Monday, December 23, 2013

god jul!

I have been scrambling to finish a few handknit gifts and baking Christmas cookies -- sugar cookiesNorwegian cookies, and world peace cookies (how can you resist a name like that at this time of year?). The upper midwest is a snowy winter wonderland this year, very good for the Christmas spirit.
Wishing you and yours joy and peace in the year ahead.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013


It has been a season of firsts -- first snowfall, first road trip, first Thanksgiving. Erik apparently loathes bibs, though he enjoyed spending Thanksgiving with his Minnesota grandparents quite well otherwise. So much love! A new baby has a way of renewing and enriching connections with friends and family.
Back home in Chicago, amazed that it's December already, time to trim the tree.
Captain Crochet, luxuriating away
The Christmas elf is hard at work...
 a faerie ring shawlette, ready for blocking

a hat for a certain someone with "Purple Pride"

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

warm and woolly

Handknits in action! Erik has been a model of sartorial splendor when it comes to cozy knitwear.
out for an autumn stroll in his owlie hat and zig zag pram blanket

 enjoying brunch in his bitty cabled cardigan

 watching football in his bitty cabled cardigan

 looking a wee bit grumpy in his tiny trees baby vest

sporting his crochet earflap hat


Amazingly I've actually done a few things in the kitchen in the past couple of weeks. These banana chocolate chip muffins were a big hit.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
3 large ripe bananas (about 3 cups mashed)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of cardamom
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips (or substitute chopped nuts or raisins or any combination thereof)

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil or spray a muffin tin or use paper liners.

- In a large bowl, with an electric mixer or by hand, beat the oil, sugar, eggs, and mashed bananas well until blended. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients – be careful not to overmix. Fold in the vanilla and, if using, the chocolate chips, raisins, and/or nuts.

- Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool muffins on a baking rack.

adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

memory lane

Turns out that a giant granny square made out of Noro is perfect for cuddling up and watching football, snuggling with a baby, or reading a good book. Who knew? ; )

I started this way back in February 2010, and while I finished crocheting it two years ago, it sat neglected in a corner with lots of loose ends. I was making this for Paul since I thought he would appreciate its rustic look, and I wasn't sure why I was so reluctant to weave in those ends.

Then I remembered that this had been Kylie Cat's favorite project. She loved crochet in general, and the sheepy, lanolin smell of the yarn I used for the border exerted a siren's song over her. It was just too hard to finish it while the memory of saying good-bye to my funny tabby cat was fresh.

And now another cute little creature is enjoying snuggling up with it. Erik's sweet little cardigan (complete with sheep buttons!) was knit by Heather from my knitting group. Knitters are the nicest people!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

granny triangle bunting

A colorful granny triangle bunting to welcome little Erik into our lives!

The yarn is Knit Picks Simply Cotton leftover from a few other crochet projects. I stumbled across this granny triangle bunting tutorial via Pinterest a few months ago and thought it was just charming. The triangles were quick to make, and the crochet chain to join them was easy. The triangles initially looked a little lumpy and floppy. I wet-blocked them and used two or three applications of spray starch to give them more body.

The hard part? It took us a while to figure out how to affix it to the wall. Also, I just may have caused Paul quite a few hours of extra work of patching, sanding, priming, and painting when I pulled off 3M Command hooks incorrectly. Note to self: read directions! We ended up just using a few nails, which worked much better.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

a new adventure

Welcome to the world, Erik Liam.
Born October 2013
8 lb., 9 oz.
22 inches

Friday, October 04, 2013

the waiting game

Still playing the waiting game around here... One benefit of extra time is finishing up another baby cardigan!

pattern: babe in the woods, by Melissa LaBarre
needles: US 5 Clover bamboo circs and DPNs
size: 6-12 months

The leaf yoke pattern was very fun to knit. I used a rich dark brown to give the pattern a more “boyish” look. Picking up fewer stitches for the button bands would have worked better (or using a smaller needle), but I’m happy enough with it as is.

I used the same yarn as for the tiny trees baby vest. The yarn was a giveaway on Suze's blog, Mad Knitting, and I stand by my earlier assessment that I like it better than Swish -- it has a nicer hand and a little less of the creepy superwash feel.
Still hooking away at the rosie posie granny square afghan... I'm not sure whether to do four more squares or fourteen more squares.
Some more nursery photos, though we've made progress since these were taken.
The baby quilt made at my mum's baby shower for me! 

Paul's mother did the embroidery above the bookcase for his nursery when he was a baby.

My great aunt sewed this sweet christening gown for my aunt in 1940. It has been worn by many babies -- my aunt, mom, two uncles, brother, cousins, me, and even one cousin-once-removed.

Monday, September 30, 2013

the mad hatter strikes again

I asked my mother to help me select a design for birth announcements, and she studiously pored over dozens of layouts. When I asked her which were her favorites, she said, "The ones where the babies were wearing hats. Have you knit some cute hats for the baby yet?"

* cue cricket noises *

Hmmm. I hadn't, so set out to rectify the situation right away.

pattern: Solid Shells Earflap Hat, by Posh Patterns
yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted in Bobby Blue and Indigo
hook: size H Clover Soft Touch (Bobby Blue)
size I Clover Soft Touch (Indigo)
size: newborn (Bobby Blue)
3-6 months (Indigo)

My first time crocheting something that actually has to fit! Usually I crochet afghans and the like. These were pretty fun to make -- very quick, and I enjoyed not having to switch to DPNs and fiddle around. They are worked top-down. Initially I made the little one in Bobby Blue, then began to fret because it looked so tiny! So I made another in a larger size with a larger hook. After blocking, the tiny one looks just right. Not a bad thing for "Ragnar" to have a larger hat for the winter, too, though.


Also, a wee owlie hat for our little one! Love the owl cables and the yarn.
pattern: owl cable hat, by Teresa Cole
yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted, Natural
needles: Clover US 7 bamboo 16" circs + DPNs
size: newborn

I seem to recall that there may have been some minor typos or errata in the pattern, but it was such an easy little knit that I just improvised. Should have taken better notes!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

fo: Schieffelin Point Shawl

Cool autumn nights call for cozy handknits, don't they? I love this time of year.

pattern: Schieffelin Point Shawl, by Kate Gagnon Osborne
yarn: Lou's Luxury Yarns, Earth Bunny, 1.7 skeins (~ 500 yds.)
needles: Clover bamboo US 7 circs

I purchased this wonderfully soft and cozy yarn at Needles 'n Pins Yarn Shoppe in Delavan, Wisconsin on my knitting group's annual weekend getaway. This truly is a treat to knit -- a local yarn with lots of fluffy angora content, in such a nice natural melange of colors.

The pattern was easy to knit -- miles of garter stitch, with a lace edging knit at a perpendicular angle at the end, though I began to tire of the lace pattern at about the 90% mark. My only complaint is that the increase rows in the garter stitch are pretty visible, and not in a decorative way.

curious onlookers -- the cats love to supervise from the back porch whenever we're out grilling in the yard (or taking photos of handknits)

I didn't break out the ice cream maker too often this past summer, but this recipe turned out to be one of Paul's favorites!

Biscoff ice cream

2/3 C. Biscoff spread (I used creamy, not crunchy)
1/4 C. sugar (I used regular/caster sugar, but I think brown sugar would be awesome)
2 C. heavy cream
1 C. skim milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla

Prep your ice cream maker as directed (I put the bowl in the freezer the night before). If desired, put an empty freezer-safe storage container in the freezer, too.

Add all ingredients to the blender. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides a few times. Freeze using your ice cream maker, following the manufacturer's directions. I use a Cuisinart and run it approx. 15 min. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe storage container and chill for at least a few hours before serving.


I've been admiring these bright and colorful Blabla knit dolls lately (esp. the cats, the fox, and the raccoon). It goes against my nature to purchase one, though since they look fun and easy to make, so I'd like to try knitting something similar. Any pattern suggestions?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

the final countdown

We're busy getting ready for baby these days. The countdown to our little guy's due date is under two weeks. I'm alternately torn between being ready for him to arrive RIGHT NOW and wanting a few more days to finish decorating the nursery and to square things away at the office.
My mother's friends and family appliqued and embroidered these sweet teddy bear quilt blocks at a baby shower for me way back in 1978. Each teddy bear is different and bears the initials of its maker. Grandma (who was very crafty!) did all the finishing work, truly a labor of love for her since she enjoyed making garments, slipcovers, and curtains, not quilts. I love that my mom kept this all these years, and I feel so lucky to incorporate it into our little guy's nursery. Sugar is quite fond of it, too, as you can tell.


More cardigans to keep wee "Ragnar" warm are off the needles...
pattern: Baby Sophisticate, by Linden Down (the free version)
yarn: Knit Picks Simply Cotton Worsted, green tea heather, 2 skeins
needles: US 7 and 8
size: 6-12 months

This is the project where I finally mastered short rows! Huzzah! Cute little sweater -- I like the shawl collar shaping. I used US 7 needles for the body, but had to switch to US 8 DPNs for the sleeves to get gauge. I used US 8 for the bind-off, too.


pattern: Little Coffee Bean Cardigan, by Elizabeth Smith (free!)
yarn: Lion Brand Cotton-Ease, 1 skein each of Lake and Almond
needles: US 6 and 7
size: 3 months (?)

Yipes, stripes! I love them! The color combination is one of my favorites. Used up the very last of my Cotton-Ease stash, acquired many years ago.  I accidentally knit the collar with size 7 needles instead of 6, but remembered to use size 6 for the cuffs, bottom hem, and button bands. I didn't think through my button placement very wisely.

The sizing seems... well, quite generous, which is better than the alternative. The sleeves also seem pretty large in comparison to the body, but I'll evaluate the fit once it's actually in use.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

fo: summer flies

Mid-August already?!? Summer truly is flying by.

pattern: Summer Flies, by Donna Griffin
yarn: Orange Flower 50/50 merino/silk fingering weight, .7 skeins
needles: US 6 Clover bamboo circs


I love this pattern! It knits up quickly, and you don’t get bored, since you switch stitch patterns fairly often. I especially enjoyed the knotted openwork near the end.

This looked tiny when I finished knitting it, but blocking really opened it up. It’s a useful scarf size. You could definitely add some rows of knotted openwork if you wanted to use up more yarn.

This yarn was originally used for a Gaenor shawlette, which I loved, but I didn’t pay close enough attention and ran out of yarn. : ( For a blend of merino and silk it help up to frogging and reknitting quite well. Orange Flower yarns are always gorgeous, and this is no exception.
I knit this as a thank-you gift for my Aunt Patrice who hosted just the loveliest baby shower for us last weekend.
No, we're not really naming our little guy Ragnar -- it's a family joke (though it does have a nice Nordic ring, doesn't it?).

Friday, August 16, 2013

fo: pear drop shawlette

We are in the midst of reshuffling our library to make room in the nursery, and Moxie has discovered a new favorite hidey-hole. Such a funny kitty!
Another handknit is not only off the needles, but it has already been delivered to its recipient while we were in Minnesota last weekend.

pattern: Pear Drop, by Ysolda Teague
yarn: The Plucky Knitter 80.10.10 MCN, Tracy Lord Haven, 1.2 skeins
needles: US 6 Clover bamboo circs
size: small

The construction of this shawlette intrigued me! You begin by knitting the edging. I actually looked forward to picking up stitches from the edging (I’ve never said that before!) and then working inward, decreasing the semicircle. I wasn't happy with the bind-off -- you end up just cinching the last few stitches, which seems like a sloppy end to an elegantly constructed project.

The yarn from The Plucky Knitter is gorgeous, as usual -- a very rich, deep red. It bled a lot in the wash. The pattern specified laceweight yarn, but I wanted something more substantial, so I went with fingering weight. If I were to knit this pattern again, I'd try a DK yarn like this beautiful example
More Moxie goodness:
Happy weekend!

Thursday, August 01, 2013


Our little guy will be rocking a wee sweater vest this autumn:

pattern: tiny trees baby vest, by Kylie Bates
yarn: Valley Yarns Superwash DK, 1 skein (137 yds.)
needles: Clover US 7 bamboo 16" circs
size: 0-3 months

The yarn came from a giveaway on Suze's blog, Mad Knitting, a while ago. I used the first two skeins to knit Babe in the Woods (which still needs buttons but is otherwise complete), and the lone last skein was just enough for this tiny vest. It's very soft and cozy, but has a tendency to stretch (as superwash is wont to do). That doesn't bother me with baby knits, but I'm not sure I'd use it for a sweater for me. I might actually prefer it to Knit Picks Swish, the superwash I use for baby shower knits all the time. Hey, if it's a gift and I'm not sure that the recipients are used to washing wool, I'm not breaking out the Madelinetosh -- that's all I'm saying.

The pattern is easy and would be good for a newbie knitter, though it does call for you to kitchener stitch the shoulder straps together (though honestly you'd be fine just binding off and seaming, and it would probably give the straps a little more structure).

Hmmm... I'm also working on a new crochet afghan using Cherry Heart's free Rosie Posie Granny Square tutorial. I love the look of the round centers, but magic rings make me a little nuts. This pattern is reminiscent of Posie Gets Cozy's Sunshine Day afghan. I broke my yarn-buying embargo to acquire enough yarn for the afghan, and I'm loving the colors so far! This was a go-big-or-go-home Knit Picks order, so I also picked up yarn for these adorable moc-a-soc booties and aranami.
Chicago's heat wave broke last week, and I've been so thankful. My Nordic blood can't handle heat and humidity, and I turn into a total sloth when the mercury hits 90. A crabby sloth, at that.
Now that it has cooled off our garden is perking up again (as am I, despite being seven months pregnant and feeling ungainly). I picked some basil tonight and tried Nicole's new recipe for mozzarella and basil bread. Mine doesn't look nearly as pretty as hers (note to self: thoroughly flour both the board and your hands before kneading so that you can shape a nice ball), but it is delicious. That said, it doesn't hold a candle to my mom's dilly bread (a yeast bread made with dill and cottage cheese -- I'll have to post the recipe sometime soon, esp. since there's a bumper crop of dill in my herb garden).