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Monday, October 13, 2014

in which I am proven wrong yet again

Erik's new barley hat isn't all that big after all. Our little woodland sprite celebrated his first birthday in Door County last week.
It was a magical vacation -- fresh air, fall colors, lots of firsts. Erik was initially skeptical of the hiking backpack, but he warmed up to it and loved riding up high and looking around.

 And goofing off at Newport State Park:
Plus Erik managed to sport an amazing number of handknits -- not only his barley hat, but also his burnett cardigan and October vest.
The cardigan in action at Al Johnson's (mmmm... lingonberries! Scandinavian kitsch!):

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

urbs in horto

Chicago's motto is urbs in horto, "city in a garden." Sometimes the garden seems hard to find amidst the bustle and busy streets, other times you can't miss it.
I took a tour of the Lurie Garden yesterday. The autumnal air was cool and crisp, and the perennial plants were looking decided fall-ish. You can see Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion in the background, along with the Smurfitt-Stone building, Two Prudential Plaza, and the Aon Center. An unmistakably Chicago backdrop to a lovely garden.
 A mix of native and non-native plants, a quiet spot in the midst of the city.

I have to remember these peaceful city moments when I long for nature and want to get out of dodge. We drove seventy-five minutes to meet friends at a pumpkin patch last weekend, and while it was lovely, it was essentially in a suburban subdivision.
Erik enjoyed the pumpkins, the baby goats, and testing out his new hiking backpack, and we all munched on apple cider donuts and luxuriated in the beautiful, warm day. Despite the pumpkins and autumnal trappings, it didn't much feel like fall -- it felt like summer's last hurrah.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

autumn already?

These early autumn days are flying by. Cool, crisp mornings, pumpkin spice lattes, lots of baby hugs and kisses, swinging at the park, even a jaunt to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival.

I met up with Rue at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool and had a lovely time. My purchasing was rather restrained, which is just fine since our flat is already full to the rafters with wool. Some Briar Rose merino wool for a sweater for Erik, a beautiful skein of Sun Valley laceweight just because, and whimsical buttons by Jennie the Potter. I also ran into the lovely Caffeine Girl at the Briar Rose booth. So nice to meet her in person at last!
Some bad to go with the good -- making three trips to Minnesota in four weeks to help with some family health problems was exhausting, but all seems to be well now, and we're thankful for modern medicine.

I knit Erik a hat while sitting at airports and waiting in hospitals.

pattern: barley, by tin can knits
yarn: orange flower sw merino worsted, about half a skein
needles: US 5 and 7 16" circs and DPNs
size: child

Erik has a large head, so I went with the child size rather than the toddler size. That was overkill! This won’t fit him for another year or two.

Well-written pattern, lovely yarn. I will definitely use both again. I learned about tin can knits' free, truly easy "Simple Collection" of patterns with tutorials for new knitters from the Double Knit podcast, which I've been enjoying during my lunch break.


A child-sized hat doesn't take too long, so I knit a shawlette while I was waiting, too.

pattern: mirabelle texture sampler shawl, by Zehava Jacobs
yarn: madelinetosh tosh sock, turquoise, 1 skein
needles: Clover US 7 bamboo circs

The yarn was extremely disappointing -- many, many knots. Weaving in lots of ends in a lacy shawl is a pain. Tosh light more to my taste than Tosh sock anyway.

I ran out of yarn partway through section 9. I bound off purlwise on row 7, doing a p2 tog, slip stitch back to the left needle bind-off.

I love the texture in this shawl, but the dark yarn was too murky to show off the stitches. I also hate doing the butterfly stitch. It ends up too taut for me, and in one case I missed purling the slipped stitches together and had to go back and make a creative fix.

As noted by others, there are some typos in the pattern, but it is not too bad. I would knit this again, using a lighter colored yarn with more yardage, and I might substitute a different stitch pattern for the butterfly stitch section. 
I learned something from this experience -- I tend to knit with yarn that's already wound. There were many skeins of yarn in my stash that would have worked better in terms of color and yardage, but I was in too much of a hurry to wind them.

I finished another shawlette, too, but will save the details for another post.

Pasta with Roasted Eggplant and Mozzarella

Serves 6

1 lb. eggplant, diced
1-2 large red bell peppers, diced
4-6 medium-large tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 T. olive oil, divided
1 lb. conchiglie (medium shells), rigatoni, or penne
1/2 lb. spicy Italian sausage (pork or chicken, loose/removed from casing)
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1/2 C. Parmesan, shredded
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees for the veggies. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.

In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, and 2 T. of olive oil. Toss to coat the veggies thoroughly. Spread the veggies on a baking sheet or shallow pan -- it's best if they are in a single layer, so you may want to use two pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. Toss with a spatula a couple of times during baking.

Once the water starts boiling, drop the pasta in and cook until al dente.

Brown the Italian sausage, breaking it up as it cooks, and drain.

Drain pasta thoroughly in a colander and place in a large bowl. Add the veggies to the pasta along with the remaining T. of oil. Add the sausage, mozzarella, Parmesan, salt, and pepper, and toss.

NB: A good vegetarian option would be to substitute oil-cured black olives for the Italian sausage.

Monday, August 18, 2014

savoring these summer days

walks at Winnemac Park, where reclamation of the natural prairie is underway:

splashes in the backyard:

crafting -- a sweet knit baby doll for Erik's friend's first birthday:
pattern: knit baby doll pattern set, by Amy Gaines
yarn: knit picks comfy worsted, in honeydew, peony, ivory, and creme brulee
needles: US 4 Brittany straights
my Ravelry project page


This knit baby doll was fun and fairly quick to knit! I followed the directions (aside from making the body a couple rows longer) and knit it flat. I saw some versions knit in round on Ravelry, but I think the seams give it a little more structure. The finishing work was a little fiddly, but it really wasn't too bad. Embroidering the face was the hardest part. I'd definitely make this pattern again -- I found it much less painful than many other knit toy patterns. Perhaps because I wasn't monkeying around with DPNs?

The yarn was leftover from some crochet projects, including yet another diagonal box-stitch baby afghan that I recently finished!
summer eats:

smitten kitchen's zucchini bread (recommended by Tinks and Frogs Rue)
easiest fridge dill pickles (also from smitten kitchen)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

summertime is crochet time

another cozy blanket for a wee one, this time for my dear friend's little boy

yet another crochet blankie in the works

I'm loving the Capresso FrothPro Erik (i.e., Paul) gave me for Mother's Day. It works beautifully, and I've been enjoying cappuccinos out on the front porch lately. 

Other things making me happy these days...
 puttering around in the garden
Anathem by Neal Stephenon on audiobook (absolutely engrossing)
Family Tree, an HBO series by Christopher Guest starring Chris O'Dowd (so funny!)
Doubleknit podcast (Erin and Jessica talk knitting, books, movies... you know, all the important things)
jam tarts, best eaten outdoors
this little guy (now crawling up a storm!):

the bounty of local veggies from our neighborhood farmers' market:

Yes, that is the cat sitting on the dining room table, because that is how we roll, folks. 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

rhubarb buttermere

Just as we finished off the first batch of rhubarb syrup, I washed and blocked my rhubarb-inspired shawlette!

It's rather larger than I expected, and the bamboo/rayon gives it a nice sheen. I'm still a wool or cashmere girl at heart, though, so I probably will use up the bamboo blends I have, but not buy any more.

Pattern: Buttermere Shawl, by Victoria Magnus (of Eden Cottage Yarns)
Yarn: Knitting Notions Classic Merino Bamboo, Ruby, 1 skein
Needles: US 5 Clover bamboo circs

This pattern would make a great introduction to knitting lace or shawls! It's very easy, there's lots of stockinette with just the fun lace bit at the end, and there's no garter tab to mess with. I bound off on the wrong side purl wise --p2tog, pass stitch back to left needle, repeat.

I enjoyed this project thoroughly -- the rhythm of knitting this felt so natural to me, and it reminded me why I love to knit. Very relaxing. I worked on this while watching Family Tree (Chris O'Dowd! I love him! very funny) and the 2011 Jane Eyre (the one with Mia Wasikowksa and Michael Fassbender). So overwrought -- I remember once thinking that Jane Eyre was the sane counterpart to Wuthering Heights, now not so much. Those Brontes! Paul said that I sounded like Mr. Mybug. I suppose I fall more on the "sense" end of the spectrum rather than the "sensibility." But the gothic look was just right, and it captured the spookiness that often gets ignored in film adaptations. The Buttermere shawlette would be just the thing to wear while strolling the grounds of Thornfield Hall.

 Moxie Cat atop a copy of English Home -- good taste, that one.

Remember the spring cleaning KAL I did back in April? Inspired by that, I dug out a couple more projects and finished them up. Huzzah! Two cozy Malabrigo cabled scarves into the bin for holiday gifts (though it will be awfully hard to give away the blue one).

Monday, June 23, 2014

rhubarb season

Rhubarb season comes later in the Upper Midwest and stays longer than in other parts of the country. I tried a new recipe for cinnamon-rhubarb muffins, and they were delicious! The batter relies heavily on sour cream, and it has a texture unlike any other muffin batter I've made.

I made Martha's rhubarb syrup again, and we tried it in champagne cocktails, which were sadly rather disappointing. Far too sweet! And I'm a Nordic type with a sweet tooth, so that's saying a lot. I'll try it again, but with brut champagne. On the other hand, a rhubarb gin fizz is amazing.

Rhubarb Gin Fizz

2 oz. gin
a generous dash of rhubarb syrup
club soda 
2 lemon slices

Pour the gin, rhubarb syrup, and club soda in a lowball glass with ice cubes. Stir. Top off with soda water, squeeze in a slice of lemon, stir again. Garnish with the second lemon slice. Relax and enjoy, preferably while sitting on the veranda.

I'm knitting a Buttermere shawlette with this lovely rhubarb-colored yarn that I picked up at last summer's Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair -- Knitting Notions Classic Merino Bamboo in "Ruby." Easy pattern, perfect for toting around with me. The picture just shows the plain-jane stockinette part, but I just knit the lace border, and let me tell you, it was so nice to knit. Lace is the best.


Erik inherited my love of books, though he's more interested in gnawing on them than I am. He takes Sandra Boynton's smaller board books everywhere. I swear, that woman must sleep on a pile of money. 

 Showing off his lovely teeth! Another one is about to pop through on top.