Wednesday, January 30, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Done...sort of

The trainer who runs the group exercise classes I go to on Wednesdays has a tendency to lie.  She'll shout out things like, 'Two more and we're done,' pausing just long enough to give everyone a false sense of relief before adding, 'with this set.'  It's cruel, but it's also good to have that sense of breaking up an hour of sweating into separate sets of exercises.  Somehow, it makes it easier.  From the gym to my Ravelry library (still being loved), this week has been all about being done...but only with part of a project.

First, my cardigan.  I'm done...with the back.

So far, this has gone well.  I had one moment when I didn't decrease the right amount, but I realized it in time to have my mom fix it for me.  She's mastered that voodoo or creating and disappearing stitches as needed in a way I haven't quite yet.  Other than that, it's just been a matter of getting through the rows.  With the back done I'm onto the left front, doing more of this oh-so-fun ribbing.  It's not that it's difficult, just repetitive, and the addition of alternative knitting and purling through the back loop on each row is just different enough to slow me down.

And then, I finished spinning...another cop.
That makes two.  I still have plenty of fiber left, though, so I'll probably spin that all up before I start plying, just in case I change my mind about how I want to do that.  Right now I'm still set on plying each end of the center pull balls together.

Check out more WIP Wednesday posts at Tami's Amis!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A haiku a day keeps the poet at play

I've been a writer before I could even really write, scribbling pretend letters along with my doodles.  Once I learned my ABCs, I was putting them together to make all sorts of things, including poems.  This has lead to some truly, truly embarrassing attempts at rhyme.  Let's just say that there was a time when I grasped for a phrase to pair with 'fun' only to end up with 'hot dog bun'.

Thankfully, these word choices refined slightly by the time I was in high school, taking part in poetry slams which began my freshman year, and continued at least a few years after I graduated as far as I know.  I even attended one or two as an alum.  Now that I think about it, I should see if it's still happening, and volunteer to judge or something.  Continue on the tradition, as it were.

On a personal level, I've continued the tradition slightly with one of my guideline resolutions, keeping a journal on hand as much as possible, and so far filling it with at least one haiku a day.  For the most part, these are not compositions I would ever attempt to perform or publish.  They are meant to be more like mental puzzles for me to complete each day.  Instead of jotting down at the end of the day something like, 'Went to work, had meetings, came home and watched TV,' several times in a row, putting it in haiku form forces me to think about the day in a different way.  Some days, it's an abstract list of the highlights of the day.  Other days are scribed based on a particular moment.  And still other days I end up writing more than one haiku, along with any other random writing ideas that spring to mind.

Having to carefully choose the words to fit into the 5-7-5 syllable format so far has felt more like an opportunity and a challenge than an annoyance.  As I'm walking to the coffee maker, I'm counting syllables and deciding whether today's musing should be dedicated to my desperate need for caffeine.

Of course, the end of January is hardly the time to be declaring a resolution a success.  But it's a start, at least.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Hello, yellow!

The Australian Open wraps up in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  Whoever ends up taking the tournament (please be Andy Murray, please be Andy Murray), I think one of the lasting legacies this year will be not a particular match or player, but rather, a color.

Yellow.  I don't know exactly how it happened, but it seems that all of the sportswear labels decided that 2013 is going to be the year of yellow, and they paraded out their army of sponsored athletes to enforce this mandate.  I don't want to violate any photo rules, so if you want to see some of the collections of yellow on the courts, check out this USA Today gallery.  As for me, yellow is a color that I like, but only in certain shades.  I like sunshine, I don't like Grey Poupon (unless it's in my Brussels sprouts).  Bright, happy yellow is my tone of choice, as a cheery pop of color.

I got this thermal top at Target the other day on clearance, warm and fun:
Photo credit:
I think the pink birds make it even more fun.  And because my body seems to have lost all of its ability to self-heat, long sleeves are always a good idea.

Of course, there are yellow-inspired patterns as well for all of your styling needs:

Photo credit: Mona Schmidt
This cowl looks toasty warm.  Would look really nice in a rust brick color as well, but I like bright sunshine yellow for knits that are going to be worn on dreary, cold days.

Photo credit: yellowcosmo
We all live in a yellow submarine!  This is so cute.

Photo credit: HappyBerry
These are so pretty.  I think it would be nice to maybe have a bouquet on my desk, bring a little color without having to worry about who is going to water them over long weekends.

And then, there's the many possibilities, but here are a few:

Photo credit: SpinningWheelStudio
Photo credit: twogreydogsdesigns

Photo credit: TheFiberists

Thoughts on yellow?  Love?  Hate?  And don't forget to read more inspiring stuff at Woolen Diversions.

Friday, January 25, 2013

FO Friday: The warm glow of success

My first FO Friday, huzzah!  This is the first week of 2013 to see something worth defining as an FO, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  The fact that I'm finishing knitwear, and that we're experiencing a short warm spell here in Central Texas is probably also helps with the warmth factor.

I'll start off with something that I technically finished earlier in the month, but was so slight a piece of crafting that I hesitated to call it an FO all on its own:

It's really just a single-chain of crochet to make a double-loop necklace.  The pendant is something I bought from The Modern in Fort Worth years ago, during a high school field trip.  For years I've tried to think of the best way to wear/display it.  Finally I decided that a crochet necklace made from my very own handspun was kind of perfect.  I love how the colors are so reminiscent of the water as well.  So while the crochet part of this only took a few minutes, if you count the spinning it was a little more involved.

In another first, I took on my first test knit last weekend.  I've wanted to test knit for a while now, but was reluctant to sign on to any particular project when it came down to it for fear of not having the skill to critique a pattern or being able to complete it on time.  Then Alicia at Woolen Diversions said she needed to get a Malabrigo Quickie pattern tested for publishing earlier this week.  She even had the Malabrigo Twist to supply for it, so I jumped in.  Introducing, Dissipative!

I'm so glad I did jump in, because it was a great experience all around.  I worked with a yarn I hadn't tried before, and it was absolutely luscious.  Twist is different because it's plied, but it still retains that legendary softness.  Add to that, the pattern itself was practically perfect when I got it.  It has written as well as charted instructions, as well as thoughtful explanations of anything that might be unclear.  Alicia is having a sale on all of her patterns through Monday, just in case my cowl is so gorgeous you just have to have one for yourself.  Check out her blog for more details.

I've shared my mom's WIPs before, so I might as well show off her FO from last weekend as well.  She had some Knit Picks Imagination leftover from a shawl and decided to turn it into a warm, gender-neutral scarf.  Or in fact, species-neutral, as it's modeled by a duck here:

It's a tight stitch pattern that has more of a woven look, simple but effective and not overly bulky.  I know she likes it because she's making another already in an alpaca yarn, and then she's also talking about knitting a third!

So we've been pretty busy over here, but you can also find other FO posts over at Tami's Amis.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Marmalade-n Savory Thumbprints

The company I work for has locations around the world, so I have teammates across the country and the globe.  The disadvantage for those whose cube do not dwell in the same office as mine is that they can't taste my treats.  I'm working on this, but in the meantime, one of my colleagues has figured out how to get involved on the front end.  He works in Arizona, but he's visited a few times.  On one such visit, he mentioned having made some habanero pepper orange marmalade.  This drew oohs and aahs from myself and others.  For the holiday season, he sent us a few jars.  Savory Santa!

I knew instantly that my jar was going to be 'paid forward' in the form of treats, the question was in what form.  The heat from the habanero had me leaning in a decidedly savory direction, especially because the serving suggestions were to glaze meat, or spread sparingly on toast.  I didn't want to try and make orange cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting and then throw it of by hiding a spoonful of this inside.

I liked the simplicity of this recipe, with just a handful of ingredients, I was sure that I wouldn't have colliding flavors.  I made my own addition of some cornmeal because I feel like corn and heat in baked goods is a natural combination.

There's more marmalade in the jar (and more cornmeal in the bag), so I'll be trying out more savory treats in the weeks to come.  Maybe a marmalade-swirled bread?  I am open to suggestions.

Marmalade-n Thumbprints
(adapted from Megan's Cookin')
made 40 cookies


  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 Tablespoons Brummel & Brown spread
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • about 1/4 cup habanero orange marmalade


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cream together cheese, butter, and spread with a hand mixer.  (Megan used a food processor, this is probably easier, but I didn't feel like putting that whole thing together and then cleaning all the parts.)
  3. Add flour and mix until you've created a crumbly dough.
  4. Roll the dough into balls of about a teaspoon each.  You might need to form these a little, as I said, the dough is crumbly.  
  5. Place balls onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and into the oven for five minutes.
  6. Carefully remove the cookies from the oven and, using the end of a wooden spoon or other utensil, make a small indentation in the cookie.  Spoon a little marmalade into the created crater, and return the cookies into the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are just lightly browned.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Bake, knit, repeat

So what do 'normal' people do with their time?  I mean, are they really just watching the football game?  I guess they are also probably surfing the web.  Me, I'm shredding cheese for savory cookies, glazing cupcakes, and walking back and forth across the living room as I shape the armholes of my cardigan.  And hopefully never mixing up any of those verbs and nouns, otherwise disaster might ensue.  Also, I'm following up the football game with tennis from the Australian Open.  So I think I'm just an anomaly of the sports fan demographic.

So since I've run out of cats, here is my WIP along with the other, tastier, markers of progress from the weekend:
I'm currently working on the arm holes.  It's hard to show the shaping right now, but you can see it's longer at least.  Just a few inches away from starting on the shoulders, and I'm almost through the first skein of yarn.  There's something about a garment as opposed to an accessory that feels like 'real' knitting, so even though it's just knitting all the way, no fancy stitches, it's still pretty gratifying.  I'll have to remember this feeling when I'm doing all the finishing.

While I work on my cardigan, I still find my mind wandering to the other projects that I plan on starting later, trying to decide whether I'll cast on Color Affection or something smaller and less knitknitknit.  Similarly, I'm already narrowing my list of possible baked goods to make this weekend.  Ideas for what to bake next tend to occur to me as I'm mixing the ingredients for the current recipe.  Maybe it's just a part of my multitasking tendencies that I can't just be doing what I'm doing, I have to also be thinking about what I'm doing next.  But again, as long as I don't mix up my verbs and nouns, I'll be okay.

On a related note, I veered away from my library loving to do my first test knit, but I'll save that for Friday, since I was able to finish it in record time.

Check out Tami's Amis for more WIP posts!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: 'If you like Pina Coladas' Cupcakes

This week, I baked a little overboard.  First, I made some savory cookies, which I'll blog about later this week.  And then, I started feeling like I needed to make something sweet.  I'm not sure if it was a sense of balance, or just my sweet tooth that really spurred me on, but it had to be done.  Thankfully, we usually have enough on hand for me to make those kind of decisions on a Saturday morning.  Especially when it comes to ice cream in the freezer.

I have to once again highly recommend melted ice cream as an add-in for boxed cake mix.  You get a really moist cake, and the opportunity to play around with some flavors.  And it's the combining of flavors that really attracts me to baking, while not wanting to risk messing around too much with the delicate science of baking and creating something that didn't rise/spread/whatever.  This is a great coming together of convenience and experimentation.

And every instance of this cake has gotten rave reviews.  Everyone screams for ice cream.  This time I thought I would give everyone a chance to escape to the tropics with a beachy bake.  Because in Texas, we all like Pina Coladas, and we could use a little more rain...

'If you like Pina Coladas' Cupcakes
made 24 cupcakes and about 30 mini cupcakes

For the cake:

Find the recipe for the cupcakes at Cookies & Cups.  To make sure you have the right amount of ice cream, melt it and measure out 2 cups rather than relying on the pint not having too much air whipped in.

I used:
  • Pineapple cake mix
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut sorbet, melted
  • 1/2 cup toasted coconut ice cream, melted
  • 3 eggs
For the glaze:

I made my stand-by glaze with powdered sugar and pineapple soda, drizzled onto the cakes after they had cooled.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Five stars for stripes

Ah, Saturday.  Time to veg out, knit, bake, and inspire!  Don't forget to check out Alicia's post as well. I'm working on a test knit for her right now, and without revealing anything, I will say that it might have a little something to do with my subject matter this week.

Stripes are such a simple way to do something interesting with your knits, while still just...knitting.  No lace work, no pattern to keep track of, not even any purls are necessary.  And the only thing better than one gorgeous yarn is another to go with it.

I've used stripes in a couple of projects already.  I made my first improvised shawl striping a navy and light blue alpaca:
I had made a few shawls at this point, so I took the basics of a triangle shawl with a center spine and just did my own thing.  The sense of empowerment I got from that is probably what got me through the picot bind-off.

I made the Perpendicular once for someone else in a swap in a non-color shifting yarn, but it looked so interesting in the Noro I had to make one for myself as well.  I loved watching the one set of stripes turn from pink to a dark-purple-almost-black while the other went blue, green, and grey.
And I think the tassel totally makes it.

And then, my most epic striped project so far was a tunic dress I made when Mission Falls first went out of business:
The original pattern (which came from Mission Falls Duet though it doesn't show up in the list of patterns) was done in a single color, but faced with shelves of pretty purples in a yarn that was going to disappear soon, I was surprisingly cavalier and added that detail myself.  It worked out great, except for all of those darned ends.

I'm definitely not done striping yet, though.  There are too many other cute patterns out there.  Heather Dixon of Army of Knitters just released two new pattern books, which includes the Zena Cloche:
Photo credit: Heather Dixon
And also from Dixon, a couple of years ago, I also love this striped tank top, Erquy:
Photo credit: Heather Dixon
Leftie is a different kind of stripe:
Photo credit: Martina Behm
My mom just got Derecho during a free pattern promotion:
Photo credit: Laura Aylor
I love the log cabin effect of this shawl's striping, I might have to borrow the pattern and make it myself.

And, of course, there is Color Affection:
Photo credit: Veera Välimäki
I might be the last knitter to actually make their own, but the hard part of choosing the colors is done at least.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Trail Mix Blondies

Having tested the strength of my co-workers' resolutions enough for the time being, I thought I would give them a break this week with a treat that is actually pretty good for them.  Of course, that still doesn't make it a diet-friendly snack, but it is a treat with a lot of redeeming nutritional value.

Last week, I raided my candy stash for cookies.  This week, I took a look at all of the dried fruit that I had, and thought that mixing those together would be a good idea.  And then, when I gave blood, trail mix was one of the offerings on the recuperation table.  I brought my own apple to boost my sugar levels, so instead I pocketed a bag of mix to add in.  A few additional nuts, and I had plenty of trail mix to bake into something.  I had already done cookies, and these were likely too heavy to incorporate easily into a cake, so brownies made sense.  But I wanted to make this a chocolate-free treat (just for the sake of it), so blondies it was.

I started off with a recipe from Little Bitty Bakes, but switched up a few things to make it even easier to convince my co-workers that they could justify eating a piece or two.  I replaced some of the butter with mashed banana, which I have on hand in my freezer anyway.  Whenever I get bananas, I tend to get a few extra than I think I'll eat fresh, then chop the rest up and freeze for just such an occasion.  I also substituted honey for some of the white sugar, because I like the flavor, and it made sense with my trail mix theme.  I could almost imagine justifying them as a breakfast item.  It's certainly no sweeter than, say, a strawberry danish or something.  And much better for you overall.

Another successful treat, the first 20 were gone by around lunch, and the next 20 were shared between our group's coffee meet-up and another office area where I dropped off the leftovers.  Spreading the wealth, you might say.  Or cultivating cross-team cooperation, if you want business-speak.

Trail Mix Blondies
(adapted from Little Bitty Bakes)
makes a 9x13" pan

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup mashed banana
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used the equivalent in Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups mix of nuts and dried fruit of your choice*, roughly chopped
*I included: cashews, peanuts, almonds, pecans, banana chips, blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates, apricots, mangoes, pineapples, candied lemon, etc.

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit into your pan.
  2. In a bowl, cream together the butter, peanut butter, and mashed banana.  Add the honey, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until combined.
  3. Separately, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder, then slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, until everything is combined.
  4. Fold in your dried fruit and nuts until combined.  Pour batter into your pan, spreading evenly.
  5. Bake 30-35 minutes, until the edges are firm and golden, and a knife comes out clean from the center.
  6. After cooling, cut into squares.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Cats, cardigans, cops, and cuffs

It's Wednesday again!  That means a couple of things.  It's the day of our weekly coffee meet-up at work, which is why it's also the day that I generally bring in my baked goods.  In an unrelated note, it's also the day I go to the gym.  And now, it's also the day I post about my works in progress, all coming (so far) from my lovely library.  Shall we?

I'm going to need to find some more cats around here somewhere, because I have already run out of my own to take progress pictures with for this cardigan.

As Spice is so helpfully demonstrating, the back of my Lexeme has grown, I'm now casting off stitches for the armholes.  So far so good, but I think the real trouble spots for me are going to be on the back end of this thing, picking up stitches for the ruffle and sewing all of the pieces together.

I also made progress on my handspun.  This is all I have so far, two single cops.

I'll likely get two more out of the roving I have, then I'll start plying.  The nice thing with the Turkish spindle is that you end up with a center pull ball, and plying from both ends means that you can guarantee that both plies are the same length,  But maneuvering that ball is no easy feat.  I'm thinking of wrapping the ends around a tennis ball to create a plying ball, just to make it easier on myself.  But we're still a ways away from that dilemma.  About two ounces of fiber away, to be precise.

While Mom waits for me to finish spinning this yarn for her, she's busy knitting up the most gorgeous fingerless mitts.  She saw a sample knit of the Bobbleberry Mitts when we were at Kid 'N Ewe last November and simply had to knit them herself.
One down, one to go!  These are really yummy.  And she's doing them in Malabrigo, so they are warm and soft.  They are so nice, I had to share them, even though they aren't technically my own WIP.

Don't forget to check out the other WIP Wednesday posts this week!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Random round-up: blood and blackberries

There are so many things that happen each week that make me think, 'I should totally blog about that!'  But before I can do that I have to get back to work, or make dinner, or something.  And I never quite have time to take the idea from that awkward space between too long for Twitter and not long enough for its own post.  So here are a few things that popped into my head this week:
  • There was a blood drive at work last Wednesday.  I try to catch every one of these, because I feel like this is a really easy way to do a good deed, and I like having the sporadic check on my cholesterol and other basics.  This time around, I successfully donated without fainting.  Not only that, but the lab tech who took my blood was a crocheter, even better!
  • Isn't it strange how certain items are more expensive in some stores than others, and vice versa?  HEB has the best value for most groceries here in Austin, but for some reason spaghetti squash is about 40 cents cheaper a pound at Sprouts.  And since Mom and I worship at the spaghetti squash altar practically every weekend, this was a great discovery.
  • Also in the produce section, we got a lot of blackberries last week.  So I integrated them into my portfolio of desserts, along with some whipped cream: cran-blackberry oatmeal, blackberry waffles, blackberry cheesecake pudding ice cream, blackberry pancakes, and angel food cake dessert cups topped with blackberries.  See?
  • This week, blueberries we on sale, so the same routine will probably be repeated with those.  Last night I had oatmeal, tonight...pancakes?
  • The Raspberry frozen yogurt at Tutti Frutti is delicious.  Especially when swirled with Strawberry, and Taro.
  • The Australian Open has started!  The return of tennis is a relief, but I'm still finding myself reflexively looking for where Andy Roddick is in the draw, before I realize he's not there.  And neither are a lot of other players, but those are because of injury.  Will Rafael Nadal ever come back?  I hope so.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Literary knits

You know what's great about classic literature?  You can read the guiltiest of guilty pleasure stories, and still get that sense of intellectual superiority when a complete stranger sneaks a peek at the title on the cover.  Because they don't necessarily know that 'The Monk' is a gothic tale of a religious rock star whose desperate lust leads him to....well, I won't spoil it!  No, as far as anyone knows, it's 18th-century literature.  And that's all they need to know.

Of course, that's not the only thing I like about classic literature.  But it's a definite perk.  So when you combine gorgeous knits with references to some of those timeless stories, my fingers get itchy to cast on.

Now, I already have these patterns in my library, so I'm okay, but I claim no responsibility for any of you who have taken the Love Your Library challenge and discover that you need to have these.

I'm pretty sure I let out an audible squee of delight when I first heard about Interweave's special edition Jane Austen Knits.  And the fact that there have been two more editions since then (Summer and Fall 2012) only makes it better.  You might even have noticed that the Rose Shawl in my resolution queue is from there.  There are a few others I'm hoping to get around to one day, like:

Photo credit: Christa Tippmann, Jane Austen Knits
Relatively simple, I wonder whether I could use some of my more colorful yarn with it.  Plus, I love the wrapping technique for wearing it.

Photo credit: Stephenie Gaustad
It's designed to be knit with handspun, so my goal is to use some of my own one day.  Quite a lofty goal at this point for me to spin with an end goal in mind, right now I'm just hoping for yarn, and I don't get any more specific.

While there is some knitting in Austen's novels, they never play the kind of integral role that it did in 'A Tale of Two Cities' where the FOs were a part of the French Revolution.  So it makes sense that we lit-knitters would ask ourselves What Would Madame Defarge Knit?.  I grabbed this when Yarn Barn was going out of business, and again it's the neckwear that draws me in:

Photo credit: Kathleen Rogers
Cozy cables, and maybe I'd even try out the beading, perhaps a decorative 'A' button?  I also feel like Hester is a heroine I would appreciate more now, I read 'The Scarlet Letter' so long ago.

Photo credit: Chrissy Gardiner
Now see, Dracula was a vampire.  No sparkles, just fangs and fatal flirtation.  Love the lacework here, and triangular shawls are probably the things I knit most.

What (else) Would Madame Defarge Knit? is also coming soon, available for preorder now, but no word yet on a date.  There is good news, though.  Apparently, this is not even close to the end of the series, they have things like 'Defarge does Shakespeare' and 'Defarge does Sherlock' in the works.  Be still, my heart!

And, I should also mention, Cooperative Press, who publishes the Defarge series, is having a birthday giveaway.  It's worth entering in, whether you want the iPad mini they're giving away for reading patterns or Proust.

Don't forget to check out the other Inspiration Saturday posts this week!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Candy Bar Cookies

Organization is always a big thing at the start of the year, and I've been hopping onto that bandwagon with occasional attempts at controlling some chaos.  Part of that effort always has to be a little stash busting.  I have a yarn stash, a fiber stash, a book stash, a notebook stash, even a chewing gum stash.  And, of course, a stash of baking ingredients.  Candy, dried fruits, nuts, mixes, anything that I think might be interesting, it all gets collected for future treats.

Usually I take my inspiration from one ingredient in particular from that stash and build around it.  This time, I wanted to use as many of them as possible at once.  The first thing that sprang to mind was just to do a cookie packed with candy.  I knew that basically I was just making chocolate chip cookies with candy pieces instead of chips, but I went ahead and followed a recipe to make sure I kept the ratio of dough to mix-ins reasonable.

Such a simple cookie.  A perfect milk-dunking cookie.  Or coffee-dunking, I guess, since there isn't a milk machine at the office.  These things disappeared!  It just goes to show, you don't have to obsess over an intricate recipe using expensive ingredients.  Sometimes you can just make a cookie.

Candy Bar Cookies
(made about 60 cookies)

Recipe from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice.  The only change I really made was to make mine about half the size.  Here's the candy I used included:
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Pretzel M&Ms
  • Milk Duds
  • Snickers
  • Milky Way
  • Almond Kisses
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • Lump of Coal crispy chocolate
  • other plain chocolate bars cut into chunks

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tokyo tales: Searching for sushi

What, you thought because it's 2013 you had heard the last of my Tokyo trip?  Nope.  It's going to be a long while before I can get back to Tokyo, if I ever do, so I'm going to make the memories of this last trip last as long as possible.  I apologize in advance for any jealousy cravings, and hope that you may at least be comforted by the fact that I'm giving them to myself by writing this.

There were a few things on my list that I knew I wanted to do when Dad first proposed another trip to Tokyo.  And one of those things was sushi at the Tsukiji fish market. It's bustling, it's colorful, and it has the freshest sushi around.  For those who are truly dedicated, you can get up before the crack of dawn and be one of the hundred or so members of the public allowed into the inner sanctum of the market to witness the tuna auction.  But for the rest of us, you can make your way to the outer edge of the market in the late morning and find a great lunch while hitting up a highlight of being a tourist in Tokyo.

On our last visit, we had found this wonderful conveyor belt (or kaiten zushi) restaurant.  Basically, plates of wonderful sushi just travel around the room while hungry diners grab the ones they cannot resist.  At the end of the meal, your total is calculated by counting up the plates you've collected.  Different colors of plates add up to different values, so a particularly posh piece might be on a gold-trimmed plate while a more humble offering is presented on a plain blue plate.  This particular restaurant is called Sushi Zanmai, and it's a chain that recently made news when the owner made the winning bid on the most expensive tuna auction at Tsukiji ever.

There's obviously a fun factor, especially with the belt wrapping around the preparation area of the sushi, so you are watching the rice being rolled right in front of you as the finished pieces go by.  But it also means that you can pick and choose what you are most interested in trying without having to navigate a set menu with other options.  You can be as adventurous or as safe as you choose, selecting only what you recognize, or taking a chance on something mysterious yet delicious-looking.  And no language skills are required, you simply see, grab, and eat.

I'm not sure why Dad thought it would be so easy to find this place a second time.  The Tsukiji fish market is a packed few blocks of small little alleys filled with fish as well as produce and other offerings.  And particularly on the weekends around lunchtime, it's also filled to the brim with people playing tourist as well as choosing their counter of choice to park and eat.  We both knew we would recognize it when we saw it, but because we came to the market from a different direction than our first visit, remembering directions like 'it was down the third street, on the right' were not as helpful as they might have been.

After several loops around, we had almost given up hope.  But we took a chance and made our way down what we had thought was an alley we had already tried.  The tuna gods were smiling on us, because within a few feet we found ourselves in front of the sliding doors of our sushi destiny.  Behold!

Along with the satisfaction of finding something we were looking for, there was another reason I was glad to have stumbled back upon this place.  It had, both on our first visit and again this time, a particular piece of sushi that had become my own personal legend.  I even have a handmade magnet featuring a picture of it on my fridge.  It's in the center of my little sushi collage, and here is my best description of it: a piece of nigiri sushi (where it's just a little log of rice topped with a piece of fish) made with salmon, which is then roasted slightly using a kitchen torch (like the kind that finishes off a creme brûlée).  That makes it an aburi, for anyone who wants to expand their sushi vocabulary.  This particular piece is also topped with what I think is a squirt of mayonnaise and some chopped chives or green onions.

I have yet to encounter it anywhere else, though I am now one step closer in identifying it, so that should help if I ever seriously attempt to find it stateside.  The trouble is, knowing that I can never fully replicate the quality or the experience, part of me thinks that I'm better off confining my heavenly aburi sushi to Tokyo.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

WIP Wednesday: It's all about (Lexe)me!

I joined in on Inspiration Saturday, so I figured tagging along with Tami's Amis and Other Creations for Work in Progress Wednesday would be a good excuse to start chatting about what I'm working on now, especially since I don't have to be secretive about it.  It's not a gift, it's all for me!

No, not the cute kitty.  It's the Lexeme cardigan in Berroco Lustra.  Well, the back piece of it.  It's going to be this:

Photo credit: Berroco, Inc.
I mentioned yesterday, when I outlined my plans for loving my library, that this cardigan has a history.  I first started it a few years ago.  I made it about two inches in before it was set aside for a series of less daunting and more instantly gratifying projects.  Over time, this went from my 'work on between projects' project to my 'stuffed into the closet, maybe one day' project.  Now that I am an older and wiser crafter, I wanted to tackle this task again, and was spurred on when one of my Ravelry groups decided to do a knitalong for sleeved garments.  Plus, I found buttons that match it perfectly during the Yarn Crawl, so I thought that was probably a sign from Bob.

And so, pulled back from the depths of the closet, released from the inky shadows of crafting obscurity, the cardigan that never was had to endure one more indignity: it had to be frogged.  Because if it was worth doing, it was worth doing right from the very start.  And I wasn't the same size as I had been the first time around.

I'm a few weeks into the restart, and I've already passed my previous marker, reaching the end of the ribbing.  And since I took the progress picture, I've made progress on the stockinette section as well, having already done two of the increases.

If I hadn't already had everything about this cardigan planned, I might have switched things up and tried something that was either a little more riveting, stitch-wise, or a little more simple, construction-wise.  There's going to be a lot of sewing things together, with the back panel, the left front panel, the right front panel, and the sleeves.  And then the cute little ruffle as well as the button band comes from picking up all of the stitches and knitting them on at the end.  I would have preferred something seamless, maybe top-down.

But I'm going to get this done anyway, though it might take me a while, and though I will need my mom's help.  I won't pretend that it will be my main project for most of the time.  In fact, it's already sharing my craft time with spinning some yarn for my mom that was meant for Christmas.  I'd like to make more progress on that whenever I can, and leave the cardigan for those times when spinning isn't practical, like for bringing along to the coffee klatch at work.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Loving my library and quelling my queue

I think everyone uses their favorites and their queue differently in Ravelry.  For me, the favorites are a mass of patterns that constantly grows.  I see something pretty, and I add it, just for safekeeping.  But my queue I save for projects that have not just the pattern picked out, but also the yarn.  Unfortunately, that's getting a little long as well.  Nothing compared to my list of favorites, but I've got an unlucky thirteen in there right now.  And that doesn't even count the one I've already started!

So one of the things I did in one of my bursts of organization over the holiday break from work was to put any yarn for a queued project into a single plastic tub (one of those that slides under a bed).  So that the next time I need to grab a project, I'll go straight to that tub and not get sidetracked by anything else shiny in my stash.  Because that will only lead to me browsing for patterns for that skein, adding more to my favorites, and it's just a vicious cycle.

I read about the Love Your Library challenge set by Emily at snapdragon crafts, and I think that's a good reinforcement for my efforts to avoid temptation.  She's aiming to complete a project from her library every month, and I don't think I'll be able to do that, but I am going to try and limit what I do cast on to projects that are in my queue.  The only exception will be for swap crafting, since it's kind of hard to queue patterns for someone I don't even know I'm spoiling yet.

Tomorrow I'll have an update on the first project that has gone from queue to WIP to hibernation to queue and back to WIP again over the course of several years.  But here are the other thirteen for 2013:

Photo credit: Interweave Knits

Photo credit: Mary Lou Egan

Photo credit: Caroline Dlugy-Hegwer

Photo credit: theyarniad

Photo credit: Natalie Servant

Photo credit: Dean Crane

Photo credit: Christy Verity

Photo credit: Allison Bitter

Photo credit: Amy Singer

Photo credit: Karen Strauss

Photo credit: Jane Austen Knits, Christa Tippman

Photo credit: Veera Valimaki

Photo credit: Interweave Knits 2011
Let's see how many of these I can get through!