whole bunch of food and photography posts, and some major blog changes. Stay tuned for more!

Good to go

Essential knitting tools
the bare necessities

It’s Saturday which means yay weekend! and yay more knitting time! Which means I can get some knitting done on my mascot project. But first I’ll share my favorite knitting tool with you, since that’s today’s assignment:

Day Six (Saturday April 27th): A Tool To Covet
Write about your favourite knitting or crochet (or spinning, etc) tool. It can either be a tool directly involved in your craft (knitting needles or crochet hook) or something that makes your craft more pleasurable – be it a special lamp, or stitch markers.

Is it an item that you would recommend to others, and if so for which applications/tasks do you think it is most suited. Conversely, do you have a tool/accessory that you regret buying? Why does it not work for you?

Now I have to say, I don’t really have one favorite tool. I do love my swift and my ball winder – they make life so much easier. No more tedious winding of yarn by hand, yay! Once you’ve figured out the right setup and method, there’s something quite Zen about winding yarn. Woohoo!

organized knitting tools

I also love my pointy knitting needles, and my project bags (of which I probably have too many) and lots of little useful tools here and there. But what I really like is the ways I try to organize my most important knitting tools so I can find them when I need them. Which makes life so much easier – I don’t have to hunt around for the second needle to a needle pair or try to find a size in the middle of a ginormous box and so on.

I actually wrote a bit about my knitting tools and organization in another Knitting and Crochet Blog Week some time ago. Wow, I just checked – that post was written over two years ago. Whoa. But how interesting that my organization hasn’t changed that much. I still use one of those fabric knitting needle organizers – well, since I have more knitting needles I actually have more than one. I love this one with the cute little red riding hood pattern that a friend created for me.

What I did change is my notions bag. I still have those two notions bags, a bigger one and a smaller one. But since I tend to carry around a small project bag with me, I’ve created a little essential notions pouch that can go with me without taking up much space. In fact, it usually sits in the bottom of my project bag, the one that I’m currently working on the most. It’s also great for travelling – I have the most essential stuff on me all the time and I don’t have to hunt around for the right knitting notions. One thing I do, though is to swap out the little scissors for an empty tooth floss case. I like the Toms’ flat floss case – it has a large enough floss cutter to use for yarn without problems.

very small notions case
really small: 2.5” x 4”

That little bag is very small – 2.5” x 4” but it’s just the right size to accommodate all that I need. I got the case as part of some kind of Loopy Ewe kit (it has the Loopy Ewe logo on the other side). It’s soft plastic and it’s stable enough to keep the scissors or cable needles from poking through and making a mess or my yarn or knitting. As you can see, I also have small measuring tape attached to the key chain part. That’s been really useful.

And then the contents of the pouch: embroidery needles, a little crochet hook, a pencil, two cable needles and a few different stitch markers. The markers with the beads are no-snag stitch markers from Jed’s Joy – I really like those. There’s also one of those Knitpicks tighteners that comes from with the interchangeable needles, an awesome needle gauge from Succaplokki and a small, very sharp pair of scissors that can also be used for steeking. Not that I’ve actually done any steeking – not yet – but they are really good and small enough to fit into the pouch. Oh, and a paper IKEA tape for good measure.

That’s pretty much it! With that, and a project bag – and my knitting of course – I’m pretty much good to go. So now to you – what tools do you love/hate?

Flight of the [Bumble]bee

Today’s post is a mashup of the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week assignment and {this moment}. The assignment is to come up with a different kind of post. Day Five (Friday April 26th): Something A Bit Different It’s the annual challenge to blog in a way different to how you normally blog. You may choose […]