Friday, December 31, 2004

waddle, waddle, waddle into the new year!

One of the last minute knitted gifts that I can finally proudly show off was a pair of Pashas! Each knit for a small child, who I hope enjoys Pasha as much as I did...Truly a fun knit, even with the seaming!

With that, the old year closes and we get ready to welcome in the new.

Happy New Year everyone! May it be healthy, happy and prosperous!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

mmmmm....bread for breakfast!

A little bit of post holiday baking to tidy up the kitchen resulted in a loaf of banana chocolate chip bread (lower loaf) and a loaf of Friendship Pudding Bread. The banana bread tends to make an appearance whenever I have bananas that I don't manage to eat before they get mottled....and every now and again, I mix up a bowl of starter and that fuels several weeks of baking before I get tired of feeding it (or it dies...I hate it when my starter dies!)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I'm on a Yarn Diet. Really.

Well, before the New Year hits and before I get underway with my "normal" resolutions, I figure I should go on a self imposed yarn diet. I'm currently trying to decide how small I should diminish my stash to in order to lift the diet, and I'm currently thinking that I should be able store all of my yarn (plus any new purchases) inside my Trofast storage system. Now, you might think this is plenty of space, but I've only dedicated the tallest section to yarn storage - I've got one (14 1/2") deep bin, a medium (9") bin and a shallow (4") bin that I use for yarn storage (and believe me, it's not enough space - my Ribby Yarn is still in its shipping box, I've got another box full of Berrocco Uxbridge Tweed, and then there's my Baby Alpaca and my Hand Dyed and Hand Spun Hug A Sheep wool amongst others that are all hiding in the closet). I've installed shelves in the Center Section and the shortest section and could probably use up some of those spaces for yarn storage, but for now, I use them for my knitting books and some of my finished objects. On the top of the storage system, I've got my various needles and other knitting notions, along with my Pattern book. This Yarn Diet thing is already proving to be a challenge, as I received the Elann newsletter today, and found some fantastic deals! Oh well. Must be strong. Must get thru the knitting queue (ridiculously long). Must not stash more yarn in random places. Please tell me, this gets easier over time, right?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A myriad of mice!

Amongst the holiday gifting was a herd of various knit catnip mice for many of the people I know with cats. Rumor has it that they are all great hits! To the left are just three mice; I've knit numerous others of other designs, but I failed to snap photos of them before shipping them off. In addition to catnip mice, the holiday knits included several scarves (sorry, the photos never did come out right). Next year, I'll have to get into my holiday knitting earlier :D Who knows what the theme will be. There are some other knitted gifts that went out for the holidays, but I can't post the photos yet since I can't confirm their receipt and I don't want to ruin the surprise!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

mmm...Harry and David Holiday Goodies!

isn't Troy handsome with his Harry and David bow?
He sure thinks so!

It's a Holiday Tradition, fruit and fruit galettes from Harry and David. Thank you, Aunt M! This year the galettes came wrapped with a bow, which I put on the cat, and he handsomely modeled it for us. Doesn't he look festive (if not a little bit wired)?

I've actually tried baking galettes before, and have come pretty close with an almond flavored butter/sugar cookie creation - smeared with jam or lemon curd, they're absolutely divine. I'll have to see about baking some for posting! As for the fruit, it's been safely stored away for munching during the holiday weekend. Tasty! And a welcome departure from the overabundance of baked goods. Is it just me, or does anyone else go into pastry overload and start craving fresh fruits instead? Ah well. I call it self-preservation of the waistline :)

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Emergency Content Filler!

Quick! What's a blogger to do when she can't come up with content for the day's entry??

Why...turn to Blogthings of course! Not only does it provide blog content, but it provides amusement for the blogger in question :D And without further ado, here's the semi-auto generated content for today!

Your Christmas is Most Like: The Muppet Christmas Carol

You tend to reflect on Christmas past, present, and future...And you also do a little bit of singing.

You are Socks**!
Cozy and warm...but easily lost.
You make a good puppet.

**Hey now - in all fairness, socks - especially of the plushy hand-knit variety - do not qualify as a crappy gift - at least not in my book!

You were Nice This Year!

You're an uber-perfect person who is on the top of Santa's list. You probably didn't even *think* any naughty thouts this year. Unless you're a Mormon, you've probably been a little too good. Is that extra candy cane worth being a sweetheart for 365 days straight?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Must Journey for Yarn

Why is it that yarn shops have to be so far away? This is probably a good thing, since the closer I am to a yarn shop, the easier it is to go inside and pet the yarn...and find yarn that I absolutely *must* have....Witness Exhibit A on the left - a trip up to Jessica Knits with Amy resulted in a small herd of Baby Alpaca Brush by Plymouth Yarn Co. following me home. I think I'll make a sweater found in the first Stitch n Bitch book. Unfortunately, the name of the sweater doesn't come immediately to mind, and my book is at home, and not on hand for reference!

Speaking of Amy, she's so thoughtful, she had a holiday surprise for me - the new Stitch n Bitch book and a ball of Oasis Soysilk yarn! She definitely knows me too well - I'm on a self imposed book diet (that really ought to be coupled with a yarn diet at the rate I'm going). My rule for now is if I see a book I want, I can't buy it immediately - I have to sit and think about it and see if I really want it or not. This usually works, as I'm far far far behind in my reading, and I've got more than enough projects in my queue to last me well into next year! Don't believe me? Well, I've created a companion blog, Half Baked Objects (also accessible via my sidebar - listed in the Archives section) that has all of my finished works compiled...well, mostly all except for the holiday ones which will be posted after the holidays so I don't ruin any surprises. Included on that blog's sidebar is a partial listing of my project queue - which is definitely as out of control as my yarn stash.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Friday's here!

Yeah. It's been one of those kinds of weeks. Thank goodness it's Friday! Time to tuck in and get some good lazing in along with some last minute holiday knitting and perhaps yet another round of baking. No, I don't have any potlucks or holiday parties to bake for. Baking just for bakings sake. I don't know what it is about baking, but I find it immensely soothing. And every once in a while, I get it in my head to do some elaborate decorative baking. The thought crosses my mind every once in a while that I shoulda been a pastry chef. And yes, you read that right, the holiday knitting list just got reopened with a couple last minute requests. What's in store?'ll just have to wait and see...can't have the holiday surprises ruined, now can I? :D

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Can you guess what's inside?

The cookies I brought to the Cookie Exchange are dubbed "Mystery Ingredient* Cookies". The way it works is if ever you bake these to give away, don't tell what the Mystery Ingredient is - see if people can guess...I remember the first time I had them, I found them most delicious and quite addictive...and I had a heck of a time figuring out what the mystery ingredient was. These cookies are very tasty - light (in texture - not light in calories!), crispy and buttery good. They're something between a shortbread and a sugar cookie...

Some tips and comments before I post the recipe:
  1. I use a food processor to make crumbs of the mystery ingredient
  2. These cookies do suffer "spread" problems - I found rolling the dough into cylinders and storing in the freezer worked well - When ready to bake, I take a frozen roll out, slice it up and put the cookies in the oven with the dough still frozen. I also tend to bake for less time than called for in the recipe.
  3. Almond Extract makes for a nice variation in place of the Vanilla.

Now then. The cookies are as follows:

Mystery Ingredient* Cookies

1 pound Butter, softened to room temperature
(that's right folks, we start these out right with a full pound of sweet cream butter!)
1 cup Granulated Sugar
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 cups crushed mystery ingredient*
(worry not, it will be revealed in good time)
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
Powdered/Confectioner's Sugar for garnish

Cream together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and stir until combined. Add flour, then crushed mystery ingredient*, mix just until combined. Shape dough into small balls and place on cookie sheet. Flatten slightly (with a fork dipped in cold water, or your palm or other mushing device of your choice - I prefer to skip this step and I also recommend chilling the dough to set it up a bit). Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 20 minutes (I've gone as low as 10 minutes for bake time on these cookies - be sure to keep an eye on em!). You'll want to watch them closely in the oven, as they burn easily. The cookie should just start to turn golden around the edges and the top should still be light colored when they’re finished. Allow the cookies to cool on the pan until set, and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. When cooled, sift powdered sugar over cookies - if you want em really fancy, do your sifting over a stencil. Store in an airtight container, with layers of waxed paper or foil between layers of cookies.

Yield: Approximately 7-8 dozen small cookies

*Mystery Ingredient: give up yet? It's Potato Chips! Incidentally, to get 2 cups of crushed potato chips, it's a good portion of a large bag of chips from the store - I have been using Lay's Deli-style chips for my cookies....just make sure you don't use any of the flavored varieties!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Midweek Slump

*sigh* it's the middle of the week and I just feel like flopping down on the floor for a nice rest. I'm not sure if this is my seasonal slump or if it's pre-holiday burnout. I've gotten pretty much all of my holiday things done - a goodly portion of baking (sorry, lighting was just dreadful for photos!), holiday cards, and gifts galore. There are a few more things to tie up, but I'm pretty confident that things will come together as they should. Cookie Exchange tonight. Can't wait....mmmm baked goods! My recipe (sans photo) will be posted tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

On Fiber and Fabric

One thing, for certain, is that the Portland area has way more than its fair share of fine fiber shops. The three I've been to have a fine selection and array of yarns, and even more tempting is the fact that Oregon has no sales tax...Alas, my stash is already out of control, and due to limited luggage space and an urge to try to make an attempt and not get too far behind in my knitting projects, I made a heroic attempt at not making too many additions.

For example, here is a photo - and a not too flattering one at that - of Cozy. For some reason the color isn't coming out right - she's dark green in color, knit out of Wool Ease. Poor thing has been stuck on needles since September if I recall correctly, and she's been frogged out at least twice. The good news is I'm getting accustomed to the pattern, so I can work on her more frequently - but I still limit myself to Cozy work when I can set aside enough time to complete a full pattern repeat - which, for me, takes about an hour. I do like working on her, as the yarn is pleasant to touch and the fabric is coming off very nicely. Perhaps now that I have all my holiday knitting done (at least all that I'm convinced I'll get done anyway!), I'll spend more time working on her...along with the other myriad of other projects I'd like to get underway.

Anyway, back to the eye candy - my fiber downfall was not to be had at the Yarn Garden or Lint - rather it was found sneakily hiding amongst the foodstuffs at the Farmers Market. What is it? Why it's hand painted hand spun and plied wool yarn from SuDan Farm. Hug a sheep :D I couldn't resist - now I have something on the order of 775 meters of yarn that is somewhere between sport and worsted weight...I'm thinking either Frolic or Shapely Tee. Thoughts? Frolic will require some math on my part, since the original yarn is Rowan 4-ply - a fingering weight cotton yarn. I know I was thinking of making the Shapely Tee out of that blue Beachcomber yarn I have sitting around, but this handspun yarn is so much more alluring.

And last, but not least, a trip to the Fabric Depot found me walking off with a yard of cat and mouse fabric and a fun retro-floral print. I'm thinking a lined square bottom handbag out of the Floral. I'm not quite sure what I'll do with the cat and mouse print, but I had to have it. I don't know what possessed me to buy the floral - it's got to be the most feminine fabric I've ever purchased. And it's got pink in it too! I'm typically drawn to blues and neutral tones. Perhaps it's all this knitting and other craftiness working its way into my mind. Ah well. It'll be nice to work with in any case :D

Monday, December 13, 2004

A vegetable that would do Fibonacci proud.

As I alluded in my previous post, my visit to the Portland Farmer's Market had me packing my bag with things that raised the eyebrows of the security officers at the airport. Nothing too strange...just some mighty fine produce.

When I saw the strange veggie to the left, I just had to have it. It's name? Romanesco. And it appeals to the nerd in me because all those cool florets are formed in fabulous fractal Fibonacci spirals. Incidentally, normal cauliflower also exhibits this type of pattern, though it is much more difficult to observe. This particular species of Cauliflower is from northern Italy (where many other good and tasty things are found) and it apparently has only a limited season - generally from September through November.

Also found and brought home from the farmers market were some glorious Chestnuts. I just love roasted chestnuts. The one I sampled while picking out my pound of tasties was nice and sweet and peeled amazingly easily - the vendor prepared his by pan roasting and finishing off either in the oven or on a lower heat on the stove top. I'll be giving that pan roasting method a try, as I usually roast mine in the oven, and no matter how carefully I cut little x's into my chestnuts, it seems I always don't cut one big enough and get a small chestnut explosion in the oven. In addition, mine seem much more difficult to peel when prepared this way when compared to the pan roasted ones at the market.

Other acquisitions at the market included a lamb sausage in a blanket and a tasty apple cobbler (for lunch) and a Chocolate Panini - which I brought home and had for breakfast.

And lest you all think I'm super strong and able to resist the lure of fiber, I did indeed bring some home...but you'll have to wait til tomorrow to see it :D

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Back from Portland!

First, I'd like to say a huge "thanks" to Raquel for bringing me hither and yon on my few brief moments after work while I was in Portland. Where did I go? Friday night, I had an opportunity to visit Yarn Garden, where I discovered the loveliness of many a fine yarn - especially Debbie Bliss Cashmerino and Rowan Polar (amongst others) - I don't know if I should be proud or ashamed that I was resolute and didn't allow any to follow me home. Yarn fondling was followed by dinner at Lagniappe - where I had a most tasty repast of fried catfish and hush puppies.

Saturday morning, prior to escaping to the airport was spent by hitting the Winter Solstice Market - the last Portland Farmer's Market of the season...where a few odd items made their way into my carry on luggage. After the Farmers Market, we had a quick jaunt to Lint, where I fondled yet more yarn - Brown Sheep Burly Spun and Blue Sky Alpaca fibers. We topped off my luggage by making a visit to the most immense and well stocked Fabric Depot where I found some yardage I absolutely had to have.

Today was spent recovering from being off on business travel, putting the finishing touches on the holiday knitting I took on the plane, and other mundane things like frogging my Hug so I can begin anew and cranking out a little holiday baking. I'm sad to say I'm distressed at the recent demise of my cookie baller - but proud in a very sick nerdy way at how uniformly I can still crank out cookies using the two spoon method :D

Tune in this week for photos of recent acquisitions and some knitting in progress!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Interesting noises.

I love listening to sounds in the wilderness. One of my favorite things to listen to is the sound of birds flying. Birds make noise while they fly??! Why yes, yes they do. Ever hear the sound of a raven's wings flapping as it flys overhead or up or down canyon? Its amazingly loud. The sound of a swift slicing through the air as it speeds along near cliffs or mountain tops is also unique and amazing. I recently heard a huge group of small birds flying - it sounded like rustling leaves. I couldn't figure out what the noise was since all the trees were naked - but as soon as I looked up, I understood. I have no idea what kind of birds they were, but it seemed as the sun was going down, they were all determined to go somewhere.

For those who are puzzling out the Holiday Message Below, (sorry, the scaled size isn't great, but the original was too wide for Blogger resulting in weirdness of the post) case you guys are wondering just what it says, M (2.71828) r^2 (1/y)^(-1) SqRt(x^2) (force/acceleration) = Merry XMass :) yeah, alright. I'm a dork. I admit it.

Tonight, I get to go play at the Yarn Garden. This pleases me to no end - I finally get to finger Rowan yarn! Goodness knows I don't need to enhance my stash - I have more yarn than I know what to do with! And while a good portion I have ideas what to earmark it for, I still have plenty I'm trying to find a project to align it with....that troublesome blue yarn I have comes immediately to mind. Ah well, it's not every day I have access to such a wide variety of yarn. It's a good thing I have limited luggage space :)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Yeah, I'm a nerd :D I saw this and sadly, I got it pretty quickly. I got my paper holiday cards out for the most part, so here's a Happy Holiday greeting for the rest of you.

I don't know what it is about rainy cloudy days, but they make me sleepy and I yearn for hot tea or hot chocolate, a good book, a comfy couch and a fuzzy throw blanket (something I need to knit). Now that I'm back up in Portland, I am once again reminded that it doesn't *really* rain just "pizzles". The air remains misty, tho the mist drops defintely are moving in a downward direction - they just aren't big enough in my mind to constitute Rain. Personally, in my mind, rain consists of rather sizable droplets of water. Ah well - in some ways it's a refreshing change, and I get to wear all the warm clothes that I keep in storage back home. Unfortunately, it's putting me into hibernation mode and I'm craving my hot tea, etc. etc. rather than wanting to be working. Ah well...the work day is coming to a close, so I just retreat to my hotel room and have my hot tea on the couch with my book and my knitting. I'll have to settle for huddling under my fleece vest since there's no fuzzy throw availible.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Hug, anyone?

Well, after several nights not able to sleep, I finished off the Hug in Lion Brand Homespun. The good news? I love the colorway, and how soft the fabric came out. The bad news? I suspect I had a pattern interpretation problem and the sleeves came out a mite shorter than they were supposed to. I modified the instructions and knit the sleeves in the round because I didn't want to seam. So...she's headed for the frog pond for a refresh. I'll probably post photos when she's done to my satisfaction.

Back in Portland, and had fun idling away time on the MAX with my knitting. I didn't bring Cozy. Poor Cozy...stuck on needles as a UFO. Maybe I'll have to tell myself no Hug until Cozy is done....and then there's still Ribby to Cast On for! Oh...if only I could just curl up and spend more time knitting!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


like a weight lifted off my shoulders. You know how that goes? Running around like a crazed woman with everything ready to pop apart...and then you start getting things shoveled off, and things start calming down and falling into place. And thank goodness, not a moment too soon! We all need a calm space in our lives, especially this time of year!

The last few days have been positively frantic. I've not been sleeping, so I knit at night - which is all fine and good for my knitting...and I guess it does something for my piece of mind...but it's not helping me accomplish those items that I've been frazzled about all day.

Things seem to be slowly calming down and settling into what seems like normalcy this time of year. The first load of gifts and cards went to the post office today. And it felt great. I've got some last minute shopping/craftiness that I need to get done...and the baking. The holiday baking...ah well, plenty of time left, right? Ah well, no one said I had to go make those darned snowflake shaped sugar cookies. I think I'm going for regular drop cookies this year. Much less fuss...*sigh* if I could only just figure out how to make my living as a pastry chef without those horrid pastry chef hours....

Monday, December 06, 2004

It's in the Bag!

Troy is definitely in the bag.

As for me, I've not quite got everything in the bag. But I'm getting there. Holiday madness is in full swing. Two holiday events this past weekend; I used them as an opportunity to test run the cookie recipe I'm planning on using for the Cookie Swap that I've been invited to.

Most of the holiday gifts are wrapped and waiting to be sent off...the delay? Well, it's due to the fact that I don't have our "holiday message" finalized yet. It's on the list of things to get done in the very near term.

The Hug is progressing very nicely, I'm almost done. I'm not quite certain what I think of it - the fabric is definitely plushy, but it seems that it may be prone to pilling because it is so fuzzy. I'm hoping to finish it off tonight so I can move on to another project. The nice thing with this one is I've taught myself how to knit small circumferences on a pair of circular the world of socks will be opening to me soon, I suspect. I've always hated knitting with DPNs and liken it to wrestling with a hedgehog.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Is that a *wetland* in the parking lot??

Indeed! It is! Imagine my surprise as I was driving around a parking lot looking for a closer parking space, to be stopped by a fence around a small "wetland" complete with stream, marsh grass and trees! At first I was annoyed, but soon thought "how cool is that!" It made for a good distraction as I walked into the building and it was nice to see the birds and wildlife in that small area of wild-ness in an otherwise unexpected location. Portland is so cool.

(a not-inclusive list of) Things I like/miss about Portland (I used to live here after all)
  1. the gorgeous view of Mt Hood
  2. Powells Bookstore. And all of its iterations. Especially the big main Powells and the Powells Books for Cooks
  3. Sprawl is kept to set boundaries
  4. Environmentally friendly outlook
  5. Farmers markets and fresh produce
  6. there are an awful lot of yarn shops up here!
  7. mmmm...lots of ethnic food restaurants!
  8. walkable downtown
  9. mmm....seafood!
  10. autumn complete with color changing deciduous trees

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Frosty Goodness

One thing I haven't encountered since moving to the southwest is the unique combination of fog and frost. Imagine that. No fog or frost in the desert. :D Anyway, it really was quite beautiful, if a bit chilly. There was some mystical quality to the landscape with the drifting fog and the clean white frost on all the leaves and grass. Truly a beautiful sight. Unfortunately, I couldn't take the day off to hike and enjoy it - I had to come into work instead.

Progress on the Hug is going amazingly fast, as I had a good time watching/listening to the Food Network while knitting in my hotel room. I don't have cable back home, just for this reason - too much programming that I'd get sucked into! I'm a good way up the first sleeve - with some more knitting tonight, there's a good chance I'll be well onto the back by the time I have to catch my flight tomorrow.

Speaking of flights, someone commented on Knitting Needles and Aircraft - I have to say that it depends on the aircraft. The TSA (transportation security administration) does not have any restrictions on knitting or crochet needles for carry on. I have heard that metal needles are prohibited, but this isn't a problem for me as I dislike knitting with metal needles and am usually traveling with wood or circular needles with plastic tips. I will comment that this will vary if you travel internationally, as some countries transportation authorities do prohibit knitting needles on board. The UK is one such country.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

fogged out

Well, I'm in Portland! I forget how lush and green it is here. And how foggy it can be :D This morning, my commuter jet was redirected from a regional airport out to PDX due to the fog - which, incidentally looks really really cool from the air. Was hoping to get lots of knitting done during the flight - I had three hours to kill, after all, but because of the early morning departure, and the steady hum of the aircraft engine, I drifted off to sleep instead.