Friday, December 30, 2011

post-Christmas caffeine rush

Paul delighted me with a fancy Nespresso machine for Christmas. It's very quick and easy, and the espresso is fantastic! I have some lingering qualms about the wastefulness and expense of the little Nespresso capsules, but overall it's terrific and fun to use. The Nespresso booklets and website, however, are pretentious to the point that it's amusing (capsules can be couriered to you posthaste in case of a dire espresso shortage!). I have a feeling that T-Mos would love using this gizmo just before reciting lines from the Inferno in Italian.
I've sweet-talked the girls in my knitting group into a knit-along for the new year:
Aidez, a free pattern by Cirilia Rose for Berroco

I rustled through my stash and rounded up some Cascade Eco Plus in a lovely shade of light blue:
#9452 Summer Sky Heather
I've been on a reading kick lately, and my goal for this long weekend is to spend some more quality time with a good book (or four), sip espresso, and do some knitting. 

Some recent recommendations:
 Chosen by a Horse, by Susan Richards 
I'm not usually one for nonfiction or "feel good" memoirs, but this book really spoke to me. Richards writes about adopting a neglected horse and how it helped her reconsider her own life and dare to trust and take risks. Rescuing horses is one of my dreams for "when my ship comes in," and I'm one of those who got hooked on horses after a childhood spent immersed in Misty of Chincoteague.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey
Fey is funny, warm, and genuine in this book about her path from Pennsylvania to 30 Rock. It's a book that seems very real -- not like something cooked up by a ghostwriter to cash in. Some parts are humorous, others talk candidly about being a woman, both in comedy and in society in general.

What I'm reading now:

Wildwood, by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
So far it's charming, but wow, does Meloy love adjectives... this runs the risk of being overly precious, so we'll see how it goes...
Back with crafty photos soon, I hope. Camera research is underway, though I may have to break down and start using Paul's tablet gizmo's camera feature in the meantime.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

so drink your gin and tonica...

It's time for Hannukah, Festivus, and all the other wintry holiday celebrations. Ah, the immortal words of Adam Sandler.

The tree is trimmed, the cards are (mostly) written, and cookies have been baked. Sadly, my digital camera just bit the dust so I have no tree or knitting photos to share. Time to start researching cameras!

We're hosting a second holiday family gathering at our place on the 26th. I'm going with a mostly Scandinavian theme -- gløgg, pickled herring, gjetost, Norwegian and Swedish baked goods. I couldn't bring myself to make lutefisk (dried cod treated with lye) though -- so gelatinous and disgusting. Now we just need some snow!
Looking for some holiday music that's not run of the mill? We've now exhausted our steady rotation of Low, Vince Guaraldi, and Sarah McLachlan.

Check out all the mixes over at I Am Fuel, You are Friends, or listen to my wintry mix:


No, this is not Capricha! A feline visitor bunked with us last week while her owner was away. Lewes is essentially Capricha's (thinner, longer-tailed) doppelgänger. Lewes occupied the front half of our flat, while Capricha stuck to the back -- they seemed surprisingly oblivious about each other's presence. (P.S. This is the last photo from my poor camera...)
 Last December Paul introduced me to one of his childhood holiday favorites, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. It's pretty much the sweetest, funniest holiday special. The muppets are adorable and kind of primitive, the story is a thoughtful take on "The Gift of the Magi," and there's a lot of great (and hilarious) music.  Apparently we're not alone in loving Emmet Otter! Here are some recent shout-outs from the folks at NPR and the Onion.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

in which I exhibit some wisdom

So, I resolved to be smart about unventing the scallop-edge garter stitch throw. Not only did I check my gauge, but I also did some math and took a long, careful look at the fabric I was getting with the lovely Quince & Co. Puffin yarn. And then I carefully wound up the yarn and shoved it back in my knitting basket. :( This was, however, a good learning experience:

a) I would have run out of yarn.
b) The fabric didn't have enough drape.
c) It was very, very heavy on the needles.

Some of the puffin yarn is destined to become a State Street Cowl (thanks, ifandany, for highlighting the pattern the other day!).
To make up for NOT knitting myself that cozy (but sure to be ill-fated) throw, I instead started crocheting like a madwoman. This is the easy-peasy diagonal box stitch, worked corner-to-corner, which I love, since one avoids making a foundation chain. (Mine are often too tight.) I'm using a very affordable superwash wool -- Knit Picks Bare Swish Worsted. Very soft and cozy, and the undyed version comes in nice long 220-yard skeins.
in the kitchen

I hosted a low-key crafty afternoon for the girls from my knitting group this afternoon. Such a great, relaxing way to start off the holiday season! I tried not to go too overboard with the menu this time, but I did make a few things:
- brie en croute with brown sugar, bourbon, and pecans (holy smokes, this was awesome)
- my family's recipe for Norwegian cookies 
- easy mulled wine (next time I'd fortify it with Cointreau or maybe brandy)
- "the best" pumpkin bread (pretty good, but not as terrific as my mom's recipe, which I need to track down)

Monday, December 05, 2011

sofa city, sweetheart

I managed to catch a nasty cold while spending far too much time at doctor's offices last week. Blech! The upside? Lots of knitting/tv time, plus Paul tended to many of my (increasingly crazy) whims. As much as I am a homebody, too much time spent housebound makes me nuts. Paul does make a pretty terrific hot toddy (a family cold remedy on my mum's side).
Good thing that True Blood has strong healing properties. So trashy, but so addictive...

I knit two of these cozy Armando hats -- red for me, charcoal grey for Paul. I love the texture! The pattern is easy to follow. I knit 7.5 repeats of the "lace" pattern (manliest lace I've ever seen, btw, but it does feature yarnovers and thus does technically qualify, I suppose).  Using smaller needles (US 7)  was a good choice. I'll definitely knit more of these, especially since the holidays are just around the corner.
The Oatmeal Pullover has been frogged, and these lovely balls of Puffin are ready for me to unvent the Pottery Barn scallop-knit throw.
Capricha is taking over Kylie's old job as clean-laundry tester. So cute, but I'll have to rewash that towel...

- knitting behind bars
- a bookshelf that's bigger on the inside

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I found these sweet mercury glass owls at West Elm, and one is now perched at the top of our built-in bookcases, wisely surveying the living-room realm.
Don't they remind you a bit of Bubo from Clash of the Titans?
Very classy. And shiny. Because those two qualities go hand in hand.

I'm also in love with these flannel sheets that my mum gave me for early Christmas:
What a cheery fair isle motif!
I spotted this beautiful, cozy throw at Pottery Barn:

Now that's a pattern that I can unvent! A garter stitch blanket with a crochet shell edging? Easy as pie. I may frog my overly bulky (and unflattering) Oatmeal Pullover and use the beautiful bird's egg Quince & Co. yarn for this. The PB version is knit in acrylic, of course, so Quince & Co. wool would be about a thousand steps up.
What did we spot on our drive back to Chicago?

In Wisconsin Dells, on a Jeep, of course. <3

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving training

We're slowly but surely getting settled into our new digs. I'm loving the built-in bookcases (especially since our bookshelves couldn't make it out of the basement in our last place -- yeah, that's an unexpected downside to assembling three tall bookcases in situ).

Most of my knitting supplies are still inaccessible. At first I was excited about the challenge of being creative about using the yarn I actually could reach. Then I finished the main section of this cozy crochet baby blanket, only to discover that I couldn't find the contrast yarn for the edging... Doh!  Unpacking and organizing the craft stuff is on the agenda for after Thanksgiving. 
Speaking of Thanksgiving, I'm in training today -- savory pumpkin pie and cranberry juice for lunch. Yum! OK, it's really more like a quiche.
savory pumpkin and onion quiche

caramelized onions
1-2 T. olive or vegetable oil
 4 C. thinly sliced onions
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried thyme

9" pie crust -- I follow Martha's instructions, but you could easily use a premade crust
1 C. grated Gruyere cheese
1 C. milk
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground dry mustard
1 C. pumpkin puree (I use canned)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a dutch oven or heavy skillet, heat the oil on med-low heat. Add onions and saute for 15 min., stirring frequently. Stir in salt, sugar, and thyme. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook for about 15 more minutes, until the onions are caramelized --- they should be golden and sweet, nearly falling apart. Add the pepper and saute another 5 min.

Spread onions across bottom of pie crust. Sprinkle cheese on top of the onions. Whisk together milk through dry mustard. Blend in pumpkin. Pour mixture over cheese in crust.

Bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F, and bake 45-50 min. more, or until pie filling has set and tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
PSA for Chicago 'peeps

Wishing each and every one of you a very happy (and relaxing) Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

going great guns

Oodles of knitting have taken place around these parts in the last few days -- partly because I did something funny to my foot and had to stay off of it for a little while, and partly because this chilly weather called for some serious sofa-tea-yarn-cat snuggling-tv time.
Finally blocked the Whirligig Shrug!  This is a baby shower gift, though I'm a bit nervous that the yarn bled so much when I washed it. The pattern is very fun, and the finishing is fairly minimal, which I love. Without a model, the back looks a little cuter than the front, but all the modeled versions on Ravelry look absolutely adorable.
pattern: whirligig shrug, by Stefanie Japel
yarn: the plucky knitter mcn lite, "pretty pretty pola," 1 skein (230 yds)
needles: Clover US 5 bamboo circs
size: 6 months

Speaking of Stefanie Japel... she has a new pattern as a bonus in the Deep Fall 2011 issue of Knitty -- the shapely boyfriend cardigan. I'm not too fond of the name (as it sounds as if your boyfriend's the shapely one, which just seems wrong somehow), but the cardigan looks very versatile and practical. Plus it calls for O-Wool Classic, which I just happen to have in the stash (in a lovely shade of blue, to boot).
The puerperium cardigan is not just off the needles, but already blocked!
Now to find the perfect buttons. I'm torn between bright red buttons that would make quite the impact and dark brown wooden buttons, the classier and more subtle option. I need 7 of them, so this necessitates a shopping trip, as there's no chance that my button jar is up for the task.

Last night I joyfully knit the last row of the live oak shawlette only to discover that it's highly unlikely that I'll have enough yarn to bind off. Déjà vu...
We'll see how long it takes me to trek to a yarn store to find another skein of Tosh Merino Light in ginger... I predict that this will linger in ye olde knitting basket for a while, as these next couple of weeks are going to be busy.
in the kitchen

Two recent recipe successes!
Yum! The perfect autumn breakfast. I threw in 1/4 C. of raisins and dried cranberries with the oats, and I put the whole batch into a medium-sized casserole dish and didn't bother with ramekins.

- leslie's snicker-doodle brownies
I upped the baking time and they were still a little underdone, but otherwise quite delicious and awesome.
material world
I am seriously jonesing after the elton chair from West Elm. I'm not sure that it's practical (hello! haven't I learned any lessons from my cut velvet sofa?), but I love the lines, the tufted back, and how it manages to be whimsical yet casual yet sophisticated. Plus it comes in both peacock blue and light steel blue...

Anyone have experience with West Elm furniture? Is it fairly well made and durable? (I think Paul would be thrilled to hear you say that it's cheap, rickety crap, since this chair is more up my alley than his.)

cute winter hats from anthro:

It may be time to "unvent" a pattern or two...

Sunday, November 06, 2011

lazy Sunday

"Falling back" has led to a day of perfect relaxation. I started off my lazy Sunday by casting off a puerperium cardigan (pictures soon!), then meeting friends for brunch at Milk & Honey Cafe, my favorite brunch spot in Chicago. Something about that place reminds me of Madison -- maybe it's the low-key vibe?

I just may have stopped by Nina and picked up a skein of this:
 (madelinetosh merino light in ginger)

and the fall 2011 issue of knitscene to make one of these:

(live oak shawlette, by Romi Hill)

as well as some buttons for my mum's Shalom cardigan:

Not only that, but I'm in the midst of a blocking frenzy. I predict a plethora of FO posts in the near future...

Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday fluff -- no knitting involved

Enjoy anthropologie's boho style but scoff at the "made in china" labels and the ridiculous price tags?  Me too. Anthroparodie may be right up your alley, as well (tip o' the hat to better living through literature).
I'm 100% not a member of the hair-and-nails set (nor do I "read" People or Us Weekly, ugh), but I've recently discovered a few things that drastically improve my everyday life. After the rough past month, I'm happy to take delight in whatever I can.
The Wet Brush is revolutionizing my morning routine. I have long, straight, tangle-prone hair -- it used to take me AGES to detangle in the morning. This brush is awesome -- it plows right through all the tangles in record time, leaving my hair shiny and bouncy. I suspect that the Wet Brush is the same as the Regency Magic Brush that Mindy Kaling blogged about recently -- just branded differently and priced more reasonably.
Smashbox Photo Op Under Eye Brightener is amazing. I'm pretty low-maintenance, but I do usually wear some make-up, with the goal of looking like I'm not wearing make-up, but looking better than I would if I really didn't wear make-up. Most under-eye concealers have a yucky texture, irritate my sensitive skin, or look funny. Photo Op actually makes it looks as if I got a full night's sleep and am ready to take on the world!  Smashbox's Photo Finish makeup primer is terrific, too -- it leaves your skin velvety and prevents make-up from caking or collecting in your laugh lines or eye crinkles.
Whole Foods Pomegranate Orange lip balm moisturizes, smells great, and is incredibly affordable (under $2, I think). You know how some lip balms seem refreshing at first, but then dry out and leave your lips feeling even worse?  This doesn't do that. It actually works!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Since Kylie Cat first got sick last December, she was a real fighter.
We finally had to put Kylie Cat down, and we were heartbroken. It was the kind thing to do, as she had become pretty miserable, and we had foreseen it, but it's a gut-wrenching experience nonetheless. She will be missed.  Every time I come home, I expect to see two sweet kitty faces at the door, happy to see me, and it's a very difficult adjustment to see just one. Such a funny little cat, full of personality.
sit tibi terra levis
may the earth rest lightly upon you

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

in Chaos' realm

Sorry for the radio silence... Chaos has been reigning chez Caffeinated Yarn for the past few weeks. We moved into our new flat amidst many renovations. The kitchen floor tiling was just completed today, and I'm very excited about getting back into the swing of things!
It's really a great space -- I'll post more photos once all the boxes are unpacked and the spice racks are up. Sewing some jaunty red-and-white checked curtains is on my (mile-long) to-do list.

Not only did we move, but I also got a big promotion at the Press. Hooray! It's a fantastic opportunity for me, even if it does mean that dissertation progress is on hold for a little bit while I settle in.  I have some sad news to share, too, but we'll save that for another post.
A dear friend kindly sent me a photo of her cute little guy wearing a sweater vest that I knit:
This is the love letter baby vest that I posted about last spring. I'm not entirely thrilled with the neckline, so I'm not sharing the pattern, but it sure looks great on this sweet kid.
I'm hooked on hexagons again...
 Crochet has magical soothing properties for me (much more so than knitting... curious).

Most of my yarn and knitting projects are still hidden away in boxes that can't get unpacked until the workers finish up around here. I'm dreaming of finding just the right yarn in my stash to knit this friendly-looking big snowy owl from the Purl Bee:

in the kitchen

My mum's quick and easy recipe for apple walnut torte -- especially tasty served warm with a hefty dollop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream!

Apple Walnut Torte

1 egg
3/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
dash nutmeg (optional)
1 C. chopped apples (they do not have to be peeled)
1/2 C. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat egg and sugar. Add flour, salt, baking powder, and (optional) spices, and beat again. Add apple and nuts. Bake in a greased 8" x 10" glass pan, or a 9" glass pie pan for 30-40 minutes.

P.S. Cattywampus posted a variation on the cream cheese ice cream recipe that sounds amazing -- she added cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla extract, along with some crumbled graham crackers at the end. Yum!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

totally autumn

Phew, last week was rough... my poor Jeep broke down on Lake Shore Drive and is still in the shop getting its transfer case rebuilt, autumn quarter's about to start, and there's still a lot of packing to do before we move on Saturday. Time to focus on the positive things, like this little baby sweater I finished:

size: 3 months
needles: US 6 Clover bamboo circs and US 7 DPNs
yarn: Quince and Co. Lark, pomegranate, ~2.3 skeins (300 yds.)

Very fun to knit! I just love the pattern, and I'll definitely revisit it. The yarn is soft and springy, with a deeply saturated color. I used a little more yarn than the pattern specified, but my gauge was also a bit loose. I knit the 3-month size, but the final (blocked) measurements are more like the 6-month.

The yarn fluffed up a bit during the blocking process. Be forewarned that this isn't a smooth, silky merino -- it's lofty and wonderful, but not buttery soft. I'm curious how well it will hold up (I'm guessing quite well), as I'd love to knit a cardigan for myself using Lark.
Other good things...

- Coastal Knits is available for pre-order! Such pretty patterns. Can't wait for this to arrive in my mailbox!

- Brooklyn Tweed's fall 2011 patterns are out! I absolutely love Tinder -- it looks so cozy.

- Loopy Yarns had a 6th anniversary party last Sunday, and I picked up some very intriguing Imperial Stock Ranch 2-ply pencil roving in a beautiful shade called wild iris.
It's very soft and lofty, and it will be interesting to knit, as it's unspun. This yarn is earmarked for the Pembroke Wrap from the latest issue of Interweave Knits.

- I concocted a new ice cream recipe in honor of the lovely autumn days:

pumpkin spice ice cream

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 C. pumpkin butter
1.25 C. half and half
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, or to taste (optional)

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Freeze mixture in ice cream maker (I use a basic Cuisinart ice cream maker and run it for 18-20 min.). Transfer to an airtight container and put in the freezer to harden, at least 3 hours (even longer is better).

P.S. Sorry to be so slow at replying to comments lately... it has been a little hectic around here. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

cats + knitting + tea = bliss

A certain someone doesn't seem to mind being surrounded by boxes.  Me, I'm a little nuts from packing already, but it perhaps it's time to take a queue from Kylie and go with the flow.
Best way to relax? Getting a head start on holiday knitting. It's never too early!
The pattern's High Line by Kirsten Kapur, and I'm using some vintage Knit Picks Andean Silk that has been marinating in my stash for quite some time. The yarn's a little thinner than recommended, so I'm using size 10 needles. Honestly, this will be a much more useful size, as it's going to be a super cozy, warm scarf which you can really wrap up in.  I can't wear alpaca (it makes me so sneezy), but I can handle knitting with it in short bursts. I think this will block very nicely!
My boss just returned from a 3-week holiday in Yorkshire, and she kindly brought me fancy teas from Bettys Café Tea Room in York. Now that's the way to a girl's heart...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

shawlette + movies for the queue

A friend of mine has a beautiful, peaceful urban garden, and yesterday seemed like a perfect opportunity for a photo shoot.
pattern: Berger shawlette, by Lisa Fliss
yarn: Orange Flower MCN fingering weight, "boysenberry"
~ 300 yds (2/3 skein)
needles: Clover US 7 bamboo circs

Easy, free pattern. Seriously, this knit up in an instant, as the stockinette body goes lightning fast. I absolutely love the yarn -- I used a different colorway for my Wandering the Moor shawlette, and it holds up beautifully and has a good balance of drape and body. Plus it's super soft.  Overall, a win-win project. The pattern requires a small amount of yarn, so it's a great way to use a short-ish skein of fancy merino sock yarn.

film recommendations

I'm always on the lookout for movies that are different and interesting (no Transformers for me, thank you very much), and these two fit the bill lately:
Trollhunter -- a Norwegian mock documentary about film students following a man they suspect of poaching. Surprise, he turns out to be a grizzled, slightly disgruntled government employee -- on the Troll Security Service.

Junebug -- a film that explores class and cultural conflicts, as a newly-married couple heads from Chicago to the husband's hometown not just to meet the family, but for the wife to convince an "outsider artist" into signing up with her gallery. It's a film that does a good job of showing rather than telling, and it's uncomfortable at times as it explores how people negotiate relationships, their day-to-day lives, and their anxieties. Paul wasn't too keen on this at first, but really came to appreciate it in hindsight. Junebug does a good job of building characters, which I (like Ebert) value.

Does anyone have film recommendations to share?  I also saw Bridesmaids, which was a hoot (plus it was great to see Milwaukee on the silver screen), but everyone knows about that one already.