Friday, January 30, 2009

a new day

Not only are we free at last from the dreaded Bush, but Illinois also just said good riddance to bad Blagojevich! Hurray! The only downside is that the local news is going to be much less exciting to follow. The new governor, Pat Quinn, looks like a major improvement already:
"You want to know my philosophy? One day a peacock. The next day a feather duster."
- Pat Quinn, on the spotlight

Now that's something that never would have come out of G-Rod's big mouth.
Paul noted a striking similarity between the Blag's voluminous coiffure and the detachable hair helmets on the Lego-men of our youth.
Maybe I would have liked Legos more if I had the James Bond set? Who knows...
My Bleepin' Golden Shawl is off the needles, just in need of a good blocking. Name inspired by the Blag's potty mouth (plus the actual name of this shade of Silky Wool), of course, and knit throughout the Blagojevich scandal. And now that my Knitters' Block kit has arrived, I'm golden when it comes to having the proper supplies for it.

The shawl turned out OK, but I made a really dumb mistake with my yarn. I had 10 skeins in one dye lot of "Golden" earmarked for a sweater project (stored in 2 ziploc bags), and 5 skeins in another dye lot set aside for a shawl or small project. Can you guess which bunch I grabbed to knit my shawl? Yep, 5 skeins from the larger lot. D'oh! Plus I just didn't think through how long it would take to knit that project in a much thinner yarn. Not bright choices...
Paul and I headed up to the Chicago Curling Club last weekend with some friends and gave curling a try! It was great fun. Curling is both a surprisingly good workout (all those core muscles keeping you upright) and a surprisingly social activity. I'd join the club if it weren't way out in the 'burbs.
1. Whole bean or ground?
Whole beans. I do buy ground Illy for espresso, though.

2. Fully-loaded or decaf?
Fully-loaded. I'm a grad student, so I can use all the extra energy I can get.

3. Regular or flavored?
I like both -- regular for espresso or French press coffee, and flavored for drip coffee.

4. How do you drink your coffee?
Milk and sugar, sometimes a wee nip o' Baileys.

5. Favorite coffee ever?
Shade-grown coffee beans straight from Costa Rica!

6. Are you fussy about your coffee or will any old bean do?
Medium fussy. I don't like Folgers, but I'm not a huge coffee snob. I don't like coffee to be too bitter or earthy.

7. Favorite treats to have with your coffee?
Chocolate, scones, or cookies. I love baking!

8. Anything else about your coffee preferences?
Not a big Starbucks fan! [I certainly enjoy a latte or mocha there, but their beans don't do much for me.]

9. Yarn/fiber you love?
Soft wool and wool/silk blends. My favs are Malabrigo merino worsted and Manos Silk Blend. I also love knitting with DB Cashmerino, esp. for baby gifts. Really anything soft and woolly.

10. Yarn/fiber you hate?
Sadly I'm allergic to alpaca and mohair. Sniff! Cotton, linen, and hemp yarns are too rough on my hands/wrists. I'm not a big acrylic fan, either. Yarns that are too wildly variegated make me nuts. I'm pretty full up on sock yarn right now, and I'm a SLOW sock knitter.

11. What's on your needles?
A chunky cabled throw in a lovely shade of light blue. So cozy and warm during this chilly winter!

12. Favorite colors?
Light blue, dark blue, cherry red, plum, aqua.

13. Allergies?
Mohair and alpaca. Llama's probably not a great idea, either.

14. Anything you really love, really don't like, or just need to get off your chest?
Looking forward to getting to know you! Hurray for coffee and knitting. :-)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

feeling sheepish

Apparently sheep are on my brain these days. Here's the new and improved sheep!
Pattern: Sheep in Sheep's Clothing, by Frankie Brown (Rav download)
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool Merino, Winter White and Denim Marl
Elann Peruvian Baby Cashmere, Deepest Black, for embroidery
Needles: Clover US 4 bamboo circs

I used a worsted weight yarn and larger needles for a slightly larger sheep. The pattern is knit flat and seamed. It's one of the easiest and least fiddly toy patterns I've knit, so don't let the seaming deter you. The only challenge was the head! The first head looked like this. I had trouble with the directions at first. Frankie was nice enough to email me and straighten me out. Do a running stitch around the outside of the circle that forms the head, then put a little stuffing in, and then cinch it closed (like a yo-yo, I think). I used carded wool as stuffing.

Mr. Sheep also looks pretty cute bereft of his sheep's clothing:
All that blue wool he's standing on is the start of a Cable Throw (rav link, as the Lion Brand website is truly a pain). I'm making 6 panels rather than 4, with 9 repeats rather than 7, for a slightly larger size. The panels make it easy to knit on the go. The yarn is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky, and it's very nice and squooshy to knit.
A recent read, continuing the sheep theme:

This murder mystery told from a flock of sheep's POV is charming, unusual, and delightful. At times the naivete is a bit too twee and overdone, but overall it's a gem. Of course, it helps that I love sheep. :-)
Knit 1 had this cute sheep notions bag that I just couldn't resist:
It's a bit dangerous to have a yarn store so close to my Trader Joe's!
The textured shawl is nearing completion. This project is a prime example of why you shouldn't just grab whatever yarn captures your fancy and the latest pattern in your queue without thinking things through... More on that soon.
Kylie in her new Kitty Canyon. Yep, she just barely fits!

Friday, January 16, 2009

dispatch from the north pole

Brrrr... when I left the house this morning, it was -17F. By the time I arrived on campus, it had reached a balmy -11. I dug out all my warm winter gear from when I lived in MN and WI -- the Sorel boots from high school, the shearling mittens that I wore to shovel my parents' driveway, and my enormous Gore-Tex Eddie Bauer down parka from 1997.
While it certainly is chilly, I feel lucky to have a warm home and proper winter gear. Plus it has made relaxing in front of a fire even nicer.
PSA: If you live in a part of the country that doesn't usually experience low temps and have frigid weather in your forecast, read this. Frozen pipes really suck! Run your taps at a trickle, open up the cabinet doors under your sinks, etc. My upstairs neighbor's pipes burst a couple days ago, and my bathroom has the rustic appearance to prove it.
Frankie Brown's sheep in sheep's clothing pattern is just too cute. Alas, my first attempt turned out less than cute. I christened him "Robosheep."

So, off with his head!
I've already knit up another head, so all that's left is a bit of embroidery.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Random Monday

Quickie Baby Sweater
The little pink "5-hour" (ha!) baby sweater (that I knit a while back) was a big hit at a baby shower over the weekend. I included one of Franklin's darling "Knit for You" cards with washing instructions, as well as a copy of Sandra Boynton's Belly Button Book! My friend actually had tears in her eyes when she realized I had knit the sweater, which really surprised me. I had hoped to finish hand-quilting a little stroller quilt, too, but life got in the way.
While not something I usually read, Mother-Jones featured an interesting critical article on self-deprivation as a mode of self-discovery.
Check out this great Fleet Foxes concert available at NPR -- you can either stream it or download it. Even if you're not too into recent music, the Fleet Foxes are worth a listen. I'd describe the sound as a mixture of the Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel.
My MIL gave me this lovely cookbook as a Christmas gift, and just paging through it is a joy. The photography is beautiful, and it's incredibly charming. My only complaint is that the typeface can be hard to read -- the font is a bit odd and thin, and the ink is grey rather than black.

Kiros' Tomato Risotto recipe was a hit on New Year's Eve. I made a few minor modifications, and I served it with a green salad and pomegranate champagne cocktails. Perhaps not the most authentically Italian combo, but very yummy! It was the first time I actually made the broth for risotto; this was a bit more labor-intensive. On the flip side, Kiros calls for much less work during the actual risotto prep than I'm used to -- none of the constant figure-8 stirring.

Tomato Risotto
Adapted from Apples for Jam: A Colorful Cookbook, by Tessa Kiros

Serves 3 as a main dish

1/2 red onion, peeled
1 small carrot, peeled
1/2 leafy celery stalk
3 parsley stalks (or 1/2 tsp. dried parsley)
1/2 small tomato
5 C. water

2 T. olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
pinch of dried chile flakes
1 C. arborio rice (risotto rice AKA short-grain rice)
1 C. canned whole tomatoes, pureed (use just the tomatoes from a 14.5 oz. can, not the juice)
2 large basil leaves, torn
1/4 C. Parmesan cheese, grated
2/3 C. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I like BelGioioso)
grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
freshly ground black pepper, to serve

For the broth, put the onion, carrot, celery, parsley, and tomato in a pan with 5 cups of water. Add salt (or even a little veggie broth concentrate, like Better Than Bouillon, especially if you don't have celery, parsley, or carrots on hand) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 min., then turn the heat down as low as it will go and leave the pan over the heat. You can discard the solids.

Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy-bottomed pan (a Dutch oven works). Saute the onion and garlic over low-medium heat for about 5 min., or until lightly golden. Stir in the chile flakes and rice, and cook for another minute. Add half the tomato puree, half the basil, and 1.5 C. of the hot broth.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rest of the tomato puree and the remaining broth, and simmer for 10 min. more or until the risotto is cooked. If it needs another few minutes or a little more liquid, just use hot water. Remove the garlic cloves and throw them away. Stir in the 2 cheese and the remaining basil. Serve as soon as the mozzarella starts to melt, with extra Parmesan and black pepper if desired.
While we're on the subject of recipes, I could use a little help. Paul's doctor prescribed a bland diet for him for a month. The list of prohibited foods includes red meat, anything greasy/fried, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol...

The worst part? Nothing spicy! No spices or extra seasoning. Anybody have any links to good recipes? I'm not big on cooking meat, so veg is best, but I can handle seafood and boneless skinless chicken breasts. This is proving a true challenge for me.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

happy hands

Keri and I organized a little trade. I sent her a couple skeins of Sundara sock yarn (I'm so slow at knitting socks), and she sent me these gorgeous Koigu Anemoi mittens that she had knit!
They're blue and beautiful, and the pattern has a Greek name (anemoi means "winds"), so they pretty much have "Jodi" written all over them. I'm thrilled, and I've already worn them on their maiden voyage (to the Irish Oak for a pint of cider, no less).

Keri also made me this, which I put to good use immediately:
Thank you, Keri! I hope you enjoy the yarn, especially since I feel like I ended up on the better end of this deal.

The textured shawl is coming along quite nicely, and the color is a cheerful contrast to the grey day. The rows are beginning to feel awfully long, which is usually the case with triangular shawls knit from the center top out.

Friday, January 02, 2009


After I bound off my latest feather and fan shawl last night (first FO of 09, woot!), I spent some quality time meandering through my knitting library, my immense ravelry queue (inspiration list?), and yarn stash. So many excellent options!

What finally captured my fancy was some Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in "Golden" (44). Not my usual color choice, but I fell in love with it when Elin knit a gorgeous golden sweater last year. I then proceeded to find it on sale for 75% off at Loopy Yarns' moving sale. As my lovely governor G-Rod would say, bleep-ing golden. What a guy...
Rod Blagojevich and his smarmy smile

Divided whether to cast on for Tuscany or a Wool Peddler's Shawl, I proceed to throw caution to the wind and instead try out Orlane's textured shawl recipe (rav link).
I’m substituting YO for M1L and M1R since I hate doing make-1s. I cast on 7 stitches.

Row 1: K2, YO, K1, YO, K1, YO, K1, YO K2.
I don’t love the edge this produces, but I can live with it.

The textured pattern is a 2 st repeat. Since there’s an odd number of sts on each side of the center st, I fudged this a bit:

Row 1 of textured pattern (including border):
K2, YO, K1, textured pattern to center st, YO, K1, YO, K1, textured pattern to last 2 sts, YO, K2.

I’m very happy with this modification.

I first cast on using size 8 needles, and the gauge was too loose, so I went down to size 6.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

a year of handknit gifts

Jan 09 Mosaic, originally uploaded by jodi at caffeinated yarn.

2008 was a year of knitting for others. While I had made handknit gifts in the past, this year involved a much larger scale. While I think everything was fairly well-received, the greatest hits were the Owl Hats, the blue Unorginal Hat, and the Just Enough Ruffles scarves. Great patterns all three!

My two designs -- the Owl Baby Vest and the Windy City Hat -- were major knitting triumphs for 2008. My other big (non-knitting) accomplishment was finishing the last of my prelim exams and moving on to my dissertation. Paul accepted a new job that he mostly enjoys, with co-workers whom he genuinely likes. We made it out to Colorado for a much-needed vacation and caught up with dear friends. So 2008 may have had its downs, but it also had its ups.

May the New Year be filled with peace, joy, marvelous surprises, plenty of knitting, and new adventures!