Wednesday, December 31, 2008

there and back again

Paul and I made it to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, back to Milwaukee, and home again without any more meltdowns of our own. Many thanks for all the kind comments on my last post.

It's a real bitch to see your families' health declining, though. Dementia, back problems, MS, Parkinson's-like symptoms... the guilt you feel at not being there to help combines with extreme relief to create an emotional sinkhole. December 08 has been rough. My hope for the New Year is for things to be easier for a while. Heck, I think the whole country could use that.

So comfort knitting has been in order. Another feather and fan shawl is on the needles: This time I'm using Noro's Cashmere Island rather than Silk Garden. It's soft and free of allergy-inducing mohair, but I do miss the silk sheen. It's labeled as a DK weight, so I went with size 8 needles, but size 9 or 10 might be better. We'll see how it blocks out. BTW, you can score some Cashmere Island for a song at both Webs and Little Knits (which also has Malabrigo Dos).

Before Christmas a friend and I braved the snow for a trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory. It was a real treat on a grey day.
the holiday poinsettia exhibit

I received numerous warnings about how rough the neighborhood was, but it seemed OK to me, especially in the middle of they day. I highly recommend it, and it's easily accessible by the blue line. I'm already planning to return in the summer to see the outdoor gardens.
the aroid house

One more thing: a link to the Vampire Weekend concert at SXSW (from NPR).

Happy New Year to all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

in which the fates continue to conspire against me

Today was filled with lovely surprises, such as:

- having to call campus police because a creepy guy was lurking around my very empty department and following me

- a broken furnace + a 48-degree house

- a Jeep that won't start


Here's hoping that everyone else is having a much better countdown to Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Last week was rough chez Caffeinated Yarn. Here's the score:
food poisoning: 1
Jodi: 0

Due to my "trick stomach" I haven't had coffee since last Monday. This is a new record; I haven't gone this long without the magical bean juice since I was 15. But I'm finally feeling much better. For a while there I was too sick even to read or knit. The horror!

The shopping, baking, and gift wrapping are almost complete. We're making the cold, snowy trek to Minneapolis on the 24th. Let's hope that Old Man Winter cooperates.

A new scarf for my mother-in-law:
Pattern: Just Enough Ruffles, by Laura Chau
Yarn: Classic Elite Lush, Granny Smith, 3 skeins
50% merino, 50% angora
Needles: Clover US 8 bamboo circs

I cast on an extra 20 stitches to get a bit more length. I only worked 13 short rows on each side, as I was needlessly afraid of running out of yarn again.

The "apple green" Malabrigo was just too bright for me in the end. I picked up this soft angora-blend yarn at Lakeside Fibers on a day trip to Madison. It's one of my favorite yarn stores, especially on a cold wintry day when you can relax with a cup of delicious coffee while looking out upon beautiful Lake Monona. Madison, oh how I miss you! Someday I'll be back... unless Boulder or Portland steals my heart, that is.

Wearing this scarf is like snuggling with a bunny's soft tummy. Heavenly!
I couldn't resist knitting yet another Owl Hat. I've even used this exact yarn before (Patons Classic Wool Merino, grey mix). It's fun to knit every time. This one's for my brother-in-law, who has demonstrated a surprising appreciation for handknits in the past.

2006 cookie of the day: Kanelkakor (Swedish Walnut-Cinnamon Cookies)

Happy Solstice to all!

With love from chilly Chicago,

Monday, December 15, 2008

a cookie a day...

The Christmas knitting isn't done yet, but I took a break from it during an especially stressful point last week. I picked up the Malabrigo cowl neck sweater that has been languishing shamefully in a corner since last March:Half-done with the second sleeve... This is a minor triumph since I procrastinate knitting sleeves. I have no fewer than 3 sweater bodies that just need sleeves. Perhaps I should start knitting sweater vests? Unfortunately I think they'd be rather unflattering. What has really helped me this time is thinking of the sleeves as mini-scarves.
I picked up some Malabrigo for another Just Enough Ruffles scarf. This one's destined for my MIL, who requested an apple green scarf. Now Malabrigo calls this color "apple green." My internal color-ometer is going off, though -- it seems more like an acid green. Any thoughts? What springs to mind when you think of apple green?

The tree's going up tonight, and I have big plans in the baking department. In December 2006, I posted a cookie recipe a day from the 15th through 24th. How about a trip down memory lane?

Dec. 15, 2006: my German great-grandmother's Pfefferneusse recipe

Capricha in her standard winter pose

Monday, December 08, 2008


I finished up my Just Enough Ruffles right before the pattern was "Harlotted." This pattern is well worth all the attention! It's fun to knit, easy to follow, and it showcases soft yarns quite nicely. I'm planning to knit two more -- one for my MIL (apple green), and one for me (light grey).
Pattern: Just Enough Ruffles, by Laura Chau
Yarn: Lion Cashmere Blend, cream, 4.2 skeins
Needles: US 9 Clover bamboo circs

I was lucky to find a fellow Raveler (veganpurls) who had some of this yarn on her destash page, in the exact same dyelot. Hurray for Ravelry! I was also lucky enough to receive a beautiful skein of handspun superwash merino from Micki, spinner extraordinaire. It's just gorgeous!

And I was also very lucky to receive this book from Kelly:
I must admit to being terribly out of it when it comes to all the latest vampire books/movies/shows. My friends were discussing them at knitting circle a few weeks ago, then my in-laws did likewise at Thanksgiving, and I felt like I'd been living under a rock. Or perhaps in Plato's cave? I blame grad school.
Kylie Cat hard at work,
testing the temperature of towels fresh from the dryer

P.S. Check out Melissa's blog for a detailed examination of how cats help do laundry. I think Artemis and Kylie are kindred spirits.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fred's Ascot

All that time in the car over the Thanksgiving weekend paid off:
Pattern: Anthro-Inspired Scarflet, by Kim Seio (rav link)
Yarn: The Plucky Knitter Aran Cashmere ~ Pumpkin Latte, 1.25 skeins Needles: US 8 Clover bamboo straights

A quick-to-knit project that's great for using precious yarns in small amounts. Congrats to Kim for writing a lovely pattern! The yarn is supremely luscious, and the colors look nice with my corduroy fall coat. The only downside is that it's now December and the snowy weather here in Chicago calls for more serious winter gear.

Also, it reminds Paul of Fred from Scooby Doo.
I must admit Paul has a point. Maybe I should have picked a different color?

On the Hi-Fi:
- Fleet Foxes
- Blitzen Trapper, Furr
- Simon and Garfunkel, The Sounds of Silence
- Matt Pond PA, Winter Songs

Sunday, November 30, 2008

pretty as a peacock

I met this handsome fellow at Monches Farm on Friday. He never displayed all of his plumage, but he certainly was friendly and willing to strut his stuff a bit. My MIL and I decided to forgo the standard Black Friday shopping and instead drive out to the countryside. I highly recommend a trip to Monches if you're ever in the Milwaukee area-- it's very unusual and charming. Not only can you visit their heirloom chickens and other animals, you can shop for Christmas trees, perennials, gargoyles, antiques, and a lovely and unique array of homegoods. I'm especially taken with the gorgeous local pottery there -- more on that in another post.

My Christmas cactus is beginning its seasonal display:
I just finished seaming up a pair of fingerless mitts in a similarly rosy shade:
Pattern: Irish Hiking Wristwarmers, by Delia Rau
Yarn: The Plucky Knitter Worsted Merino (Single Ply) ~ "Cheeky"
Needles: US 6 Brittany Birch

I've knit this pattern twice before, and I'll probably make more! Next time I'll knit them in the round, as I always put off seaming. These coordinate nicely with the Windy City Hat I made from this yarn -- you can squeeze both projects out of 1 skein and still have a little bit of yarn left over. Sarah's yarn is oh-so-soft and lovely to knit.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


A fellow Raveler has come to my rescue and is sending me some LB Cashmere Blend so that I can finish binding off my Just Enough Ruffles scarf. Huzzah! This is one of the most delightful patterns I've tried in a long time.

In the meantime, though, I'm working on another scarf-type thing: Wisp has been in my queue for a long time, but the discovery that mohair and I don't get along so well (damn that itching, redness, and sneezing) put a damper on that. Until I saw Kirsten's Wisp, that is. I'm using The Plucky Knitter's Single Ply Merino Handpainted Fingering Weight in "Sense and Sensibility."

The cold weather has sent Kylie straight to her favorite winter hiding spot. She even likes to stick all her limbs right under the radiator.
I'm behind on washing and photographing FOs, so I'm hoping Thanksgiving break will give me a chance to catch up. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Just enough ruffles...

But not enough yarn.

just enough ruffles scarf
Oh no! I'm about 1/2 done with the bind-off. Now I get to scour the internet for a tiny bit of Lion Cashmere Blend in "cream" (yes, Lion Brand -- don't judge me too harshly -- it was in the 60% off sale bin at JoAnn a while back -- I just couldn't resist). It's a fabulous pattern, although man do those rows seem long (600 sts at the ruffle section).

More bad news... this time on the Dr. Who front. I'm crushed, just crushed.

However, back on the topic of ruffles, I'm loving the November Ruffle Wrap pattern (rav link) by Kate Jackson. The Yarn Barn of Kansas has put together a pretty affordable kit for it.

Speaking of new patterns, the Interweave Winter 08 Preview is up! The Climbing Vines Pullover is gorgeous. It looks like a Phildar or Rebecca pattern from a while back, though. Also, the new Twist Collective issue is up, and it's great. I'm especially taken with the Critter Comforts section. Too darn cute!!! Talk about creativity in more than just one medium. It almost makes me want to pick up the old watercolors again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

rara avis

A bluebird of happiness was spotted alighting upon the pothos plant in my study this morning:
Then again on a spider plant in the dining room:
What is this rare and elusive creature? I fear the Audubon guide will be of no use in this instance.

Bluebird, by Marnie Ann Joyce (Curlypurly)
Yarn: Cascade 220, light blue and gold
Elann Peruvian Baby Cashmere, black, for the eyes
Needles: US 6 Clover bamboo DPNs

As with most knitted toys, this was a bit fiddly to knit, and the finishing instructions were rather mysterious. It helped to check out the photos from Marnie's blog as well as look on Ravelry. Both Grace and Kim knit very cute birds last spring! I wish I had read Grace's notes on the increases beforehand.

I ended up attaching the tail horizontally with a bit of a curve to it. The beak was enormous when knit as per the directions, so I cast on again with just 4 stitches. It's still awfully long. I went down to size 6 DPNs to get a firmer fabric.
Winter garland update:
7 hats and 3 mittens down -- 5 hats and 9 mittens to go! While I do have a glorious array of blues, neutrals, and reds, I have absolutely no green worsted weight wool in my stash. I guess this won't be entirely a stashbusting project, after all.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


(photo from Garnet Hill)
Last year Garnet Hill's hats and mittens advent calendar captured my fancy, but I never got around to actually making one. That's changing this year! I'm using up leftovers from a year's worth of knitting full-size hats and mittens. While it would have been easy enough to wing it, I decided to go with this pattern.
4 hats down, 8 hats and 12 mittens to go...
I feel so lucky to have been here in Chicago for the election experience. So many of my friends and neighbors have worked so hard for this Obama victory. Obama's speech brought me to tears Tuesday night. What an amazing time to be an American! I was also touched and moved by McCain's thoughtful and gracious concession speech. Let's hear it for both of the candidates, and hope that we can rebuild and reinvent this great nation together.
On a much more pedestrian note, I'm thrilled with my find from a charity handbag sale this morning. I've had my eye on Orla Kiely bags for quite a while now.

We saw Role Models last night, and it was absolutely hilarious. Crass, crude, laugh-out-loud funny. Way better than it had any right to be!

Doesn't it look like the cats are doing yoga together? What a hoot.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Wabenschal, at long last

The Wabenschal I started way back in March is finally blocked!
WabenschalAlign Center
Pattern: Wabenschal, by Birget Freyer (rav link)
Yarn: Elann Peruvian Baby Silk, 3.5 skeins (~380 yds)
Needles: US 7

Notes: This is really more like a wide scarf than a shawl. It's knit from corner to corner. I loved watching the lace pattern emerge -- it looks like honeycomb. The Elann Baby Silk is pleasant to knit, and it has a great sheen. Plus it's very affordable!

Blocking is my least favorite part of knitting -- I don't really have the necessary tools or the requisite space. Anyone have tips for making it a less painful process?

marbled pumpkin cheesecake
I made a Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake for a dinner party on Sunday. I hadn't made cheesecake in at least 7 years. I substituted Neufchatel cheese for half of the cream cheese, and I added more cinnamon and nutmeg than directed, as well as a tsp. or so of pumpkin pie spice. I also reversed step 1 and 2, chilling the filling a bit so that it would marble better.

This was good, but not amazing. I like pumpkin desserts that have a lot of spice to them, and this didn't quite measure up. I prefer classic, plain cheesecake, but I may just be reaching a point where cheesecake is too rich for me. Man, when I was a teenager I thought people who said desserts were too rich were crazy.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Opinionated Knitter Kitten

Elizabeth Zimmermann is generally regarded as a quasi-goddess by knitters. Her work is creative, inspiring, and bordering on genius.

So what does Kylie Cat think of EZ's classic The Opinionated Knitter?
Kylie asleep on clean laundry
She threw up on my copy of the book. Sigh... That'll teach me to leave books sitting around on the floor.
The Opinionated Knitter
I think the Tomten Jacket is heading to the frogpond. I'm running out of (precious and unreplaceable) handspun yarn, and I've decided that I much prefer this pattern knit up in solids.

Hope you all had a spooktacular Hallowe'en. I spent the evening with the Decemberists! They cooked up a Halloween-themed set, and they came out dressed as characters from The Shining, reenacting some key scenes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

books and soup

Recent Reads
recent reads
What Was Lost, by Catherine O'Flynn
This is a first novel, and it was long-listed for the Booker prize, which is a pretty major accomplishment. It has a very fresh and thoughtful narrative voice. A lonely girl's disappearance has repercussions that affect a number of intertwined lives. At first the structure is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, as it's initially told from the girl's point of view, but I think it's a much more interesting book. Highly recommended.

Atonement, by Ian McEwan
Once again, a book where a decision made by one character affects an entire family. What interested me is how McEwan is able to present how young people form judgments based on their limited information and life experience. The book is set up in a way that's perhaps a bit too clever/precious for my taste, but a good read nonetheless. I haven't seen the movie version -- is it worth watching?

Pomegranate Soup
, by Marsha Mehran (a gift from Mia!)
This charming book is set in small-town Ireland in the 1980s. It centers around a trio of sisters who have made their way from Iran after the revolution. They're haunted by their pasts, but they're also blazing a trail for a new, more cosmopolitan Ireland as they open a restaurant and broaden the horizons of the townspeople. It's reminiscent of Maeve Binchy, but with a more exotic flair (complete with recipes).

Confusion (Vol. 3 of the Cazalet Chronicle), by Elizabeth Jane Howard
The Cazalets carry on during WWII, through the war effort, marriages, pregnancies, and affairs. Howard draws upon her own experiences in these books. Seeing the changes wrought by the war in society is fascinating. WWII seems to have marked a sexual revolution in a way.I definitely came to these books with an idealized picture of England during WWII based on books from my childhood -- precocious children sent to the countryside (discovering portals to other worlds), secret gardens with sick boys hidden away, victory gardens, etc.

This article about Howard is interesting -- I had no idea she had been married to Kingsley Amis (whose Lucky Jim I'm reading right now). If you like the Cazalet Chronicle (or are even interested), you'd most likely enjoy The Chamomile Lawn miniseries (initially recommended to me by Hilary).

In the kitchen
Curry pumpkin soup with a mug of hot apple cider makes a perfect autumn lunch.
the perfect fall lunch
Curry Pumpkin Soup
(adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, Nov. 2008)

2 T. butter
2 medium onions, chopped (1 cup)
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 tsp. curry powder (add more if you like curry flavor)
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 15-oz cans pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
4 C. chicken broth (could sub veggie)
2/3 C. water
1 C. half-and-half or light cream (could sub low-fat plain or Greek yogurt)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
salt, to taste

In a soup pot melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and carrots. Cook, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add curry powder and pumpkin pie spice. Cook and stir 1 minute. Add pumpkin, broth, and water. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Option 1: Run an immersion blender through the soup until it's almost smooth but still has a few small chunks in it.
Option 2: In food processor or blender, add one-third of the pumpkin mixture at a time, cover, and process or blend until smooth. Return all pumpkin mixture to soup pot.

Stir in half-and-half, salt (if desired), and pepper into pumpkin mixture; heat through.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

bring on the holidays...

I'll be ready! I saw the first snowflake of the season on Sunday night. OK, it was more like the dreaded "wintry mix" (talk about a euphemism) than snow, but I'm still glad I got a head start on my holiday knitting a couple months ago.

Since I apparently can't bear not having Malabrigo on the needles, I cast on for another cabled scarf right away:
inner truth + shamrocks
It's the "Inner Truth Cashmere Scarf" from the old Magknits. I managed to find the pattern via the Wayback Machine here. The pattern's fun to knit -- row 5 is a tiny bit counterintuitive, but you get used to it after 2 repeats or so. Malabrigo's as thin as I would want to go on the yarn -- otherwise the scarf would be too narrow for my taste.
inner truth malabrigo scarf
On Sunday I headed over to Arcadia for Franklin's book release party! It was great -- he even read a couple passages from the book. BTW, It Itches is downright hilarious, and would make a great holiday gift. Doesn't Franklin have lovely penmanship?
It Itches
I also managed to meet up with Bobbi (AKA Krafty 1), who was friendly, chatty, and wonderful.

Speaking of books with marvelous illustrations...
Long-time readers of Caffeinated Yarn are aware of my Edward Gorey fixation by now, I'm sure. I picked up Amphigorey Too at a charming and well-stocked used bookshop (Bookworks) right near my apt. Paul and I were on the way home from drinks, and I saw it in the window and just had to stop.

I ordered Lucky Jim through Paperback Swap, and I didn't even really look at the cover when it arrived. Paul, on the other hand, immediately noticed and asked if it had an Edward Gorey cover. Yes, indeed! What a treasure.

Today it's Capricha who's trying to keep me from getting work done. Case in point:
Capricha, as per usual
Oh well, at least she seems to like the hat.

Pattern: Unoriginal Hat, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Leticia --
unmarked colorway (sugarplums maybe?)
Needles: Clover US 10.5 bamboo DPNs

Notes: This yarn is super bulky! It seems more like pin-drafted roving (not sure if that's the right term) rather than "yarn." It's super soft and nice to work with. This produced a much larger hat than my first version. In fact, following the Yarn Harlot's decrease instructions resulted in a hat fit for a Conehead. I ripped back a few rows (to the end of the repeated section), k2tog-ed all the way around, and ran the yarn through. It looks just fine on.

Next time I'd cut a row or two out of the repeat section so that I could do the pretty decreases as written.
Unoriginal Hat

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Apparently I'm not the only one who looks back fondly on those 1980s John Hughes movies... Judging from your comments, Andrew McCarthy had quite the following. Pretty in Pink's one of my favorites, too, but I always wanted Andy to end up with Duckie.

Pretty in Pink + Xs and Os = besotted
Pattern: Besotted, by Adrian Bizilia
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted, Amoroso, 2 skeins
Needles: Clover US 8 bamboo straights

Well, if I can't get Paul into a sweater vest, I can at least finish up my second go at my owl vaby vest pattern. Just needs ribbed edging around the V-neck and arm holes.
An amazing bounty arrived on my doorstep recently. The ever generous knitter, quilter, and photographer extraordinaire, Mia, sent me all this gorgeous yarn:
Holy cow, I was blown away. This is enough yarn for not just one, but two sweaters for me! The ruby red yarn is Kimmett Croft (mmm... angora/merino), and the lovely lavender on the right is Manos. This is one of the best gifts I've ever received. :-) I'm thinking about using the Manos for a Button Me Up raglan , and maybe an EZ percentage sweater with the luxurious Fairy Hare. Thanks again, Mia!

Speaking of how nice knitters are, Rachael over at Cattywampus gave me this blue ribbon:

Aw, thanks! I'm passing the blue ribbon along to some of my favorite blogs:
- Knit & Play with Fire
- Indigo Mouse
- The A.D.D. Knitter
- Cocoknits
- In Stitches
It's awfully difficult to pick just 4 -- so I picked 5! So many knit bloggers are just amazing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

real men wear sweater vests

and here's the proof:
Jake Ryan? He doesn't even know you exist.

I don't think I can talk Paul into it. I'll be back tomorrow with photos, hopefully an FO, and some WIPs. In the meantime, enjoy this homage to one of the best movies ever. Period.

BTW, who was your 80s crush? It's pretty obvious who mine was.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

home again, home again, jiggety jig

Home again, after a long weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia. Williamsburg was very pretty, although the fall colors weren't really out on display yet. The downtown has a very "Disney" feel -- extremely clean. If you had to form judgments based upon the current incarnation of colonial Williamsburg, you might surmise that the colonists had obsessive-compulsive disorder (esp. re: germs and disorder) as well as plenty of money to spend on trinkets, seafood dinners, and decadent "Death by Chocolate" desserts.

The motivation for the trip was a friend's wedding. My bridesmaid dress was too large for me, and my hairdresser gave me big (southern belle?) hair. Despite my personal appearance trauma, the wedding went well and had its intended effect (*marriage*). The highlight was visiting a beautiful winery, sipping wine on the veranda, and petting the vineyard cats. No photos of that, I'm afraid.
The only knitting accomplished over the weekend was the start of a Besotted scarf (pattern by the oh-so-talented Adrian), in Malabrigo merino worsted in "amoroso":
Great pattern , lovely soft yarn... a match made in heaven. I have, however, miscrossed a cable for the first time. One of my X's is wonky. I contemplated ripping back or performing surgery, going so far as to check out the Yarn Harlot's words of wisdom as well a tutorial at I Need Orange. You know what? I'm going to leave it. For me, knitting isn't about perfection. In almost every other area of my life I aim for perfection -- and it's a necessity when it comes to correct citations, clear examples, all that good stuff. In my knitting there's room for a mistake or two.
Poor Kylie Cat must have missed us over the weekend. She has been my little shadow for most of today! P.S. See how big her ID tag is? I think she looks like Flava Flav. That's one of the perils of ordering ID tags off the internet sight unseen.