Monday, December 31, 2012

Froyo files: Menchie's (Houston, The Heights)

I have a tendency to take note of any available frozen yogurt wherever I am, just in case.  It's the combined result of loving frozen yogurt, and also having that ADD that comes with the iPhone age, when you're always surfing for something.  It's a habit that has come in handy occasionally, like in this case where a Groupon didn't pan out (the business came under new management and wouldn't accept the deal) and we were left wanting a little something before retiring to the hotel room for the night.

Menchie's: 512 West 19th Street, Houston, TX

When I visited: Friday, December 21st, around 8 pm

Cost per ounce: 45 cents

Number of flavors: 16

Sorbet options: 2

Experience: This made me miss the Menchie's that used to be located on North Lamar next to the Central Market.  I like the flow that seems to be designed into each location of these franchises, with the island in the middle and the yogurt and toppings surrounding.  I also have to admit that I like the way this shop is more 'branded' than some others, with the cutesy merchandise and everything.  I like cute things, what can I say?  And the whole place is well-done, comfortable, spacious, and not too cold.  Which is good when you are eating a frozen treat.

But what's most important is the yogurt.  Lots of options, which is always good, and sample cups at the ready, unlike the Yogurt Spot in Katy.  However, they're version of Taro is also unlike the Yogurt Spot anywhere, and was really disappointing.  I also didn't like the Coconut, which had an artificial taste to it.

Thankfully, along with the misses, there were some hits.  I was also surprised that their Tropical Punch was pretty good as well, because that is a flavor that tends towards the artificial, and this version wasn't.  I really liked the Pomegranate Raspberry, so that was the fruity flavor that I mixed with the Dulce de Leche, which was really good, and kind of a relief after having a few caramel flavors recently that were more salty than creamy.  I also added some Gingerbread, which compared really well with the several varieties I've tried over this holiday season.  You know it's good, because otherwise it doesn't really go with the Dulce de Leche and Pomegranate Raspberry, so the fact that I included it says something.

And Mom, as you can see, just went for the Dulce de Leche, with extra caramel topping.  And you can also see, the cuteness factor extends to the spoons.

Worth a revisit? If I lived in the area, sure.  Especially because it's next door to a Penzey's, and I love shopping their spices.  But most likely I'll just wait until I can find a convenient Austin location.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cooking outside of the cubicle

The holidays mean getting a much-needed break from work.  But along with not having to deal with meetings, e-mails, and other office calamities, it means not getting to bake treats each week.  It's probably good to get a break from this as well, just to keep from getting 'burnt out'.  It also gives me a chance to do something other cooking for the holidays.  Specifically, savory.  Over the past two weeks or so, I've set aside my cake mixes and chocolate chips and done some different dishes in the kitchen I'd like to share.

I already told you about the cheesy muffins I made for the Yarnorama holiday party, which were delicious.  In that same post, I also mentioned the potato salad that is made every year, without fail, for Christmas dinner.  Even if, for whatever reason, it cannot be made for the actual December 24th evening, it is always a part of the belated celebrations.  Without giving away any family secrets, I can share that the salad basically consists of:

  • Potatoes
  • Mayonnaise
  • Frozen veggies (corn, peas, carrot, etc.)
  • Onion
  • Boiled eggs
  • Bologna sausage
  • Pickles (and a little pickle juice)
All mixed together in correct, though inexact, proportions, and stored in the fridge.  Sometimes it's that last part that can be the most complicated, because we are talking about a lot of potato salad.  This year, it completely filled a 6 quart bucket.  We are serious about our potato salad.

Another serious issue: Brussels sprouts.  I might have an addiction.  I was basically uninterested in them for most of my life, but maybe a few years ago I rediscovered them.  And then I made them using this slow cooker recipe from Stephanie O'Dea, and they went from just another vegetable to bona fide craving.  I'm considering how to put dijon Brussels sprouts into some kind of tart shell or flaky pastry crust for a possible birthday cake.  I don't know what it is exactly, but I love them.  So those have featured highly in my holiday eats as well, sharing side dish space with the potato salad and being the first of the leftovers to disappear.

With my mom on Christmas day, we decided to tackle something other than the traditional turkey, and instead chose toad.  Toad in the hole, that is.  In the US, toad in the hole is usually a breakfast dish of toast with a fried egg in the middle (literally, there's a hole in the toast that the egg is cracked into in the frying pan).  In the UK, however, neither eggs nor toast are involved.  Instead, it is basically sausages baked into Yorkshire pudding in a casserole dish.  Having had this in the UK, Mom and I had attempted it only once before, to disappointing results when the 'hole' didn't quite rise around the 'toad'.  This time around, we followed this recipe with great results.  The only changes we made were to use chicken sausage, and we cut the links into quarters (once in half, and once lengthwise) to give more even coverage of sausage in the dish.  It was really good, and now I'm actually wondering about the possibility of bringing the two versions of the dish together with some divots in the casserole and semi-baking some eggs in the final few minutes in the oven.

But next week it's back to work.  And I'm already plotting my baked treat to start off 2013 right.  For now, I can only say: sprouts will not be involved.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Froyo files: Yogurt Spot (Katy)

On our way to Houston, we stopped in Katy to meet some Ravellers at a yarn store.  So lets see, there were friends, there was fiber, what else could we need?  Well, some frozen yogurt never goes amiss!

Yogurt Spot: 20920 Katy Freeway  Katy, TX 77449

When I visited: Thursday, December 20th, around 1 pm

Cost per ounce: 43 cents

Number of flavors: 12

Sorbet options: 1

Experience: There were a few options for frozen yogurt while visiting a Raveler on the way into Houston, but because we know we love the flavors at the Yogurt Spot in Austin, we decided to go there.  I won't lie, I was very swayed when I read on their Facebook page that they had Tiki Taro, because I am in love with that flavor.

And it turns out it was a good thing that we knew and loved the flavors, because apparently this location has the same policy as all Orange Leafs do, which is to have the cashier pull the samples for you.  I won't rant again about how to me that means that logically they should have the cashier swirling everything, the same way ice cream gets scooped behind the counter, but you can get a tasting spoonful.  In a related note, you also have to ask the cashier to unlock the bathroom, so I guess they just really want to keep track of all of their amenities.

Because we already know Yogurt Spot is worth the ounces, we stayed and got what we knew we liked.  I also tried the seasonal Gingerbread flavor, which was good, but couldn't outrank Tiki Taro, Strawberry Fields, and Pomegranate Raspberry.
I think Mom essentially did the same, except she has Blueberry instead of Taro to complete her fruit-topped trio.  Our fellow Ravelers got the Chocolate and Peppermint, which they said was nice, not too minty.

Worth a revisit? I prefer to swirl my own samples, but for those in the Houston area, this is good quality for a good price.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Froyo files: Yogurt in Love (San Marcos)

Usually my Wednesday evenings are spent in the gym, running on the treadmill and then joining a group exercise class.  But the gym is at the office, so during the holidays I'm free to fill my Wednesdays another way, by knitting with my mom's knitting group down in San Marcos.  And as further evidence that frozen yogurt and I are destined companions, a new frozen yogurt shop just happened to open up next door to the coffee shop that hosts the knit group.

Yogurt in Love: 102 Wonder World Drive, San Marcos, TX

When I visited: Wednesday, December 19th, around 8 pm

Cost per ounce: 45 cents

Number of flavors: 10

Sorbet options: 3

Experience: Bright white and spacious, it looks perhaps a little sparse inside, but they were only in their second day of business, and the decor that they did have was very cute.  The girl at the counter greeted us and was ready to explain all about the self-serve frozen yogurt in case we didn't know.  Since we are experts at this point, the only tip we really needed from her was that because the machines are so new, they were a little quirky.  The levers were a little stiff and the froyo was flowing quite freely, which resulted in a little bit of a mess while sampling.  The yogurt could also have been a little more frozen, but these are small things that can be worked out as the shop stays open.

My favorite was the Tropical sorbet, a great pineapple-y flavor.  There were two other sorbets, Mango and Pomegranate, but Tropical won me over.  I also really liked the Strawberry, which was a yogurt rather than a sorbet, so I had that along with the Tropical and some fruit.  Mom really liked the Cheesecake, and swirled it with the Strawberry to make her own froyo version of a classic dessert.  She even went wild with some rainbow sprinkles and white chocolate chips to top it off, along with some blackberries.

The other flavors, like Vanilla with no sugar added, Chocolate, Cookies and Cream, and Peanut Butter, were also fine.  The Caramel Pretzel was a little too salty and not quite caramel-y enough.

Worth a revisit?  Yup, I think any time I get to join my Mom's knit group I'll be looking forward to some froyo as well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry craftmas, and a happy knit year!

I hope everyone is enjoying today, whether you are doing so as Christmas Day or just another Tuesday.  In the spirit of the holidays, I wanted to thank everyone reading this blog.  In particular, I want to say thanks to all of the crafters out there who may be wondering when I'm really going to put the 'knit' in knitlit twit.  I feel a little guilty about not being either knit or lit enough all of the time.  Soon I shall flood you with some of my holiday projects, I promise, and I am resolved to do more selfish knitting in 2013 that I don't need to keep secret from spoilees and can thus post madly about.

In the meantime, I want to keep all of the crafters occupied with a little cheer I found on Ravelry today. Designer Tin Can Knits is giving away a free pattern until January 1st, all you have to do is browse through the patterns on Ravelry, and when you find the one you want in your stocking the most, add it to your cart and use the code SHARETHELOVE to check out for free.

Here's what the very generous designer has to say:
But before you begin the (pleasurable) process of choosing your gift, please take a second to do one thing for me - SHARE THE LOVE by forwarding this email to your friends, knitting group buddies, and favourite yarn shop owner - so they too can choose a gift and check out our fun-to-knit seamless designs in sizes from baby to grandpa!
Personally, I had to have Rosebud, because I love lacy shawls, while my mother couldn't resist the cables of Drift.  What will you choose?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Knit's a small world, after all

What's that, you say you weren't desperately curious as to where I was or what I might be doing that would keep me from posting for nearly a week?  Well, I'm going to tell you anyway: I was in Houston.  My mom and I took a little holiday road trip for a couple of days, just because with the holidays we actually have the time to spend a few days somewhere and not be darting immediately to and from work.  Last year we explored the Dallas/Fort Worth area, so this year Houston seemed like a natural destination.

When we went to Dallas, my mine motivation was the museums, specifically the Modern Art Museum and Kimball in Fort Forth, which I had been to for a high school Art History field trip and wanted to revisit.  There are some great museums in Houston as well, but it wasn't so long ago that I had been to see King Tut with my dad, so I we bypassed most of that highbrow tourism.  We did make two museum-esque stops, but they can have their own post later.  Mostly, I would say our Houston trip was a social visit.  Specifically, it comprised of meeting up with, in the span of three days, six people we otherwise knew only from Ravelry.

I'm on a number of social networks, but Ravelry is really the only one that I have any interest in making friends from.  Facebook is about staying connected to those I already know, LinkedIn is all about work, and Twitter is a conglomeration of headlines from everyone from 'real life' friends to frozen yogurt shops and favorite public radio personalities.  But with Ravelry, I'm engaging in a global community of crafters, a handful of which I had clicked needles with outside of cyberspace.  Over the years, I have developed what I consider to be true friendships, bonded over our shared love of crafting, as well as plenty of other subjects.

And so, we met up with a few people who I still think of more by usernames than first names.  On our way into Houston, we stopped in Katy and a fellow tennis enthusiast from the Tennis Fans Unite! group.  We both cannot wait for the Australian Open to get going and start up another grand slam season.  She's rooting for Federer, while I'm hoping that Andy Murray has finally broken his self-destruction habit in Championship matches.  But we both agree that it would be really great to see some up and comers make names for themselves.

There was even an impromptu meet-up with someone from the British Banter group, a fellow expat surviving in the wilds of America clutching her Cadbury Roses and Christmas crackers.  That was great because it literally was a case of her finding out we were in town, sending us a message in the morning and then meeting up for lunch a few hours later.  Completely unexpected, and yet it seemed so comfortable to meet up with someone who had described themselves according to the knitwear they had on, sit down and enjoy a mug of mushroom soup and just chat.

Odd Ducks is the group I swap with and spend most of my time in.  When you're swapping, you are essentially creating your own little Christmas, giving and receiving gifts themed around almost anything.  And in the process of learning what someone would like to be sent, you sort of reverse the normal friendship process of strangers becoming friends becoming people you give gifts to.  So maybe it's not surprising that the rest of our social engagements were with Odd Ducks.

First, we met up with another mother and daughter Odd Ducks duo for an early dinner and knit night at a Houston yarn store.  Then we met another Odd Duck who recently became a moderator for the group for the second time.  She brought me cupcakes from New York, and we brought her a bottle of barbecue sauce from The Salt Lick, where we had eaten lunch when we first met.  And finally, we stopped off to visit another Odd Duck on the way back home who has become our regular partner in crime for yarn crawls and other fiber events for the past two years.

Back in Austin now, ready for the start of the Christmas Eve festivities, and feeling particularly happy that I started my holidays with friends new and old, found the the fiber of the internet.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

O, Tannenbaum

Before I ever began celebrating the holidays with Yarnorama, Bastrop was an annual stop at this time of year.  For years, it was where we went to chop down our own Christmas tree at Loma Alta tree farm.

Unfortunately, last year's fires, which burned thousands of acres in the hill country, also wiped out Loma Alta.  I suspected as much, but wasn't sure until I did a further Google search this year when thinking about where the tree would come from this year.

Here's what I found (hopefully the video works):

So this year instead of a trip to Bastrop, we took a trip to HEB and found a tree there.  I'm going to hold out hope that they really will rebuild the farm, and maybe in a few years' time I'll be back, with my little handsaw, ready to return to this particular tradition.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Celebrating with Yarnorama, holiday-wise

Some holiday traditions I've had as long as I can remember.  Like the special family recipe for potato salad, which has to be prepared in the largest possible bowl and is eaten not only for Christmas dinner, but also for breakfast, lunch, and dinner again for several days afterwards until it's gone.  Other traditions are a little more new, like making the drive to Yarnorama for their holiday party.  It's only the second year we've made it, but I'm already looking forward to the third, fourth, and so on.

Preparations for this party began, believe it or not, in April this year.  That's when I bought the yarn to knit a pair of dishcloths for the white elephant washcloth exchange.  It's a fun little swap that starts off with everyone bringing a pair of dishcloths they have knit, crocheted, or woven.  Then one at a time people choose which pair they would like, except that they don't just choose from what's available.  Dishcloths can also be 'stolen' and end up being passed back and forth several times before the night is over.

In an effort to have one of the coveted dishcloths which might be stolen at least once, I made my dishcloths part of my Ravelympics/Ravellenics knitting this year.  After successfully completing my first-ever monster, I did a simple heart lace pattern for two matching dishcloths:
I'm happy to report that my efforts were rewarded with several cases of 'theft'.  In a happy coincidence, some of that demand may have been motivated by the fact that this just happened to be the same project a few of the other knitters were working on for a wedding present, so these may become a part of that project.  But I'm just glad to walk into a group of other knitters and get positive feedback for something I made.  Now I have to start plotting for next year...

I also brought with me another finished object that I'm quite proud of with ties to last year's party.  One of my Christmas presents last year was a gorgeously scrolled Turkish drop spindle from Jeri Brock, given to me by my mother to start me off spinning.  And as I reported during the Tour de Fleece, I turned out my first four skeins of yarn with that spindle and a braid of roving purchased that same night at the party.

It took a few more months for me to knit that yarn into something, but eventually it became this cowl, which I proudly wore to this year's party:
It was a completely improvised pattern of knitting, purling, YOs and picots.  It's like a fabulous collar, I love the colors.  Eventually I might be able to spin yarn with some control as to the resulting gauge, but for now I'm happy to just spin and work with whatever the results may be.  And I'm already eyeing the spinning wheels in the store.  Someday...

Being a party, it was also an opportunity to, what else, bake!  There's always a strategy to potlucks, you don't want to fill the table with just cookies, or bring anything that requires too much serving or other efforts.  So instead of regular cupcakes, I decided to switch things up and make some savory muffins.  I started with a recipe I found on Pioneer Woman, doubling that and adding a little garlic and other seasonings.  Then I took it even one step further and decided to 'frost' them with a mixture of cream cheese and seasonings, slightly thinned with a little milk.  Aren't they cute?
Doubling the recipe gave me a dozen full-sized cupcakes and 18 minis.  With one block of cream cheese, I had plenty for little star blobs on all of them, but if you really wanted to frost them, you would likely need a second block.  These are really tasty, but absolutely best when warm.  Also, I put them in paper wrappers just for ease of removal and clean-up, but they would have been fine without them, and the unwrapping isn't the easiest.  We have a few leftover which are going to be really good accompaniments with soup.

We made one more contribution to the party in that I brought the selection of DVDs to choose from to be the movie-viewing part of the evening.  Out of a selection of seven classic choices, the group decided on 'The Apartment'.  If you've already seen it, you may have already spotted the reference in the title of this post.  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it as a sweet, sometimes sad, romantic comedy set around the holidays.  You can never go wrong with Billy Wilder, Jack Lemmon, and Shirley MacLaine.

All in all, a great way to start off the holiday season!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cubicle kitchen: Gingerbread Cookies with Spiced Apple Glaze

I've said it before and I'll say it again: my baked goods very rarely can be described in a single phrase.  It's never just 'chocolate chip cookies', it's got to be triple chocolate with added this and that and cut into the shape of a cupcake or something.  And this week was no exception.  For the final week of office treats in 2012, I wanted to be seasonal.  Gingersnaps seemed appropriate.

I may be amassing a more respectable baker's pantry, but I don't have quite the supply of spices and molasses that most recipes require, so I cheated and bought a boxed mix.  But I made up for it with the addition of crystallized ginger.  Then I decided that, hey, they make iced gingersnaps, so making a quick glaze would be in no way considered excessive.  And if there was going to be a glaze, it might as well have a little more ginger.  And then, why mix water in with the powdered sugar when there was some perfectly good apple juice in the fridge?  Apples and spices go so well together.

So you see, it's probably best that I start out with a boxed mix, otherwise I might never have had the energy for all of that improvisation.

This isn't the end of gingerbread baking for me, though.  I already know that I can 'get away' with gingerbread cookies in summer when I add lemon candies.  And Vanilla Sugar posted a great list of links to gingerbread-y recipes that I also want to try now, maybe even from scratch.

Gingerbread Cookies with Spiced Apple Glaze
made just over two dozen cookies


  • 1 box gingerbread cookie mix, along with directed wet ingredients (or use your own from-scratch base recipe)
  • 1/4 cup of crystallized ginger, chopped
  • about 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • about 2 tablespoons apple juice
  • pinches of ground ginger, clove, and cinnamon

  1. Prepare the dough as directed, adding the crystallized ginger.  For my cookies, I rolled about a tablespoon of dough and placed them 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
  2. After the cookies have baked and cooled, take a small bowl or mug and mix together the powdered sugar, spices, and apple juice until you have a glaze consistency.  Drizzle on the cookies.  Allow to harden before storing the cookies, or serve them as is.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tokyo tales: I scream for...

Amazingly enough, I didn't eat any frozen yogurt while in Tokyo.  My Google research tells me that there probably are one or two places that do the self-serve weigh and pay thing, but there were plenty of other things for me to seek out, so rather than yogurt, I indulged in some ice cream.

Whether it was served as dessert after dinner in a restaurant or scooped into a cone as a vacation decadence in the middle of the afternoon, there was not a lick of the stuff that I regret.  Here's the collage of ice cream:

First, in the 'served as dessert' category: In the bottom righthand corner, a dainty scoop of vanilla bean to go with some fresh fruit, the finishing touch to a yakitori dinner in the hotel our second night.  The top center is a matcha ice cream that came after another dinner of grilled meats in a restaurant where you take off your shoes and sit on the floor.  After an hour or two it gets a little uncomfortable, but it's worth it for the creamy green tea dessert.  And in the top lefthand corner, that is a frozen apple which has been hollowed out and filled with an apple sorbet.  I ate everything but the very core.

And then, the specifically sought after cones.  On the left is an unabashed afternoon snack of dark chocolate sorbet topped with a grapefruit sorbet, which came from Grom in Harajuku.  You would think that after having ramen for lunch we'd have more restraint, but no.  It was delicious.

In the remaining two photos, we found ice cream in a surprising (to me) place: Baskin-Robbins.  It was next door to the Burger King that offered up the intriguing pumpkin burger so near the hotel.  As with the fast food, the novelty is in the available flavors more than anything else.  In the center photo, my cone is on the left, with a scoop of red bean ice cream atop BR's own version of matcha.  I love the strangeness of getting something so sweet and creamy from beans.  And the color is pretty too.  Dad's is in the right of the same photo, I believe it was an espresso chocolate chip.  

And then in the photo on the right, another trip to BR.  A seasonal pumpkin on the bottom, and an intriguing apple pie and tea ice cream on the top.  That was totally unexpected, but really delicious.  I wish I could get that scooped in the US, because apple pie is so American and all.  The pumpkin was also surprising, because while I expected it to be like a pumpkin pie flavor, it was far more a pumpkin-caramel combo, which while unexpected was absolutely delicious.

I also bought powdered ice cream mixes for matcha and red bean flavors to attempt to make myself stateside.  But I doubt they'll be anything more than a good reminder of the true greatness of the frozen desserts enjoyed in Tokyo.  Nostalgic scoops are better than none at all.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Froyo files: Seeing things Yo-Way

There are a few reasons I love my optometrist.  For one thing, he has all the latest technology to be able to take pictures of my eyes without dilating them, which is a huge plus.  He's also open on Saturdays, and open until 6 pm everyday except Tuesday, when they are open even later.  And it's right on the way home from work for me, so all in all, it's a pretty convenient set up when you're to-ing and fro-ing testing out various contact lenses.

But there's a an x-factor that just cannot be denied: my optometrist is almost literally right above a frozen yogurt shop.

Yo-Way is another one that I've already reviewed once.  But like Chill Out, they have earned another post.  The other weekend I stopped by the optometrist for two more trial pairs of lenses.  So it only made sense that I should test out one of those pairs while eating frozen yogurt, a very important task requiring vision.  Not only to read the flavor labels to avoid mixing mint and caramel, but depth perception is required to get the spoon from bowl to mouth successfully.  It's all highly skilled, you see.

The contacts performed their task very well, I think I've gotten the right prescription and type sorted now.  And Yo-Way also did their job, maybe even better.  I just have to take a moment to rave about their red velvet.  It was absolutely delicious!  And even better was the cheesecake, because this may be the first time a froyo has actually had that tang of cream cheese.  And when I combined the two, oh boy, it was a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting, in swirled form.  This was two weekends ago now, so I cannot guarantee that they are still currently available, but I highly recommend them whenever they come around again, as I'm sure they will.

I'll be ordering my 'official' contact lenses this week, and I'm also planning on using up a few more of those extra flex spending dollars on a cute Hello Kitty lens case I saw at the optometrist.  Another reason to love them...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cubicle kitchen: Homemade Butterfingers

After every holiday, there are always certain foods and candies left over that people don't really want to eat anymore after the festive glow has passed.  Fruit cake and candy canes, for instance, tend to outlive the momentary culinary enthusiasm that the season brings.  Candy corn is another one of these foods, outlasting almost all other candies in the clearance after Halloween.  But now, there is a use for all of that orange, yellow, and white stuff.  And that's by combining it with peanut butter and chocolate to create homemade Butterfingers.

This was quite possibly one of the most fun treats to bring into work.  People were so intrigued when I told them what they were, and even more impressed when they bit into them.  Because they really, truly are.  In fact, they might even be better than the actual thing, being fresh, just a little softer, and less teeth-sticking.  After the disbelieving intrigue is met with yumminess, the curiosity comes next, and people were quite honestly a little stunned to know that it took just three ingredients.

While I was never losing sleep wondering exactly what flavor a Butterfinger was, something about having found out and even made it myself is very satisfying.  I still find myself randomly congratulating myself.  Hey, I made Butterfingers!  That's pretty cool.

Homemade Butterfingers

Find the recipe at Plain Chicken, I didn't change a thing.  Just a warning, though: this is a little bit of a sticky mess when putting together, and cutting into squares is not the easiest thing.  But rustic is beautiful.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Magic loop lives up to its name

Having now sent out the last of my 2012 swap packages, I can now focus on any quick holiday knits for friends and family.  And then perhaps I can knit something for myself, what a change that will make!

But anyway, in the course of determining a particular item for someone on my list (with deliberate vagueness to guarantee surprise), I choose a pattern, found some stash yarn and the appropriate needles, and began casting on.  It directed me to use Judy's Magic Cast On, and though I was a little trepedatious, I did as I was told.  I was mostly able to follow the directions from Knitty, but I found this YouTube video super-helpful when I got stuck turning to knit the second half of the first round:

Funnily enough, despite the mention of socks in the Knitty instructions, and the word 'Magic' in its name, it didn't fully strike me that I was magic looping until I was actually doing it.  And then suddenly,  as I was finishing up that first round, it was like I was struck with that magic wand.  Bippity-boppity-boo!  Ah-ha, so this is what people are always talking about, getting freakishly long circular needles to do, taking classes for, and arguing the pros and cons of!  And here I am doing it!  Whoa.

I suppose it's needless to say that I'm not making socks, and never have.  I don't particularly plan to make any either, but I do love learning a technique all by myself without bursting into tears.  And if I ever get around to starting hexipuffs for the Beekeeper's Quilt this technique will certainly come in handy.  For now, it's just something else a little bit fiddly to deal with while I'm also cabling.

Stay tuned for actual details about this project.  The day after Christmas is the time for post-holiday sales and post-gifting show-offs.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Froyo files: Holiday flavors at Chill Out (Kyle)

With Thanksgiving over, it is now prime holiday time.  The bad news is the Christmas music that will play for the next month in stores.  The good news is the yummy seasonal flavors in everything from white chocolate peppermint M&Ms to, you guessed it, frozen yogurt.

I've already done my formal review of Chill Out, but I've been several times since then, and I have to say, I like it more each time.  On Friday night, we stopped in for frozen yogurt for dinner between stopping at Target and HEB.  We were greeted by the owner, and some yummy new holiday flavors to try.  Here's the breakdown:

Peppermint Stick: Mmm, minty.  Not too creamy, not to minty.  The only thing that holds me back from these is not knowing what to put on them, topping-wise.  Chocolate cookie crumbs would be good.  More calories, but good.

Gingerbread: Oh yes, this was most definitely my thing.  So good I had to combine it with the Orchard Cherry.  Which was maybe a little strange, but it certainly made more sense than putting Pineapple with it.  This was a good, warmly spicy froyo.  Would go really well with the pumpkin muffins they had on the topping bar as well.

Egg Nog: This was ready after I had filled my cup, but I did get to sample it.  Yum.  I don't know that I've ever actually had egg nog, so full disclosure there, but I thought this was good.  Would be nice with fresh fruit, since it's sort of custardy.

Turtle Bliss: Okay, so not strictly speaking a holiday flavor, but it is one that was specially blended in-house with chocolate, caramel, and pecan.  I lean towards a little more caramel, but this was really good.

So if you need a pick-me-up while crossing off names on your holiday shopping list, come try one or all of these.  While the weather still allows it!