Saturday, July 26, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Back in the future

I've just finished up the main leg of a Fabric Shop Hop here in Austin, so I have sewing on the brain.  I was most uncharacteristically restrained and only bought a few new fabrics for my stash.  Tomorrow we're going to visit one last shop, though, so I shouldn't speak too soon.

Of course, I tell myself that I will make lovely things out of all of my stash.  Many new project ideas are swirling in my head.  But the pragmatist in me is also inspired by finishing the sewing I've already started.  That is, I'm thinking about what the back of my Taking the subway to Sewing Town quilt is going to look like.

As a reminder, here's how the front turned out:
I bought some batting the other week, and I also picked up yardage of four of the fabrics I used on the front as fat quarters:
I bought extra extra of the one on the far left, because I think it would make an adorable box pleat skirt.  And now I'm thinking that because the other three are so predominantly gray, I should just stick with those three for the quilt back.  I have a yard and a quarter of each, which should be more than enough.  Now I just have to figure out how to put them together.

So right now I'm dealing with a 'fun' (read: torturous) puzzle.  And I'm having flashbacks to old math classes as I work out the measurements.  I've done some quick Google searches and Pinterest browsing for quilt back ideas, but I'm open to suggestions.  What do you think?

And once again, shoutout to Woolen Diversions, the founder of Inspiration Saturdays!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Sixteen tentacles down...

How do the weeks just keep going by?  Somehow I get from Wednesday to Wednesday, and I'm not always sure what's happened in between.  I have vague visions of meetings, frozen yogurt, and, of course, knitting.  But mostly I'm just working my way to another Friday afternoon for the respite that is the weekend.

Maybe if I had as many hands as an octopus has tentacles I'd be able to get more done.  As it is, I've finished the first in the Mittacles pair:
I definitely prefer the high contrast of the red and blue to the turquoise and blue I began with.  The strip of pink is for the thumb which I haven't added yet.  I decided I would rather get going on the second mitt and tackle both thumbs at the end, so I don't forget what I did between one and the other.

Overall, I'm really liking this colorwork.  It's actually easier changing the colors every few stitches than the projects I've done in the past where I needed to carry yarn for much longer stretches, which messed with my tension sometimes.  I'm only on the start of the rib on the second mitt, because it's been that kind of week.  But soon there will be more tentacles on the horizon.

What animal hybrid would make you more productive?  The nocturnal nature of an owl?  Or do you just want to be lazy like a koala?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes

When it comes to recipes that are healthy or accommodate some kind of special dietary requirement, I prefer those with two qualities:
  1. They don't require ingredients whose purpose is solely for that dietary requirement.
  2. They taste good enough that people with no desire to be healthy crave them.
That means that I tend to stay away from gluten-free recipes that use fancy flours.  Yes, I would like to one day experiment with them just to see what they are like, but my baking pantry is bursting enough with just all-purpose, cake, self-rising, and whole wheat flours, I don't really have room for others.  Things like corn meal, oatmeal, and quinoa I already have on hand, so I tend to seek out recipes that utilize those.

And of course, describing a baked good as primarily 'good for you' is like describing a potential blind date as having a good personality.  It may very well be true, but it's not the first impression that's going to inspire a first bite or a first date.

These cupcakes meet both of my requirements perfectly.  First of all, it uses leftover cooked quinoa, so it's perfect for dessert after making some stuffed tomatoes.  And because you blend the quinoa, you end up with a gorgeously moist cake that reminds you of a decadent flour less chocolate cake, the ultimate example of something that is gluten-free practically as an afterthought.  

Plus, being quinoa, it's not just about the lack of gluten.  It's also about being a superfood with lots of protein and qualities that allow you to feel completely self-righteous as you lick frosting from your lips.

Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from A Dusting of Sugar: Chocolate Quinoa Cake

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 3/4 cup sweetened cocoa (hot cocoa mix)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine milk, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Add quinoa and butter.  Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, cocoas, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Divide evenly between cupcake liners, about half full.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For frosting, make a double batch of cdkitchen: Easy Cocoa Frosting

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Rather Be (in Tokyo)

I know I mentioned a while ago my intentions of rebranding this blog, and I'm still planning on doing that.  I'm just still in the consideration and procrastination phase.  But I'm already thinking about some of the things I'd like to write about.  One of those things is music.  I'm not a huge music aficionado, but I think everyone lives their life with their own soundtrack, and every song means something different to each person, depending on when, where, and how they heard it.  Exploring all of the ways we identify with music, and the sometimes surprising reactions I have to music, continues to fascinate me.

So perhaps consider this a kind of sneak preview of the things I'd like to write about in the (hopefully near) future...

For many years, I had a morning ritual every school day that included spending a little time watching music videos, flipping between VH1 and MTV to pass the time before I needed to walk out to meet the bus or (for the last few years) drive myself to school.  Now, when I'm working from home, I occasionally like to indulge in some melodic nostalgia and do the same channel surfing.  That's how I found this music video about halfway through, which caught my eye when I recognized the Yamanote train line.  I immediately went to YouTube to watch the whole thing, and I've since replayed it several times over and had the song stuck in my head.  And so, I pass it along to you, "Rather Be" by Clean Bandit, featuring Jess Glynne:
Tokyo!  And not just Tokyo, but some of the lesser-known but extra-special bits that maybe not everyone will recognize.  The fish market, which I've wandered around quite a bit of in search of our favorite conveyor belt sushi restaurant; the Yamanote line train, which my dad loves and even downloaded an album of ringtones from; and the quintessential yakitori on the grill serving straight-faced businessmen (before the burst into song), which just rings so true.

It's enough to bring my always-latent desire to return to Tokyo up to sigh-inducing levels.  But since that won't be happening any time soon, I should probably just focus on making something out of the yarn I bought the last time I was there from Avril yarn store in Kichijoji.  And maybe drink a cup of Karel Capek tea, which I've been hoarding and drinking only on very special occasions.

Are you also from the TRL generation?  Do you have any favorite music videos?  Do you ever watch them now?  Alicia from Woolen Diversions is having a hopefully great time on her honeymoon right now, but I'm sure she'll have lots of inspiration from Costa Rica when she returns.

Friday, July 18, 2014

FO Friday: Twist of Triumph

Let me just take a moment to say: Hurrah Germany!  They weren't my first choice for World Cup champions, but it is the land where at least two great things were born: Wollmeise yarn, and me!  I kid, I kid.  But did you know,  both Wollmeise and I come from the same town?  Pfaffenhofen.  Of course, the yarn store wasn't there when I was there, and being three years old when we left, I probably wouldn't have had much use for yarn, but still.  Just one more reason to want to visit my birthplace again.

So anyway, I was rooting for Germany in Sunday's match.  And I enjoyed it all the more because I wasn't having to rush to finish my Twist of Death.  Despite losing two days of knitting to lack of yarn, I was able to finish up the sleeves on Friday.  The finishing was a team effort, which means that my mother was kind enough to sew the sleeves in for me.  What can I say, she's awesome like that.  I did complete the weaving in of the ends, the blocking, and the modeling, though.  Of course, Mom did take the photos.  So, um, still a team effort.  We took the photos pre-blocking to make sure that I could post them before the end of the tournament, so there's not as much rolling at the edges now.

I love how many ways there are to wear this:
Style #1: Open front
Style #2: Wrapped front
Style #3: Open back
Speaking of team efforts, I'm going to give a shoutout to one of Mom's FOs this Friday as well, because I played a vital role in it.  Behold, from my handspun yarn:
I had totally forgotten that the yarn I spun ended up being fingering weight, so she had plenty of yarn for this shawl.  There was a little bit of unevenness between the hanks, but nothing you can really notice.  And I love the way the colors worked up:
I'm not doing the Tour de Fleece this year, and I missed out on a recent wheel spinning course at an LYS last week, but this definitely makes me want to spin some more.

In the meantime, though, I have more WIPs that need to turn into FOs.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Pomegranate Chocolate Quinoa Cookies

Even though I'm never the first to try one of the new food trends, I do get there eventually most of the time.  Especially when it comes to overnight health sensations.  So forgive me, because there's going to be a lot of quinoa coming up in my cubicle kitchen.

I told you about my quinoa-stuffed baked tomatoes the other week.  Well, after filling the tomatoes with not just quinoa but onions, spinach, and an egg, there was still plenty of quinoa left for other purposes.  And by other purposes, I usually mean baking treats.  Turns out, there are all kinds of uses for quinoa in goodies, and for the most part you can treat it like you would oatmeal.  As in, when making oatmeal muffins, substitute the same amount of cooked quinoa for the uncooked oatmeal called for.

Because I also had some pomegranate arils collected, I decided to go with a cookie packed with healthy excuses to eat one more.  Between the vitamins in the pomegranate, the antioxidants of dark chocolate, and quinoa's protein power, this is practically health food.  Since breakfast cookies also seem to be pretty trendy, I think you could pass these off as one of those too.

Pomegranate Chocolate Quinoa Cookies
Recipe from hidden ponies: Chocolate Pomegranate Oatmeal Cookies

My notes:
  • I chopped up Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate instead of just chocolate chunks to amp up the pomegranate factor
  • I substituted equal amounts of cooked quinoa for quick-cooking oats
  • The quinoa makes the cookies really moist, to the point of falling apart; I would suggest maybe adding a little flour, or some of the originally called for oatmeal, and cooking for a few more minutes or perhaps cooking them in a mini muffin tray for soft cookie bites
  • I used an ice cream scoop to get these onto the sheet because the dough is quite wet
  • Some cookies don't need the two inches of space between them on the cookie sheet, but these definitely do because they spread quite a bit

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

WIP Wednesday: 15 rows forward, 14 rows back

My mother both horrifies and impresses her knitting group when she casually rips out her work when something goes wrong.  She's very adept at fixing errors by tinkling back or other means, but she has no qualms about just frogging away (rip it, rip it) whenever necessary.

Maybe I'm finally taking after her a bit in that respect, because on Monday I didn't feel overwhelmed or unsettled in my decision to undo more than a dozen rows of colorwork in my latest WIP, Mittacles.  When I first cast them on, I was planning on using the yarn I had leftover from Affection-ite, blue and turquoise.  But as the rows went on, it didn't seem like there was enough contrast between the two colors:
You can sort of see the octopus starting to emerge, but without knowing what to look for, it could end up more like a Rorschach test.  And because this is another project destined for my swap partner, I don't want to leave her guessing when she unwraps them.

So after a little contemplation and relatively little anxiety, I backtracked and now I'm a few rows into my second attempt, in which red has replaced the turquoise.  I don't have a progress photo of it, but I'm already much happier with it, because the stitches pop. If I'm going to mess around with DPNs and two different yarns, I want you to be able to see it.

Do you feel traumatized when you have to frog your work, or do you take it in stride?  Leave me a comment, then check out more WIP Wednesday posts at Tami's Amis.