Monday, December 22, 2014

happy holidays

Wishing you holidays filled with peace, joy, love, and warmth.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

matchy matchy

Saturday night I dug out some cardigans that I had knit for Erik that needed just a few finishing touches, and we settled in for our annual viewing of Elf. Many belly laughs later, Erik had a new cardigan to wear! It will fit him for approximately five minutes, so I wish that I had sewn on the buttons sooner, but that's how it goes.

pattern: antler, by alexa ludeman, tin can knits
yarn: cascade 220 heathers, 9451, Lake Chelan Heather, 2 skeins
needles: US 5 and 7 Clover bamboo circs
size: 2-4 years

The pattern is easy to knit and went very quickly. The sleeves are way too long as written -- I shortened them a tad, but should have shortened them by at least another 2 inches. Erik is tall, but his height is all in his torso (not in his arms) -- if I were to knit this again, I'd lengthen the body of the cardigan, too.
The yarn is leftover from my Drops cardigan, which I just love and wear all the time. So cozy and comfy!
Plenty is left on my to-knit list before the holidays, some quick and easy -- a Minnesota Vikings hat (turn a square in purple and gold), a Chunkeanie, maybe a pair of these crazy-looking Cozy Mittens (the construction looks neat) -- and one that will be a real stretch, a Big Lebowski-inspired cardigan for Paul. There are still gifts to buy and wrap, cookies to bake, and decorating to finish, but we're enjoying the season and doing things like the St. Lucia festival at the Swedish American Museum, the holiday El train, and relaxing by the lights of the Christmas tree.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

busy little elf

I've been a busy little elf with the gift knitting lately. Somehow my knitting productivity has increased dramatically -- I credit the decreased sunlight and chilly temperatures. Cuddling up with a cat, some tea, and my knitting seems like the perfect activity.

yarn: plucky knitter merino cashmere nylon fingering, 
Tracy Lord Haven, 1 skein
needles: US 5 Clover bamboo circs

Brilliant pattern -- very easy lace, it made for perfect travel knitting while we were in Door County last month. You're essentially just knitting a scarf, then seaming the ends together. Next time I would use a provisional cast-on, then work a three-needle bind-off. The yarn is soft and squooshy, and I love the color. This is a birthday gift for my mother-in-law, though I'd really like to keep it for myself. Confessions of a selfish knitter!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

the mad hatter strikes again

Erik is sporting a new handknit hat these days. It is going to fit his large head (ninety-fifth percentile!) for approximately five minutes, so I'm not waiting for Christmas for him to wear it.  Stranded colorwork is my knitting bête noire, so I'm glad to finally make some progress.
pattern: sheep may safely graze, by caoua coffee, adapted for a hat
yarn: patons classic wool merino, leaf green, 1/2 skein
knitpicks swish worsted, grey, 1/4 skein
needles: US 4 + US 7 circs + DPNs

I was inspired by blanchn's beautiful adaptation of a sock pattern. I love bighorn sheep! I folowed blanchn's notes and cast on 72 stitches, using US 4 needles for the 1x1 ribbing, then I switched to size 7 since I wanted a larger hat. The ribbing's a little tight -- I'd use US 5 next time. I followed her notes other than that, and it turned out super cute. I wish I had used cream yarn for the sheep for more contrast, but Erik hasn't complained.

Lots of hats off the needles lately! I've already blogged about the Saint Anthony cable hats and the Milanese lace topper, but new to the collection are Barnwood, Magnolia, and Betsy.

Magnolia (above) and Betsy (below) are essentially the same stitch pattern -- a nice lace pattern that has an almost cabled look. Magnolia is a free pattern for worsted weight yarn, whereas you have to pay for Betsy, which is written for chunky yarn. The crown decreases are very different. I ran out of yarn on Magnolia and had to do some improvising on the decreases, so it's not quite as pretty as it could have been. The perils of stashbusting! The yarn is Malabrigo Worsted in Bobby Blue.

I had plenty of yarn for Betsy (more of the lovely Orange Flower Twist HW yarn that I also used for two Saint Anthony cable hats), so I followed the pattern as written. Barnwood still needs to be blocked, so full details another time.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

the mercury is falling...

and the handknits are emerging! I've been knitting like a fiend as of late. Not only have I been using yarn from the stash, I've been rocking the free hat patterns.
I've made a couple of these Saint Anthony Cable Hats in the past month or so. Erik's sporting an adult-sized hat with the brim rolled up. Honestly, I was hoping to wear it for a modeled shot, but it ended up being a chilly morning at the park. Handknits to the rescue!

pattern: Saint Anthony Cable Hat, by Heideh Sarfehjoo (free!)
yarn: Orange Flower Twist HW, petrol, .6 skein
needles: US 8 and 10 bamboo circs and DPNs

I liked the pattern so much that I made a second one right away. The first hat I worked per the directions. With the second one, I used size 8 needles for the first 7 rows, then went up to size 10. I wanted the hat to be just a touch longer, so I added an extra row of ribbing to each pattern repeat. Worked like a charm. The yarn is a dream to knit -- soft, squishy, beautiful colors. Naturally, it has been discontinued. Sigh!
Goofing off at the playground. I'm wearing not only my Aidez cardigan, but also another new hat.

pattern: milanese lace topper, by tante ehm (free!)
yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, 9452 summer sky heather, .6 skein
needles: US 4 and US 7 bamboo circs + DPNs

This color must speak to me, since it's the same hue as my Aidez (which is knit from Eco Wool). The pattern was fun and easy. I squirreled up the decreases at the top a bit with an extra stitch somewhere, but it looks just fine nevertheless. I suspect that the designer was using British needle sizing, so I used US size 4 for the ribbing and switched to US 7 needles for the rest of it. I continued the 1x1 ribbing for the first 14 rows, since I didn't like how the stockinette section rolled on so many versions on Ravelry.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

shattered sun

When I saw a sample of the shattered sun shawl at Windy Knitty (my favorite Chicago yarn store), I just had to make it. Immediately. I bought the yarn that night and cast on right away. Lo and behold, a finished shawl! This is really unusual for me. I tend to dither about what to knit, and yarn marinates in the stash for a good while. The experience was refreshing, and I love the shawlette.
pattern: shattered sun shawl, by Felicia Lo
yarn: madelinetosh tosh merino light, esoteric, 1 skein (420 yds.)
needles: Clover US 5/3.75 mm bamboo circs

Tosh merino light is incredibly soft and cozy. Yes, it will pill, but it's like butter to knit, and it's wonderful to wrap around your neck. Unlike my last Madelinetosh yarn experience, this skein had just one break/knot. The pattern is well-written. My only complaint is that I don't love the ruffle and the bind-off, but that's minor and merely a personal preference. I had a little yarn to spare at the end, but not much.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


How quickly a year passes... Erik turned one, and we celebrated Peter Rabbit-style. How I love this sweet, funny boy of ours.

Carrot cake, which Erik loved. He didn't know what to do at first, but then just about polished off his whole cupcake (though a good number of crumbs bedecked his high chair afterward).

Wee bunny-shaped chocolate sugar cookies with just their fluffy white tails frosted.

I made a traditional Swedish kladdkaka -- a cross between chocolate cake and brownies. I used a nonstick kladdkaka pan with raised fluted edges, but any nonstick 9-inch cake pan would do. No need to break out the mixer for this recipe! It's easy to mix by hand.

Swedish Chocolate Sticky Cake

1/2 C. butter
1 1/3 C. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or 1 T. vanilla sugar)
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 C. high quality natural cocoa powder (I like Penzeys natural high fat cocoa powder)
2 eggs
1/2 C. flour

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9” cake pan.
- Soften butter and add sugar, vanilla extract/sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. Mix well by hand.
- Stir in the eggs until the mixture is smooth. Add flour, stir until combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on the lower rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Don’t overbake -- a tester will still have sticky crumbs.
- Allow cake to cool for 15-20 minutes. Then hold a plate over the pan, invert the pan, and release the cake.
- Optional: Serve dusted with powdered sugar, or with ice cream or whipped cream.

Serves 6.

Monday, October 13, 2014

in which I am proven wrong yet again

Erik's new barley hat isn't all that big after all. Our little woodland sprite celebrated his first birthday in Door County last week.
It was a magical vacation -- fresh air, fall colors, lots of firsts. Erik was initially skeptical of the hiking backpack, but he warmed up to it and loved riding up high and looking around.

 And goofing off at Newport State Park:
Plus Erik managed to sport an amazing number of handknits -- not only his barley hat, but also his burnett cardigan and October vest.
The cardigan in action at Al Johnson's (mmmm... lingonberries! Scandinavian kitsch!):

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

urbs in horto

Chicago's motto is urbs in horto, "city in a garden." Sometimes the garden seems hard to find amidst the bustle and busy streets, other times you can't miss it.
I took a tour of the Lurie Garden yesterday. The autumnal air was cool and crisp, and the perennial plants were looking decided fall-ish. You can see Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion in the background, along with the Smurfitt-Stone building, Two Prudential Plaza, and the Aon Center. An unmistakably Chicago backdrop to a lovely garden.
 A mix of native and non-native plants, a quiet spot in the midst of the city.

I have to remember these peaceful city moments when I long for nature and want to get out of dodge. We drove seventy-five minutes to meet friends at a pumpkin patch last weekend, and while it was lovely, it was essentially in a suburban subdivision.
Erik enjoyed the pumpkins, the baby goats, and testing out his new hiking backpack, and we all munched on apple cider donuts and luxuriated in the beautiful, warm day. Despite the pumpkins and autumnal trappings, it didn't much feel like fall -- it felt like summer's last hurrah.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

autumn already?

These early autumn days are flying by. Cool, crisp mornings, pumpkin spice lattes, lots of baby hugs and kisses, swinging at the park, even a jaunt to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival.

I met up with Rue at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool and had a lovely time. My purchasing was rather restrained, which is just fine since our flat is already full to the rafters with wool. Some Briar Rose merino wool for a sweater for Erik, a beautiful skein of Sun Valley laceweight just because, and whimsical buttons by Jennie the Potter. I also ran into the lovely Caffeine Girl at the Briar Rose booth. So nice to meet her in person at last!
Some bad to go with the good -- making three trips to Minnesota in four weeks to help with some family health problems was exhausting, but all seems to be well now, and we're thankful for modern medicine.

I knit Erik a hat while sitting at airports and waiting in hospitals.

pattern: barley, by tin can knits
yarn: orange flower sw merino worsted, about half a skein
needles: US 5 and 7 16" circs and DPNs
size: child

Erik has a large head, so I went with the child size rather than the toddler size. That was overkill! This won’t fit him for another year or two.

Well-written pattern, lovely yarn. I will definitely use both again. I learned about tin can knits' free, truly easy "Simple Collection" of patterns with tutorials for new knitters from the Double Knit podcast, which I've been enjoying during my lunch break.


A child-sized hat doesn't take too long, so I knit a shawlette while I was waiting, too.

pattern: mirabelle texture sampler shawl, by Zehava Jacobs
yarn: madelinetosh tosh sock, turquoise, 1 skein
needles: Clover US 7 bamboo circs

The yarn was extremely disappointing -- many, many knots. Weaving in lots of ends in a lacy shawl is a pain. Tosh light more to my taste than Tosh sock anyway.

I ran out of yarn partway through section 9. I bound off purlwise on row 7, doing a p2 tog, slip stitch back to the left needle bind-off.

I love the texture in this shawl, but the dark yarn was too murky to show off the stitches. I also hate doing the butterfly stitch. It ends up too taut for me, and in one case I missed purling the slipped stitches together and had to go back and make a creative fix.

As noted by others, there are some typos in the pattern, but it is not too bad. I would knit this again, using a lighter colored yarn with more yardage, and I might substitute a different stitch pattern for the butterfly stitch section. 
I learned something from this experience -- I tend to knit with yarn that's already wound. There were many skeins of yarn in my stash that would have worked better in terms of color and yardage, but I was in too much of a hurry to wind them.

I finished another shawlette, too, but will save the details for another post.

Pasta with Roasted Eggplant and Mozzarella

Serves 6

1 lb. eggplant, diced
1-2 large red bell peppers, diced
4-6 medium-large tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 T. olive oil, divided
1 lb. conchiglie (medium shells), rigatoni, or penne
1/2 lb. spicy Italian sausage (pork or chicken, loose/removed from casing)
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1/2 C. Parmesan, shredded
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees for the veggies. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.

In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, and 2 T. of olive oil. Toss to coat the veggies thoroughly. Spread the veggies on a baking sheet or shallow pan -- it's best if they are in a single layer, so you may want to use two pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. Toss with a spatula a couple of times during baking.

Once the water starts boiling, drop the pasta in and cook until al dente.

Brown the Italian sausage, breaking it up as it cooks, and drain.

Drain pasta thoroughly in a colander and place in a large bowl. Add the veggies to the pasta along with the remaining T. of oil. Add the sausage, mozzarella, Parmesan, salt, and pepper, and toss.

NB: A good vegetarian option would be to substitute oil-cured black olives for the Italian sausage.

Monday, August 18, 2014

savoring these summer days

walks at Winnemac Park, where reclamation of the natural prairie is underway:

splashes in the backyard:

crafting -- a sweet knit baby doll for Erik's friend's first birthday:
pattern: knit baby doll pattern set, by Amy Gaines
yarn: knit picks comfy worsted, in honeydew, peony, ivory, and creme brulee
needles: US 4 Brittany straights
my Ravelry project page


This knit baby doll was fun and fairly quick to knit! I followed the directions (aside from making the body a couple rows longer) and knit it flat. I saw some versions knit in the round on Ravelry, but I think the seams give it a little more structure. The finishing work was a little fiddly, but it really wasn't too bad. Embroidering the face was the hardest part. I'd definitely make this pattern again -- I found it much less painful than many other knit toy patterns. Perhaps because I wasn't monkeying around with DPNs?

The yarn was leftover from some crochet projects, including yet another diagonal box-stitch baby afghan that I recently finished!
summer eats:

smitten kitchen's zucchini bread (recommended by Tinks and Frogs Rue)
easiest fridge dill pickles (also from smitten kitchen)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

summertime is crochet time

another cozy blanket for a wee one, this time for my dear friend's little boy

yet another crochet blankie in the works

I'm loving the Capresso FrothPro Erik (i.e., Paul) gave me for Mother's Day. It works beautifully, and I've been enjoying cappuccinos out on the front porch lately. 

Other things making me happy these days...
 puttering around in the garden
Anathem by Neal Stephenon on audiobook (absolutely engrossing)
Family Tree, an HBO series by Christopher Guest starring Chris O'Dowd (so funny!)
Doubleknit podcast (Erin and Jessica talk knitting, books, movies... you know, all the important things)
jam tarts, best eaten outdoors
this little guy (now crawling up a storm!):

the bounty of local veggies from our neighborhood farmers' market:

Yes, that is the cat sitting on the dining room table, because that is how we roll, folks.