Tuesday, November 23, 2010

harvest time

I baked carrot cupcakes for a birthday gathering for Paul that we hosted last weekend.
The carrot cake recipe was unremarkable, but I do want to share one tip. I added 2 tsp. orange zest to the cream cheese frosting, and it was quite nice!
I'm crocheting some autumnal-looking granny square covers for throw pillows for our downstairs den.  The yarn is some long-stashed Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, and I'm using a D hook, which feels TINY! Usually I crochet with worsted or chunky weight yarn.

My Greenfield cardigan is in time-out right now, as the first sleeve turned out enormous.  Crazy big. My gauge is spot-on, so I'm very annoyed.  I'd love to wear this cardigan over winter break, though, so I'll have to rip way back and add a whole bunch of decreases.
 Cooking Light's recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta was delicious the other week!

I loved the contrast between the sweet roasted squash and the crispy bacon.  Be forewarned, though, that this is a complicated recipe -- lots of dirty pots and pans, plus a rather odd recipe for white sauce. Lots of flour, no butter -- the sauce itself tasted a little weird and floury, but once incorporated into the recipe it was just fine.


Friday, November 19, 2010

the mad hatter strikes again

I took a quick break from my Greenfield Cardigan to knit a chunky cabled hat for my mum.
Pattern: Cranberry Sauce, by Brittany Tyler
Yarn: Misti Alpaca Chunky, #3317, 1 skein (~ 100 yds.)
Needles: Clover US 9 and 10.5 bamboo 16" circs

This went very quickly, and I used a super cozy and squooshy yarn. Alpaca gives me both the sneezies and the itchies, but doesn't bother Mom. I didn’t check my gauge, and I ran out of yarn during the decreases as a result. I tweaked the pattern a bit to make it work, and it still looks great! Next time I’d use smaller needles, especially for the ribbing, and maybe have an extra skein of yarn on hand.
I've never really mastered the art of taking photos in the mirror, but here's a rough idea of what it looks like.
Just in case you missed it, The Decemberists were on Conan last night!

Here's a link if they embedded video doesn't come through via a feedburner.

Colin's rocking the plaid flannel, of course.  Takes me back to the 90s and my misspent youth. ;-)

- Has anyone seen Guy and Madeline Sitting on a Park Bench? If so, what did you think? It's a recent indie film that's part documentary, part musical, but it had a very limited release and isn't on netflix yet.  It sounds fascinating.

- Amazon has made it possible to give e-books as gifts. Huzzah, huzzah! More info here. Paul recently built 3 big bookcases for our downstairs den, and dealing with that has reaffirmed my desire to keep using my Kindle. Some books benefit immensely from physicality -- cookbooks, knitting books, art books, things you want to treasure forever or lend out to friends -- but half the books I read don't fall into those categories. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo simply doesn't deserve shelf space in my library for all time.
new knitting patterns calling out my name

- Shalder, from The Shetland Trader Vol. 1.  I'm jonesing after the Quince & Co. Lark yarn (perhaps glacier or peacock?) for this pattern, but I must resist until another sweater (or two) is off the needles.

- Leaving, from the new Twist Collective. What a great overall issue!  I'm always a bit surprised by how expensive each pattern is, though. A $5/pattern limit is firmly entrenched in my brain; I wince at anything above that, especially since whole books full of fabulous knitting patterns are so affordable.

Little Owls, by Susan B. Anderson.  Just too cute! Plus you all know I'm an owl-addict.

- Holden Shawlette, by Mindy Wilkes (free).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

what's ruffling my feathers

Still way too much going on chez Caffeinated Yarn for my tastes... to borrow from brokeknits: blah, blah, dissertation, blah, blah, scholarship application, blah, blah, the sound of deadlines whizzing past me, blah, blah... Plus some serious family health issues and lots on the calendar, including good things like a rather posh wedding yesterday (huzzah for top-shelf open bars, btw). One thing at a time, I suppose.

I did, however, manage to photograph a shawlette. This was knit a while back but mysteriously hasn't appeared on the blog previously:
 Pattern: Ruffle My Feathers, by Caryl Pierre
Yarn: Orange Flower MCN Fingering Weight, "Raindrop," 1 skein
Needles: Clover US 6 bamboo circs

The yarn is soft and lovely, but perhaps a little more variegated than is ideal for this pattern. It was a pretty quick knit, although the feather-and-fan lace pattern is not handled in the most user-friendly way (cough, there may have been a wee bit of tinking, cough).  The shape is great -- it really wraps around you nicely.
BTW, please don't think I'm too enamored of 1990s country-style oak furniture. We live in a world of hand-me-downs, as my in-laws have done a lot of redecorating in the past few years. The stuff's solid and dependable, though, so we're sticking with it until we can afford to replace it with furniture we really love. It's the "reuse" part of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" slogan ;-)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

walking on sunshine

Pattern: Whippoorwill, by Carina Spencer
Yarn: Yarntini Semi-Solid Sock (Honeytini, ~ 90 yds) &
Plucky Knitter Superwash Merino Wool Handpainted Fingering Weight 
(Madeleine Elster, ~280 yds.)
Needles: Clover US 6 bamboo circs
Size: Small

I love the finished project -- it's a great shape, a useful size, and the graceful curve of the border is delightful. That said, it wasn't that fun to knit. The pattern is definitely aimed at the perfectionist who wants all the details to be just so -- mirrored increases, special types of yarnovers, etc. I am just not that kind of knitter.  My life provides me with enough small details to stress out about already!  If I'm going to be super picky about details, there had better be some fancy lace in play, not basic-looking stockinette with a few yarnovers and garter rows.

The yarns were nice to knit but not remarkable -- both are springy merino wool with a fairly tight twist. The Yarntini might be a little thicker than the Plucky Knitter yarn.  I wish that the grey were just a bit more even and less splotchy.  The combination of the two colors makes me very happy, though -- sunshine on a cloudy day.
Today has been unseasonably glorious for November in Chicago -- upper 60s, sunshine, a light breeze.  Lo and behold, what did I see while driving home?

A city worker wearing a jaunty Santa hat while repaving our street.

Other terrifying signs that people are starting in on the holidays way too early:

- Christmas carols blasting from the outdoor speakers at the gas station

- Trader Joe's is pushing its specialty holiday goodies. The upshot, though, is that Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe's are amazingly delicious.

Monday, November 08, 2010

a monday miscellany

This past weekend had its ups and downs, so I'm doing my best to accentuate the positive. We sold the Malibu (hooray!), spent a great night in Lincoln Square with friends (love the Poor Man's Black Velvet at the Bad Apple -- Crispin cider + Left Hand Milk Stout), and Paul managed to find the elusive last bin of my winter sweaters in the storage closet.  I felt like Rory Gilmore as she's reunited with her sock drawer after the big European backpacking trip ("Hello, boys!").
As soon as I popped up from my comfy reading chair to grab a mug of hot apple cider last night, Kylie Cat cozied up in my giant granny square afghan and promptly feel asleep.  So sweet... it's the best time of year for cat snuggling. This afghan is my favorite project ever, hands down -- knitting, crochet, or otherwise.
- Apartment Therapy's tips on "How to Clean Your House in 20 Minutes a Day for 30 Days"

Does anyone follow a schedule like this?  If so, what do you think about it and how do you make it work? We tend to sacrifice huge blocks of valuable weekend time to cleaning, which is productive but not exactly fun.
- Garnet Hill has some cute sheepie things that would make perfect holiday gifts for knitters:

autumn's bounty
- Cooking Light's Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta is slated for tonight's menu (provided that I get enough done this afternoon). I'll let you know how it turns out!
 - These Owl Bootees are absolutely adorable, plus gingergooseberry graciously shares the pattern.

Friday, November 05, 2010


Hurray, it's Friday, a morning when I get to work at home in my PJs, sipping all the coffee I want from a real mug rather than spilling coffee from my travel mug all over my Jeep as I groggily trek to campus. :-) 
Perseverance used to be one of my strong suits.  Now I'm not so sure... this quarter has been a little too busy for my tastes.  Just as I'm slowly but surely chugging along on my research, I'm also making steady progress on my Greenfield cardigan.  I'm to the leaf details just before the hem:
The bright color has become more and more appealing as the trees in my neighborhood are stripped of their foliage. I dazzled/repulsed one of the girls at knitting night on Wednesday as I spit-spliced the yarn. She'd never heard of spit-splicing before, which surprised me, as it's incredibly useful (in addition to being a little disgusting). So if you haven't tried it before either, now's the time to go for it! I don't think anyone likes weaving in ends. Just make sure you're using something that will felt -- no cotton, acrylic, superwash, etc.
P.S. Design*Sponge has an interview with Carson Ellis today! 

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

just a little something to brighten up a cold, grey November day

Over the weekend Paul and I were reminiscing about the amazing Decemberists' show we saw two Halloweens ago. The band came onstage dressed as characters from The Shining, which was awesome, esp. since the show was (quite oddly, I might add) at the very-conservative Wheaton College in a chapel. They have a new album -- The King is Dead (perhaps homage to my beloved Smiths?) -- coming out in January, and you can download a free track here. Yes, that is Peter Buck playing the guitar. :-)