Projects, Part 1

Home ownership and a knitting hobby means there can be a lot of projects in progress. M and I are having a blast making the yard and gardens “ours.” And I’ll get to one of those projects in just a minute. First though, a little knitting. I had the perfect WIP to work on with sore elbows, a scarf in a scrumptious yarn (55/45 silk/cashmere!) that has a rather boring to knit (but oh, so pretty outcome) eight row repeat. Every repeat completed would be a good time to take a break, and the lace pattern on relatively large needles kept tension in my hands to a minimum.

Untitled
The pattern is Aria Delicato by Anne Hanson of Knitspot. She knit a 48-inch scarf using 275 yd of fine fingering yarn. I have 400 yd of fine fingering yarn (from Neighborhood Fibers, which I think has closed its doors at least as an online retailer), so my scarf is going to be longer. I have a cream colored “twin-set” cardigan (minus the twin), that I think these greens will look fab with. I’ve had this OTN for quite a while, but now it is getting a lot of attention.

Both M and I wanted to be able to plant some veggies in our new yard, but it was really landscaped, so we had to figure out where we could fit some raised beds in. I found a corner, that especially in summer will get enough sun, but I think even in the winter we will be able to grow some cold weather veggies. At least we are going to find out! Here in California, fall and winter are the perfect time to grow salad greens and broccoli and cauliflower, so I bought some seeds:
Untitled
Untitled
Those shrubs you see in the middle of the photo–
Untitled
those shrubs are gone. And now M is very happy to be making sawdust on the back patio (redwood sawdust, no less):
Untitled
Before he can assemble the beds, M needs to deal with the drip sprinkler system, which I find incredibly mysterious, as there are billions of possible parts to splice in and link together. But I hope soon I can show you some baby greens in the garden and a green scarf round my neck!

Granola

I had to travel for work, and some how that trip made my elbows sore again. I think it was dragging all my luggage through 3 flights each way across the continent and through customs (Sacramento to Quebec City and back). Anyway, here is a cooking post of granola M and I really like. At the end, you can see the sweater that I’ve started that is waiting for my elbows to feel better again.

I like to eat granola for breakfast. Not the granola you buy in the cereal aisle, but the “gourmet” kind that often comes in bulk food departments. But it’s pretty expensive, so I found a recipe for making my own in the April 2012 issue of Cooks Illustrated magazine. M and I subscribe to America’s Test Kitchen on line, who are the same group who puts out Cooks Illustrated, and I’ve found that their recipes always work, and M and I often like them (sometimes we like a spicier or richer version than the testers like). So when I saw that an issue of the magazine had a home made chunky granola recipe, I had to give it a go.
Following their directions, I didn’t get chunky granola the first time, but I wasn’t very surprised. I have often found living in the arid Central Valley of California, that recipes developed in much more humid climates (New England in this case) need a bit of a liquid boost out here. I ended up increasing the sugars and oil by 50% while holding the dry ingredients constant, and that worked so well, that M now eats this granola every morning for breakfast with some vanilla yogurt. I eat it with almond milk.

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. nuts (I use almonds–they are local here), coarsely chopped
  • 5 C old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 C maple syrup (original recipe, very good) or honey (a lot less expensive–nuke it 20-30 sec to “thin” it)
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t cinnamon (optional)
  • 3/4 C canola oil

Directions:

Heat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, honey or maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon (optional), whisking until they well combined. Add the oil and whisk until the oil is stably incorporated (you are making an emulsion). Add the almonds and oats and fold with a large spatula until the oats are uniformly well-coated (don’t skimp on this step). Pour into a parchment-lined half-sheet pan and spread evenly. Use a heavy weight (I use a tool to pound meat) to press the the granola into a tight sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 min, rotating the pan 180 degrees half way through the baking. Cool in pan on wire wrack until completely cool. Break in to chunks and store air tight at room temperature. Note: If you want any dried fruit in your granola, add it after baking when breaking up the cooled granola.

If you get the magazine, you can see their amounts (or do the math and decrease the sugars and oil by 50%) and their many creative variations.

M took some photos of me yesterday making a batch:
Untitled
Folding the dry into the wet ingredients.
Untitled
Pressing the mixture together in the baking pan.
Untitled
Out of the oven!
Untitled
After cooling, I always find a corner missing. M says it must be a mouse. The one time this did not happen was the day M was not at home while I made the granola. Hmmm….

And here is a glimpse of the sweater I have on the needles. It’s Vodka Lemonade by Thea Coleman. It’s a lovely pattern, and I am not using yarn with the amount of stitch definition she recommends, but I think the difference between the seed stitch and stockinette will work out fine here. The yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts BFL Sport in Star Sapphire. I love BFL wool with a deep and abiding passion.
Untitled

New Digs or Why I haven’t been blogging

M and I bought a house. We moved to a neighboring city (about 7 miles from our old rental) to a lovely neighborhood. This has kept us rather busy for the past couple of months, but we are finally beginning to settle in. We had a month to pack, and we donated and got rid of what seemed like mountains of things, but when it came time to move, man, we had a lot of stuff. 13 years of marriage and 12 years in one residence can do that. But here are some before and after pics from the new house.

Family Room before
Can you find Harriet, my mannequin head in all the mess?
Family Room after
Dining room before
Dining Room after
Library before
Library after

M has a lawn to mow for the first time that doesn’t belong to his parents or their neighbors. He seems to really like the mower, and today he got an edger.
M mowing the lawn

But some things never change:
Boulevardier
Boulevardier cocktail. A negroni made with bourbon instead of gin. Delicious, and it looks so pretty on the hearth.

 

Some sweater knitting

I have been able to do some sweater knitting without my elbow bothering me! My elbow still bothers me somewhat, but other than hurting if I try to pick up something weighing more than 12-15 pounds, the ache seems to be random and transient. So, I have been knitting Leaflet by Cecily Glowik MacDonald from Knitty First Fall 2011. My parents gave me the Quince and Co. Osprey yarn in Cypress for Christmas (Osprey is the yarn specified in the pattern and totally wonderful).
Cypress Leaflet: WIP
I really love this rich green, and since I feel obliged to knit leaf motifs in an actual, possible leaf color, for me Cypress was a good choice. I only have around 14 rows left in the body, and then a bunch of ribbing around the edges. Ms. MacDonald knit her Leaflet in a brilliant autumn orange, but people ask me if I am feeling well if I wear orange near my face, so I went with the green.
However, a little orange on my feet never did any harm; I can get my foot up to my face, but I don’t do that in public unless it is at a yoga class, and then I am barefoot. I started the Rubus suberectus sock from Hunter Hammersen’s new book, The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet. It has some beautiful patterns both for socks and accessories each inspired by an antique botanical print, hence the Latin genus and species names for the patterns.
Rubus suberectus sock: cuff
I love the coral color of this yarn, which I can’t find the ball band for right this second, but I do know that it was dyed with a natural dye and the fiber is a merino/bamboo blend. For added stretch, I knit the top part of the cuff (to the 2nd welt) on larger needles, which I think will look much better when my leg is actually in the sock.
My poor other sock WIPs have been languishing, but it is several months until wool sock wearing weather, so I do not share their upset.
To close, I have to show you this photo I took of a sunset a couple of weeks ago. I was expecting all the clouds to turn brilliant reds and golds, but that was not to be. But I like the mood of what did happen.
Sunset with clouds
I started to expect Sauron or Voldemort to come flying out of the sunset with their evil minions in tow. Luckily, the sky just got dark, and I went in where M had prepared a delicious dinner.

Anniversary Junket

M and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary on May 8. We drove to a nice hotel in Santa Rosa for the night and dinner. The next day, since Santa Rosa is adjacent to the Sonoma Valley and the Russian River area, we went to a couple of wineries. I didn’t take a lot of photos, but here are a few.
Untitled
M enjoying our balcony.
Untitled
M does not like extra, non-sleeping pillows on the bed. Fortunately, while we were at dinner, the maid turned down the covers, and stacked all these pillows in the corner. M would have thrown them off the bed in all directions: “They’re throw pillows.”
Untitled
Dinner was very nice. You can’t see my chocolate truffle cake with salted caramel gelato because my water glass is in the way, but it was really good. M had the gelato trifecta: salted caramel, chocolate and vanilla.
Untitled
Untitled
There were lots of flowers at the hotel.
Untitled
We saw some vineyards.
The winery had a fancy garden.
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
And another winery, Artesa, has quite the fountains. It is one of our favorite wineries.
Untitled
It was a short trip, but we had a good time, and it was fun to take time off during the work week.

A Little Startitis

Untitled

Having finished the first Cinco de Mayo sock (note grafted toe!), which was all stockinette, and having started the second Winesap BFL sock, which is 3×1 rib, I was feeling the need for a little more stitch pattern variety. I also want to get some of my multicolored sock yarns knit up. I’ve decided I don’t have to be real fancy and have a new pattern for each sock pair, so I went with two favorites, Monkey and Pablo Deep:
Untitled
That’s a Monkey cuff, but a stockinette foot, which I decided to do when I saw how nice the Purple Iris (Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock) looked in stockinette. Plus that allowed me to rapidly decrease 8 stitches in the last round of the leg going from 64 to 56, which seems to have worked well (I decreased 2X each repeat in the center, leaning toward each other). Now that the gusset decreases are done, I’m bored with the stockinette, even though it looks pretty, and even though I can knit stockinette and read at the same time.

So, I started another sock in the Pablo Deep pattern.
Untitled
The yarn is Pagewood Farms St. Elias, a BFL/nylon (80/20) blend, in Crayon. I had seen Crayon in a different base yarn on Ravelry, and it looked much brighter than the BFL I got. At first I was disappointed, but the other day it seemed perfect for another pair of Pablo Deep socks, and I am pleased with how it is knitting up. BFL is my favorite yarn now for socks. Perhaps I just needed to knit a sock in neon colors for the muted palette of Crayon to appeal to me.

I like both of these patterns for multicolored yarns, and I am thinking of knitting a pair of socks that is one of each pattern, as a bit of a scientific experiment to compare the two. Time to rummage in the sock yarn drawer!

The other day, we had dinner at our friend Briana’s house. She has a lovely garden, but she also has a lot on her plate right now, so her roses were in serious need of some deadheading. I offered to deadhead for her (she was very happy about that), and I took some snapshots between snipping. I thought this pink rose was quite lovely.
Untitled

A perfect wrap for a cool spring morning

We have been having a cool spring (although we should be in the low 80s this coming weekend), and this Guernsey Wrap designed by Jared Flood has been a nice change from a jacket. I like how it looks with the plumberry cardigan my parents gave me for Christmas.
Untitled
M took these photos of me at the UC Davis arboretum on Easter morning. I have no idea what any of the flowering shrubs and trees are, but they sure were pretty.
Untitled
Untitled
My wrap even matches these flowers! I knit this out of Quince and Co. Lark yarn in Lupine. I love this yarn. The stitch definition is fantastic, and the yarn has a good bit of bounce and spring. It is also not in the least bit scratchy. Just wonderful!
Untitled
The pattern was fun to knit and very well written, although it was clear that Mr. Flood has much younger eyes. The chart row numbers were very small in a fine, sans-serif font. Artistically very lovely, but I had to write bigger numbers at the changes in pattern stitch. The pattern also took pretty much all the yarn it said it would, but that was fine with me. Due to the nature of the pattern stitches, there really isn’t an easy way to lengthen (I doubt shortening would be a good idea) the pattern, although with a little thinking, motifs could be repeated in a symmetrical order. All in all I am very pleased with how this turned out.

To close, I want to show you the dessert I made for our Easter dinner. Pineapples were on sale, so I made some pineapple sorbet and served it with strawberries and some mocha shortbread I baked. I even garnished the plates with a sprig of mint! If only I had made some contrastingly colored sauce that I had drizzled all around, then we could call the plating “fancy-schmancy;” instead I think we just have to go with fancy. M liked this!
Untitled

Stripes and Daisies

While looking for lightweight knitting projects to humor my bad elbow, I found a sock cuff started on wooden dpns, so I thought I would work on those. The colorway is Cinco de Mayo in Panda Sock from Seacoast Yarns. Maybe I can have the pair done by the holiday.
Cinco de Mayo Sock: WIP
It’s not self-striping per se, but it’s turning out pretty stripey! These are the craziest colored socks I’ve knit; they really are highlighter bright, but they are also very cheerful. I’m trying the gusset decreases on the bottom of the foot, a trick that I learned about from Cristi Brockway. She has a sock pattern Tortuga Twist that uses these gusset decreases. She’s been using them a lot, so I just remembered how she had blogged about it, although I really like the pattern and plan to get it. She claims they make a nice cup shape to fit the heel.

I also found some ink/navy yarn I had bought years ago when yarn shopping with a friend who thought I should knit lace gloves. Well, I really didn’t want to do that, but we were in a small yarn shop, and I felt the pressure to buy. The shop went out of business years ago, so this has been in stash for ages, and the friend dropped me when I wouldn’t read The Shack for her book group. Oh, well. I also had 2/3 of a skein this semi-solid burgundy, and I thought they would go together well in a chevron scarf. Plus it gave me a project for my cute knitting-sheep project bag.
Chevron Scarf II: WIP
I am using the simple pattern I made up from a chevron stitch pattern I found on the interwebs. That’s where the first 1/3 of the burgundy skein went. It really looks different when used with Woodland multi-color.
Chevron Scarf
And what Easter Weekend post would be complete without some flowers? My three gerbera daisy plants survived our “winter” and two are blooming. They put up the flowers on four inch stems, like they weren’t real sure this was a good idea with our unseasonably cool spring, but the flowers are gorgeous.
red gerbera daisy
Yellow gerbera daisy

Cool Things

My elbow is healing slowly. I was getting so bored that I’ve been trying a little knitting. A few rows at a time doesn’t seem to make matters worse. So over a week, I’ve managed four inches of a new Tudor Grace scarf:
Tart Tudor Grace WIP
The yarn is Madelinetosh Sock in Tart. This photo doesn’t do justice to the reds. If you are a lover of red, I suggest looking for some Tart. I’ve knit Anne Hanson’s Tudor Grace scarf before, but I wanted one a little longer, and I wanted to wear this red near my face.

Since, I don’t have much knitting to show (although I do have a couple FOs that need a photoshoot), I thought I’d share a couple of things that I really like using:

At my parents’ Christmas open house, my mom’s friend, Meg, tipped me off about the Working Hands cream from O’Keefe’s. A lot of hand lotions irritate my skin, but Meg assured me this one was different. The formulation attracts water from the air to rehydrate the skin without smothering the skin in any mineral oil or petrolatum, both of which irritate me. It really works well. You use it before bed and it leaves the skin a tiny bit tacky–it doesn’t stop me from reading a book or using my iPad–but by morning your skin is as soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom. I gave some to my mom, and she loves it too. She uses it on her feet also.
The book darts are so handy for marking places in cookbooks and knitting books and the like, where finding a place quickly is good. They are so thin that one would have to use a lot of them to distort the spine, and they are much more subtle than a post-it. I keep the sock toe grafting instructions in Sally Melville’s The Purl Stitch marked, as I can never remember how to get the grafting started.

M and I only own one vehicle, a 2003 Ford Ranger. If we ever have to get a second vehicle, or when we have to replace our Ranger, I would like to get something with this sort of duochrome finish that looks like a soap bubble or oil slick:

When I showed this photo to M, which really doesn’t do the finish justice, he said, “Hmmmmm…” I’m taking that as an enthusiastic yes!

Bad Elbow = Reading – Knitting + Crows + Cocktails

The little knit top I was knitting in Classic Silk did a number on my elbow, and tendonitis has flared. I haven’t knit in over 1o days, and that is very sad. I think my elbow is slowly improving. I can’t stop using it entirely, as then I couldn’t work, brush my teeth or drink a cocktail (actually glasses of water are much heavier than cocktails).

I think once it heals up some, I shall try to knit the second sock of this pair, which I have knit on wooden needles (Harmony dpns from Knitpicks). The wood slows me down a bit compared to my nickel-plated favorites, and my grip must loosen, or I would break them. In any event, I love this sock with its stripyness and its BFL wool (which I can’t find the ball band for at this time, but I will by the time I finish).
Winesap socks: sock 1

I have been doing a lot of reading (very easy on the elbow), and I owe thanks to the people who recommended I read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, when I requested good space opera titles to read. If you are a reader and are on Goodreads, look me up there! I know I am already friends on Goodreads with several of you, and I have gotten very good suggestions from your reading. Old Man’s War is great fun; I highly recommend it if you like science fiction (or just like a great adventure story). I still need to write my review for Goodreads, but I am giving it 5 stars.

At this time of year, parking in the tree-shaded parking lots at work is a hazard if you leave after sunset. The crows fly into town every evening to roost in the trees. It’s quite a site (and noisy!). I took this photo parked in the middle of a lane, and I hoped nothing flying over my head felt the need to relieve itself. They start at the top and work their way down (pays to be the early bird), so those trees are just starting to be filled.
crows in trees at dusk

Also at this time of year, the narcissus are in bloom!
narcissus

Finally, M and I continue to try new cocktails. The Diabolo was quite tasty (rum, Cointreau, dry vermouth and Angostura bitters).
Diabolo-1