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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

one

How quickly a year passes... Erik turned one, and we celebrated Peter Rabbit-style. How I love this sweet, funny boy of ours.

Carrot cake, which Erik loved. He didn't know what to do at first, but then just about polished off his whole cupcake (though a good number of crumbs bedecked his high chair afterward).
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Wee bunny-shaped chocolate sugar cookies with just their fluffy white tails frosted.



I made a traditional Swedish kladdkaka -- a cross between chocolate cake and brownies. I used a nonstick kladdkaka pan with raised fluted edges, but any nonstick 9-inch cake pan would do. No need to break out the mixer for this recipe! It's easy to mix by hand.


Kladdkaka 
Swedish Chocolate Sticky Cake

1/2 C. butter
1 1/3 C. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or 1 T. vanilla sugar)
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 C. high quality natural cocoa powder (I like Penzeys natural high fat cocoa powder)
2 eggs
1/2 C. flour

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9” cake pan.
- Soften butter and add sugar, vanilla extract/sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. Mix well by hand.
- Stir in the eggs until the mixture is smooth. Add flour, stir until combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on the lower rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Don’t overbake -- a tester will still have sticky crumbs.
- Allow cake to cool for 15-20 minutes. Then hold a plate over the pan, invert the pan, and release the cake.
- Optional: Serve dusted with powdered sugar, or with ice cream or whipped cream.

Serves 6.

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!
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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

notes:
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.

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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

notes:
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.
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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


notes:

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!
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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


Notes:
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.

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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).