Thursday, January 31, 2008


Phew... life seems awfully busy all of a sudden. My last prelim exam (of 5) is scheduled for early March. So much reading to do... I've still been knitting, though. :-)
Pattern: Utopia Hat, by S.M. Kahn
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool Merino, denim mix, less than 1 ball

Needles: US 5 16" circs

Since I am a l-o-o-s-e knitter, Size 5 needles were a good choice for a medium-sized adult head. It's nice and stretchy. For Paul, using 6s would be perfect. I mostly followed Susan's modifications, except for 1.5 inches of ribbing, then I didn't quite finish the 4th repeat of the upper stitch pattern.

While the marled blue yarn may not do the cables justice, I am so pleased to be blowing through my Patons merino wool stash. All these hats have been awesome stashbusters. I like knitting with the Patons, so I used to impulsively pick some up when it was on super-sale. Unfortunately it doesn't wear all that well.

Last weekend Paul and I made an old favorite recipe, Thai pizza. It's far superior to the rather bland CPK version. I usually make the sauce from scratch, but cheat and use bread dough for the crust. The pizza's best with a bready, hand-tossed style crust rather than a thin crust.

Thai Pizza

Makes 2 pizzas; serves 8

Sauce (see variation below):
1 tsp canola or olive oil
2 tsp. red curry paste
2 T. brown sugar
13 oz. light coconut milk
1 tsp. dried lemon grass (optional)
juice and grated peel of 1 lime
4 tsp. cornstarch
a little water
3/4 C. creamy peanut butter
4 tsp. fish sauce (AKA nam pla)

2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
a little olive or canola oil
2 loaves Rhodes white bread dough, thawed (OR your favorite recipe for pizza dough)
1.25 - 2 C. mozzarella cheese, shredded (depending on how much you like cheese)
1 or 2 medium carrots, julienned or grated
1 C. bean sprouts
5 scallions, thinly sliced on the angle
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped

Make Sauce:
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the curry paste and stir through. Stir in the brown sugar and mix well. Add the coconut milk, lemon grass, and lime juice and peel. Bring to a boil

2. Make a paste of the cornstarch with a little water. Stir into the sauce to thicken slightly. Strain this mixture, then add the peanut butter and the fish sauce. Set aside to cool.

3. Trim chicken; slice thinly, then cut into 1-2"pieces. Heat a little oil in a skillet (optional); add chicken; saute and add a little peanut sauce.

4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Form each loaf of bread dough into a crust on a cookie sheet. Cover the crusts with sauce, leaving a 3/4" border around the edge of the dough. Add chicken, carrot, bean sprouts, and scallions. Sprinkle cheese over the top. Sprinkle cilantro over the cheese.

5. Bake for 10 min. Pizza should be golden brown when done.

Sauce Variation:
When I'm feeling lazy, I sometimes use a whole package of Taste of Thai peanut sauce mix (requires 1 can of coconut milk, light or regular).

Follow package directions, EXCEPT:
While cooking the sauce, add:
- a little red curry paste
- a bit of dried lemongrass

At the end, stir in:
- 2 tsp. lime juice
- fish sauce, to taste (maybe 1-2 tsp? I love fish sauce, so I add more)

Fun fact:
The Romans were absolutely nuts about fish sauce, which they called garum. See here to learn how to make fish sauce in the ancient way.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Le Slouch, L'Ugh

Great texture and color, but not flattering at all. It's destined for the frog pond, as I would love to use this yarn (Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed) for something else.

A trio of hats in the works for my family:
They all requested hats for Christmas, but then promptly decided to buy new coats. So they're getting Valentine's Day hats instead. The dark blue one is my Windy City Hat pattern, which I will share on my blog soon. I just need to futz with the instructions for decreases a bit more.

Leah at Between Stupid & Clever (fellow music lover, foodie, and Dr. Who fan) brightened my morning with a "You Make My Day" award. Have you seen her gorgeous pattern, the Loop Shawl, in Sensual Knits yet? I just need to pick a yarn for it.
Give the award to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel happy about blogland. Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so they can pass it on. Beware you may get the award several times.

There are so many wonderful knitbloggers who inspire me every day. Honestly, every blog I read makes my day a little brighter. But here are 10:

Micki at A Thing for String --- Fabulous sock and a great eye for color
Bobbi at Krafty 1 -- I love her stash-busting "stash bucket"
Mia at Knit & Play with Fire -- More wonderful socks; awesome swapper!
Melissa at Indigo Mouse -- Have you seen her Autumn Rose? Breathtaking.
Melissa at Owl & Acorn -- Her knits always have a great touch of whimsy
Nicole at Cocoknits -- Another person with marvelous color sense
Sarah at Comfort Sphere -- Fellow Jane Austen fan and Chicago knitter!
Heather at The ADD Knitter -- Great combinations of color and texture
Sarah at Blue Garter -- Fabulous designs, especially the ones with historical and literary inspiration
Christy at Neither Hip Nor Funky -- Lots of tweedy, orangey goodness

Thursday, January 24, 2008

IK spring preview

The Interweave Knits spring preview is up! My favs? The Narnia White Witch Mitts and the Flutter Sleeve Cardigan. Since I'm not a huge fan of knitting with cotton, linen, or silk, the spring and summer issues are generally not my favorites.

ETA: The Knitty Winter Surprises are up, too.

Here's a hearty and delicious quick bread recipe, slightly modified from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. A thin slice spread with low-fat cream cheese makes a perfect breakfast.

Brown Bread

1 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. cornmeal
1 C. all-purpose flour (unbleached)
1 C. raisins
1/4 C. brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
2 C. buttermilk
1/2 C. molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat two 8-inch loaf pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients listed above the line Add the buttermilk and molasses. Stir just until a batter forms. Pour into loaf pans. Bake 40-45 min., until the loaves are firm and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans. Cool in the pans for 15 min.

Monday, January 21, 2008

winter delights

What's the best way to spend a chilly winter weekend? Visiting Three Floyds (a local microbrewery just across the Indiana border), watching The Office with friends while sipping pomegranate martinis, knitting...

Tulip Sweater

Garter Stitch Cardi
(Unique Sheep Superwool, Spruce Sprigs)

Watching the Packers lose to the Giants last night was not part of the perfect winter weekend equation. Oh well... at least I taped the new Northanger Abbey.

cocoa swap question of the week

Now that we're in the thick of 'Winter'... has your knitting changed to match the season? Are you moving on from dishcloths, and tank tops to afghans, hats and mittens? Has your yarn changed from silk or cotton to wool, superwash or heavier cottons?

I always like knitting with wool and wool blends; the change of seasons prompts me to change the size of my project rather than the fiber content. A lap full of wool is delightful in the winter, but awful in the summer. A cold snap prompts me into a mitten and hat knitting frenzy!

Winter is one of my favorite seasons -- sweaters, snowflakes, crisp air, mittens, hot cocoa, piping hot bowls of soup, and fresh crusty bread. Here's a delicious soup recipe, slightly modified from Jeanne Lemlin's Vegetarian Classics.

Indonesian Curried Vegetable Soup

Serves 6-8

1 -2 T. canola oil (I tend to go light on the oil)
2 medium onions, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tsp. minced ginger (I use the kind that comes in a jar as it's far easier)
2 C. thinly sliced mushrooms (regular white mushrooms)
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
1/8 or 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 C. vegetable stock (I use Better Than Bouillon organic vegetable stock base)
14 oz. light coconut milk
1 tsp. salt
2 large boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1.5 C. green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 C. finely diced red bell pepper
1/2 C. fine egg noodles (No Yolks)
juice of 1 lemon

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger, and saute, stirring often, for 10 min., or until the onions are soft and golden.

2. Add the mushrooms and saute 5 min. Sprinkle on the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. Cook 2 minutes, stirring often.

3. Add the vegetable stock, coconut milk, and salt, and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook 10 min., stirring occasionally.

4. Mix in the green beans, red bell pepper, and noodles. Cook at a lively simmer for 10 min., or until the vegetables and noodles are tender. Stir in the lemon juice just before serving.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

last one on the bandwagon

Project Details
Pattern: Fetching
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, 1 skein
Needles: Clover US4 bamboo DPNs

Marvelously fun to knit! I'll be making many more of these. This pair is destined for the cold hands of a fellow graduate student. Hopefully they'll bring a little cheer to the chilly library.

I picked up the yarn at a new-to-me yarn store in Milwaukee, Loop. It's a really cute shop; the staff was friendly and helpful, but not pushy. Dream in Color Classy was in great abundance there, as well as plenty of Debbie Bliss (which is hard to find in Chicago), Frog Tree, Malabrigo, and other lovelies. I'll definitely be back, especially since it's close to my husband's favorite Milwaukee record shop, Atomic Records, as well as a nice coffee shop. This area of Milwaukee is undergoing a great revitalization.
Unique Sheep Superwool, "Spruce Sprigs"
Woolgirl Sock Club ~ December

As I neared the half-way point on a little garter stitch baby cardigan, a horrible sinking sensation in my stomach developed. Yes, indeed, I was going to run out of yarn. Not only would I run out of yarn, I would run out of the December shipment of Woolgirl's sock club exclusive yarn. I emailed Jen at Woolgirl; not only did she dig up the very last skein of sportweight Unique Sheep Superwool in "Spruce Sprig," she also gave it to me for FREE, even shipping it priority. Talk about fabulous customer service... Thanks again, Jen!! :-) Knitters really are the nicest people.

I finished Owl Hat numero dos at knitting night, popped it on my head, discovered it was too big, and handed it off to a fellow (larger-headed) knitting friend. So no photo yet; I'll knit another one, modified for my medium-sized noggin.

Apparently this is hat season. I'm working on Le Slouch in Debbie Bliss Luxury Tweed Aran:
Pattern choice was inspired by Melissa at Owl & Acorn; yarn choice was inspired by Sarah at Blue Garter. Let's hope this fits, as it would look lovely with the charcoal grey wool coat that I ordered yesterday and am now anxiously awaiting. The yarn is lovely to knit; usually tweeds are rough and scratchy and wear out my hands and wrists. A good amount of angora really softens up this yarn, and the color is amazing. It seems to attract even more cat hair than usual, though.

Have you seen Alice Bell's new (free) pattern, the Brompton cardigan? It's cute as can be; I predict that it may be the Drops Swing Jacket of late winter/early spring 2008.

Note to self
New Year's Resolution: Don't wear clogs in the house, especially while working in the kitchen. Poor Capricha loves to be underfoot, and she doesn't deserve to be stepped on by big clunky Danskos.

Monday, January 14, 2008

orangey goodness

There's nothing like a bowl of juicy citrus to drive away the winter blues...
So maybe it's just citrus colored yarn, but still... Sarah and I headed over to Loopy to check out their 40% off sale yesterday, and I made out like a bandit with 5 skeins of Rowan Cashsoft 4-ply in Ginger, as well as enough navy Silky Wool for a sweater (maybe Basic Black?):
I've been reading proofs all day, and the one thing that kept me going was my fabulous new Bialetti stovetop cappuccino maker:
It creates marvelous foam, and all the hissing and whirring is pretty awesome. I had been wanting an espresso/cappuccino maker for some time, but had neither the space nor the budget for a big fancy one. This is perfect -- space-saving and not budget-breaking (even better, it was a Christmas gift from my in-laws). I hadn't realized just how great an insulation layer cappuccino foam provides! My coffee stays so nice and hot now. You can use it to make lattes, too, but there isn't any cool whirring then.

Anybody catch the new adaptation of Persuasion last night? I thought it was pretty awful. The pacing seemed off -- very jerky. The acting wasn't very good, and it lacked all the subtlety and wit of both the novel and the adaptation from the 90s. What a disappointment! The intro by Gillian Anderson should have tipped me off. What inanities! The entire production was marred by a lack of good judgment and intelligence.

Let's hope Northanger Abbey's better...

Monday, January 07, 2008

flu-tastic + cocoa swap questionnaire

I was supposed to spend the whole weekend at an academic conference, learning and schmoozing. After two days at the conference, a nasty strain of the flu sent me home, and I instead did the following:

Garter Stitch Cardigan, from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies (not yet photo-worthy)
-Tulip Baby Cardigan, still a WIP (kit ordered online from ThreadBear Fiber Arts, a shop I would love to visit in person)
inspired by Nicole's beautiful version quite a while ago
The i-cord bind-off is marvelous! What a great touch -- it looks very classy, and it's much more fun to work than a standard bind-off.

-Newfoundland Mitts, finally achieving FO status
Project Details
Pattern: Newfoundland Mitts, a free pattern by Creative Whimsy
Yarns: Noro Kureyon #156 (2 half-skeins) & Patons Classic Wool Merino
Needles: Brittany US4 birch DPNs

Notes: It's a great pattern, but I had some stress-related gauge issues that made these take much more time than I had anticipated. If you want the contrast colors to be consistent between the two mittens, you need two skeins of Noro. I ended up doing a lot of cutting because one skein had a knot in it that screwed up the color repeats.

Quartet in Autumn, by Barbara Pym
Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books, by Maureen Corrigan
Death in the Garden, by Elizabeth Ironside
Not the End of the World, by Kate Atkinson

All great books; I highly recommend each one. Mini-reviews may be forthcoming, provided that the beginning of the quarter isn't too frantic. I'm in the midst of reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, and I'm not terribly impressed so far. Kind of flaky and superficial while aiming for depth and enlightenment, perhaps?

-Knocked Up (cute and funny, rather crass)
-Notting Hill
-Love Actually
-Gilmore Girls (a few episodes from season 4)
-The Office (a few episodes from seasons 3 & 4)

Good old flu... nothing beats chills, aches, pains, sniffling, sneezing, and a roiling stomach to increase one's appreciation of the finer things in life -- books, yarn, and the couch.

Mmm… Hot Cocoa Swap Questionnaire
(Unless you're my swap partner, the rest of this post is most likely not of much interest.)

1. What is your favorite way to drink cocoa? Prepared with milk? Water? from home made recipe or store bought?, In a tea cup, or big mug?
My favorite way is for someone else to make me homemade hot cocoa prepared with milk, served in a pottery mug! In reality, I make cocoa with milk and a store-bought mix. Lately I’ve been using Cadbury drinking chocolate or Serendipity 3 mix, but those are splurges.

2. Marshmallows or whipped cream?
Neither! If I had to choose one, I would go with whipped cream and a dash of cocoa powder. A real treat would involve a healthy dose of Bailey's.

1. What is your favorite type of yarn? In what colors?
Soft worsted weight wool in shades of blue. I also like wine, scarlet, plum, chocolate brown, aqua, lavender… Solid or heathered colors are my favorites right now, but I like some variegateds, too (usually ones that are more subtle). Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran and Malabrigo are my favorites, but I also love Rowan 4 Ply Soft and just about anything by Fleece Artist or Hand Maiden.

2. Do you knit or crochet (or both)?
I mainly knit, but do some basic crocheting.

3. What are your favorite type of needles, would you like to try something new?
I like wood needles best. Bamboo runs a close second. My one pair of Lantern Moon straights is my favorite, but they’re too expensive! I always need more 16” circs for some reason (mostly US 5 and 6), and I like straight needles quite well. I don't like plastic or metal needles.

4. Do you have a healthy supply of notions?
Yes – too many fancy stitch markers (I only use plain ones with no dangly bits). I can always use more double ended stitch holders, though.

5. What one thing do you keep thinking you need to buy for your knitting habit (outside of yarn)?
Wooden or bamboo cable needles, like the Brittany Birch ones. I don’t like my Clover plastic ones very well.

6. What is your favorite 'quick knit/crochet' pattern (quick gratification)
Hats! I like Ruthie Nussbaum’s Owl Hat pattern (free on the net).

1. What is your favorite thing to do in the Winter?
Go for a long walk while it’s snowing and pet all the neighborhood dogs.

2. What is your favorite animal?
Bunnies! Followed closely by cats, hedgehogs, and puppies. Sheep are nice, too.

3. Do you get the 'winter blahs'?
Not too often. Chicago winters aren’t nearly as pleasant as Minneapolis or Madison winters.

4. What is your favorite way to beat the blahs?
Getting outside and enjoying the snow when it’s nice and sunny. Otherwise, snuggling up in front of my red wood-burning stove with a book or some knitting.

5. What is the thing you are most looking forward to this spring?
Watching all the spring flowers emerge, especially the crocuses.

6. What are your favorite treats?
Good chocolate (especially with mint or hazelnuts), biscotti, scones. Not too many treats, though – I’m trying to watch my waistline. I’m not a fan of gummy or hard candies. I love trying new recipes, too.

7. What is your favorite board game?
Taboo or Cribbage.

8. Do you have any children (furry or human)?
2 beloved tabby cats – Kylie and Capricha. No kids yet.

9. Do you have any allergies or special considerations you partner should know about?
I'm afraid I'm developing a sensitivity to some alpaca -- it can make me itchy. Some types of mohair make me sneeze! I don't enjoy knitting with cotton yarns -- too hard on the hands and wrists.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Last FO of 2007

Woodsy Baby Vest
Pattern: a heavily modified version of the Oz Vest
(from Lousia Harding's Natural Knits for Babies and Moms)

Size: 6 months
Yarn: Cider Moon Glacier, Ren Faire, less than 1 skein
Needles: Clover US4 & US5 bamboo circs (16")

Notes: I converted this to be knit in the round and switched to stockinette stitch for the body. I enlarged the V-neck and armholes; I eliminated the button holes for the shoulder and worked a 3-needle bind-off/join for both shoulders. Overall I'm pretty happy with it. The area where I joined the garter stitch edging for the neck turned out a little wonky. It still needs to be washed and blocked.

This is a great way to really show off hand-dyed superwash yarn. Do you guys have any other favorite non-sock patterns for these kinds of yarns?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007 Mosaic

Just a few favorite projects from 2007...

January Mosaic, originally uploaded by jodimarieharaldson.

Happy New Year!

Out with the old, and in with the new! Happy New Year's to all. Paul and I celebrated with a small group of friends last night and had a marvelous time ringing in 2008. We made it well past midnight. The pomegranate champagne cocktail (pomegranate juice + ice + champagne) was my beverage of choice. Just think, you're even getting antioxidants!

One of the last FOs of 2007...
Project Details
Pattern: Irish Hiking Hat (two different versions)
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool Merino, New Denim, less than 1 skein

Needles: Clover US 7 bamboo 16" circs & DPNs

Notes: Easy project! The hat fits Paul's (rather large) head OK, but not perfectly. It might be a little short. I combined two different versions of the Irish Hiking Hat pattern, both inspired by Adrian's Irish Hiking Scarf, of course.