Wednesday, February 27, 2013

WIP Wednesday: A little bit at a time

Writing these WIP posts every Wednesday is a blessing and a curse.  It allows me to look back and see what I've accomplished so far this year, but it also makes me feel a bit unproductive for these particular seven days which have passed since my last installment.

I've made it through one of the sections of my secret Gilmore Girls swap item, that puts me one-third of the way through the second half.  Fun with fractions, everyone!  What's my percentage?  Around 83%, which sounds better than I thought.  I was able to get a few rows in this week when I drove into work with my dad.  Commute time is always so much more bearable when you aren't actually driving it.  If I lived somewhere with decent public transportation, I'm sure I would have a few more FOs in my projects page.

After a slight scare with delivery confirmation, the notebook I shared last week made it to its next destination.  I have my fingers crossed that it will make its way safely home several months from now.  For my part, I've been working on transforming the first notebook I received.  Here's a little pencil-sketched teaser:
I have a little bit of a theme for my entry, 'Plot Bunnies in Wonderland'.  That's because this notebook belongs to a fellow NaNoWriMo participant, and her 2012 novel was a re-imagining of 'Alice in Wonderland'.  So I'm doodling as many bunnies as possible, adding in some details from her writing inspiration, and then including a few of my own quirks.  So far, it's been really fun and a creative jump starter.

Whenever I have a free moment, I'm either surfing Ravelry, doodling in my notebook, drafting a blog post, or picking up my DPNs.  Slowly but surely, I'm turning these WIPs into FOs.  And then I'll start all over again.

Read more WIP Wednesday posts at Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Silver linings and gray finger tips

I have been very remiss in my movie-going the past year or so.  Aside from 'Brave' and 'Sleepwalk with Me', I haven't seen any newly-released feature films in theaters recently.  I add these caveats because I've been to a few special screenings of movies and TV events at the Alamo Drafthouse.  But even counting those, I haven't been a regular theater-goer.  It wasn't a conscious decision, it wasn't as though I went on a consumer strike to protest the lack of a sequel to 'Spice World' or something.  It just happened to work out that way that of all the things I did, going to the movies wasn't one of them.

Until last Saturday, when it was.  After going for a long walk to enjoy the sunny day, we earned ourselves a few hours hidden away from it.  There were a few options, but 'Silver Linings Playbook' held the magical combination of playing at a nearby theater and being palatable for all three of us moviegoers.  A little bit of drama without being depressing, funny without being a slapstick comedy, and a little bit of dance thrown in for good measure.  And let's face it: this was the closest my dad was ever going to get to a sports flick.  I can't try and play movie critic or awards judge, I'll just say that I thought it was worth the few hours of invested time.

What I can play is a beauty junkie, because there were times when I was distracted from Jennifer Lawrence's statuette-earning performance by...her nail polish.  Seriously.  This is one of those 'You know you're obsessed when...' moments, because my eye is constantly catching sight of particular polishes.  I liked Tiffany's slightly gothic but sophisticated dark gray.  It may not be a spring/summer color, but I still wanted to find out what it was.

Here's a screenshot from the movie posted on Vogue UK where you can at least sort of see the nails:

You would think that with all of the millions of pointless pieces of information which can be found on the internet, this would be one of them.  Especially with product placement everywhere we turn, I was expecting someone to lay claim.  Like, 'Moody but insightful nails provided by ______.'  No such luck.

What the internet did have were some possible culprits, or at least dupes which I could try to recreate the look.  Here's the list I have so far, in case anyone else is looking:

I'll have to raid my collection of nail polishes I already own and see if I have anything close, otherwise I just might have to add another bottle to the shelf.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oh la la, Ah La Cart

Surprises are not my strong suit, mostly because I'm not a great improviser.  I love to plan, make lists and check them half a dozen times (Santa only has to check twice, but that's only because he's magic).  Surprises rarely lend themselves to list-making.  But last week, I had a great surprise that facilitated my love of list-making.  One of my friends from my semester abroad was in town for the week, and was available to meet up!

In trying to decide on a spot, I put together a list of possible foodie spots that were worthy of a tourist's visit.  I offered up some of my own tried and true favorites, like Sugar Mama's Bakeshop for cupcakes, Kerbey Lane Cafe for pancakes and more, and of course some frozen yogurt.  I also included a few spots I hadn't gotten the chance to try myself yet, mostly a sampling of food trailers which have come to dominate the culinary landscape of the city.  Sometimes it takes a visit from the 'tourist' to get you to discover something great in your city.

After doing her own research (we're friends for a reason, she had to make her own list as well!), my visitor chose one of those food trailers, Ah La Cart.  All on its own in a parking lot next to a bike shop, they do 'slow food, fast' with seasonal home cooking using fresh local ingredients.

As with most food trailers, the menu is limited, but it still had more than one dish I wanted to try.  I decided to be good and stick with a classic I have been craving recently: mac and cheese.  Now, this particular dish doesn't really lend itself to beauty shots.  But smoked Tillamook cheddar and Alderwood smoked sea salt sounds pretty good, right?  It tastes even better.  So creamy and cheesy, with the breadcrumbs on top giving it a little texture as well.

It's meant to be a side dish, so it's about a cup of rich deliciousness.  Perfect serving size for me, and I'm sure that even people who don't count their calories would feel satisfied if they paired with a pork belly taco, which my friend had on a corn tortilla.  Yes, you read right: pork belly.  There may not be crazy-huge portions or a novel-length menu, but they pack a lot of flavor into what they do serve.

This just happens to be a very convenient stop on the way to either the dentist or mechanic for me, so this will be a great way to turn errand-running into something delicious.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: These shoes were made for walking

Ah, shoes.  Just like make-up, jewelry, and knitwear, I think of shoes as an accessory that can be used to jazz up an outfit.  At the same time, they are also very practical.  After all, a pair of shoes, unlike a pair of earrings, is actually required for walking out the door in the morning.

Friends and family may give you presents on your birthday, but companies give you coupons.  Which is more like a gift to themselves because it gets you in the door.  And once you're in, they're going to get you.  Particularly if the 'they' in this case means DSW.  On Friday, I bought not one, but two pairs of shoes.  This is kind of extravagant for me, I tend to always come from a place of choosing one or the other.  So after maybe ten minutes of hemming and hawing about which pair to choose, I decided to go crazy and get both.  After all, they were both in clearance, and I had my birthday certificate.  So I choose to be inspired by it rather than feel guilty.

First, the practical but pretty.  These brown wedges will be perfect for my brown-toned outfits, and the heel is still low enough that I can drive in it.

But what's also important to me is how I imagine wearing them.  And I imagine wearing these with a cute fall outfit, a satchel draped across my chest as I wander in and out of book and yarn stores, alternately.  The fantasy life of a pair of shoes is just as important as the one it will actually live.

Second, the slightly less practical, and a little more pink.  Zebra-print flats with pointy toes and pink details?  It's like someone out there knows me.
Okay, so the real life of these shoes will be in making black trousers and a black top feel fun.  These shoes that will make me smile when I look down at them during a meeting or as I trade them for my sneakers before working out.  But I also plan on wearing them with the pink corduroy shorts I bought a while ago, to quite possibly make a fun outfit entirely laughable.  But I won't care.  Sometimes you just have to dress like you're six years old again.

And just for the sake of keeping things knit, I also found something I hope to wear with some shoes, these Spiffy Spats by Breeanna Sveum:
Photo credit: stitchbrinnstitch on Ravelry
So cute!  More inspiration at Woolen Diversions...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Red Hot Chocolate Cookies

It seems that I just can't move on from the Valentine's-inspired treats, because I couldn't resist taking some chocolate-covered cinnamon candies and using them like chocolate chips in a cookie.  But clearly these are not a seasonal dessert, because my co-workers loved them.  I actually caught a little exclamation of dismay from one who was too late in going to grab a second cookie later in the day and discovered that they were already gone.

Given the response, I'll probably try these again.  I don't know whether I'll be able to find the chocolate-covered candies again, but I think substituting half semi-sweet chips and half candy would work.  I have a few ideas for next time.  First, adding some cayenne pepper to the cookie dough itself for a little extra kick.  I would have done this initially, except I didn't have any on hand.  And then, someone mentioned that marshmallows would be a welcome addition, which has me thinking about play on rocky road.  Until then, I'm happy with this first batch.

Red Hot Chocolate Cookies
(adapted from Real Simple)
makes about 40 cookies


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room tempterature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • about 1 cup of dark chocolate covered cinnamon candy (you could substitute half chocolate chips, half regular cinnamon candies)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together.  Mix in egg and vanilla.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly mix this into the butter mixture until it's fully incorporated.  Fold in the cinnamon candy.
  4. Take a scoop of dough (about two tablespoons) and form into balls.  Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, spaced a couple of inches apart.  Bake for 12 minutes, just until the centers are set (the cookies will crisp up as they cool).  Let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Peppermint Kiss Fudge

So first I celebrated the Valentine's spirit with a classic combination of chocolate and cherries in a brownie.  Last week, I went with something a little less obvious, but apt nonetheless.  (Yes, I'm still a week behind in my recipe-posting, I'm hoping to be back to current treats by the end of this week.)

White chocolate with peppermint has the benefit of being both delicious, and leaving you ready for the smooches you deserve after preparing this lovely treat for your special someone.  Or the someones who happen to be in your office.  Who are also special, but who probably aren't offering kisses.  They'll still appreciate the freshness of your breath as you have your chatter in your meetings.

Of course, you only deserve the kisses (or other office-appropriate appreciation) because it's the thought that counts.  The actual effort involved is minimal.  I prepared these on the Friday before leaving to go skiing, left them to set in the fridge, then cut them when we returned on Tuesday.  When you want all the acclaim of homemade treats without actually trying, these are a go-to.  That's why I always have the two main ingredients on hand.  You may recognize this as being incredibly similar to my Berry Lemonade Fudge and Not Terry's Chocolate Orange Fudge.  Not a coincidence.  Just an awesomely adaptable recipe.

Peppermint Kiss Fudge
(adapted from Sparkpeople)
Makes about 40 squares

  • 1 bag of white chocolate chips
  • 1 can of fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • about 1/2 cup crushed candy canes (optional)
  • a drop or two of red food coloring (optional)

  1. Line a 9 x 13" (or similar) pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a microwaveable bowl, mix the entire bag of chips with the can of condensed milk.  Stir in some zest.
  3. Place in the microwave and melt carefully.  I started with 30 seconds, then stirred, and back in again in 15 second increments.  You don't want to scorch it, just get it smooth.  Stir in the extract.
  4. Pour the mixture into the pan, spreading a little to get it evenly in there.  Sprinkle with a little more zest if desired.
  5. Place the pan into the fridge and leave to chill.  Once firm, cut into squares. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

WIP Wednesday: You have been weighed, you have been measured

This morning I did a health screening at work, where they took some basic vitals in exchange for a reduction in my health insurance costs.  It reminded me of that line in 'A Knight's Tale':
Hopefully I have not been found wanting.  Unless I have been found wanting cupcakes, in which case I must always plead guilty.  I would say that my progress this week has not been wanting.  Aside from the super-secret knitted item I've already hinted at, which is about 60% done now, I've gathered a few more things for my box themed around 'Gilmore Girls'.  I've also set myself up a non-knit handmade which involves transforming a book into something new.  I'll post a tutorial if all goes well.

Speaking of non-knit craft projects, I have just begun a long-term notebook swap with a few people on Ravelry.  We each have sent a notebook to the person below us on the list, and we're all going to add our own work, whether in words, images, anything, really, to each others' books as they get sent down the line.  Eventually I'll receive my original notebook back, full of wonderfulness.

I couldn't stop myself from starting with my own notebook and illustrating a few lines from the 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' song 'Pure Imagination'.  Here's a sample:
On the left, a little mixed-media, as I drew my Turkish drop spindle spinning the clouds (made out of bits of a cotton ball) into a world of yarn.  The right is a sort of improvised prose version of the debate in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' about coconuts and swallows, with emphasis on the words that are part of the song as a not-so-hidden message.  Wow, that's the third movie reference in this post, I guess I'm feeling cinematic.
Just a fun burst of color here.  I'm not overwhelmed with an abundance of drawing talent, but I can draw lots of pink stripes and hearts.  I whipped out my middle school gel pens for this, anyone else remember these?
A peek-a-boo lyric here, hiding behind one of several doors which can be found in Prague.  I tried to insert a few personal details within the pages, breadcrumbs that others might not notice.
Further examples of that: on the left, I've used an old photo I had from the beaches of Scala, Cephalonia.  Because that's what came to mind when I thought of paradise.  On the bottom is an attempt to continue the pine trees at the bottom of the picture using markers and colored pencils, because all of my pictures were horizontally-arranged and not ideal for the notebook's frame.  And then on the right, another idyllic locale.  These were cut from the last alumni magazine I got from Sarah Lawrence College, where sitting around a table discussing and changing the world is the main pastime.

Check out more WIPs (perhaps a little more of the knit and crochet variety) on Tami's Amis!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Birthday sprouts and sprinkles

Yesterday I celebrated my 26th birthday, and I think I did it in kind of an Austin way.  There wasn't a party, there weren't any balloons, and shockingly enough, there wasn't even any cake.

Instead, it was essentially a trip down Lamar, starting with Half Price Books, where I bought three books for three dollars.  You gotta love that.  Here's what I added to my library:
  • A complete collection of Guy de Maupassant's short stories
  • A vintage copy of 'The Travels of Marco Polo' which is destined for a little Gilmore Girls swap upcycling
  • Not technically a book, but a page-a-day cupcake calendar, with photos and recipes
From there, we headed up to The Yogurt Spot.  Because who needs cake when you can fill up a bowl with Taro Tart?  Every time I taste it, I cannot believe how delicious it is.  And even though there isn't as much turnaround of flavors here, that never really bothers us because we love what they have.  I would have been really disappointed if Taro hadn't been there.

There were some rotations, though.  Toasted Marshmallow was really interesting, I think it perfectly captured that slightly burnt sugar taste, without being too sweet or too smoky.  Raspberry Tart replaced the Burrberry, and inspired a very wide-eyed reaction on my part.  Both were tasty, but the latter made it into my bowl along with some Strawberry Fields.  Just with the yogurts, it looked so pretty, with a lilac, two soft pinks, and a deep magenta from the Raspberry Pomegranate sorbet.  And for my birthday, I splurged on some rainbow sprinkles to go along with my fresh fruit topping.  Because sprinkles make everything celebratory.

Taking advantage of the parking available at Yogurt Spot, we walked down the block to Lush for another chosen birthday indulgence: body care.  I have loved Lush ever since I first passed one by on the way to class when I was studying abroad in Prague.  I'm so glad that Austin now has one of our own, even though it's a terrible temptation.

I'm not really concerned with getting older and anti-aging at this point, but I feel like pampering is what birthdays are about, and my love of beauty products is not limited to nail polish and eye shadow.  They have some of that now at Lush, but there are so many other products I would love to try, from bath bombs to henna hair dyes.  I can't really justify buying any more lotion or shower gel until I use up more of what I stockpiled while I worked at Bath & Body Works.  It's been a couple of years now, and I still have plenty.

So this time around, I decided to try the Soak and Float shampoo bar and Angels on Bare Skin face cleanser (couldn't find it on their website).  The shampoo smells pretty much like a campfire, which is...interesting.  Makes me think of Salt Lick BBQ sauce, which isn't usually an association I make in the shower.  I've used their Godiva shampoo bar before and really like it.  Just the concept of a bar of shampoo is fun, and really pretty practical.  The facial cleanser I've used once so far, and feels really nice.  I'm thinking next time I might splurge for a face mask.  Because Cupcake just seems too perfect not to, right?

And then, we went further up to Central Market to source the necessary ingredients for what perhaps is an unlikely birthday dinner.  Weird as it sounds, I decided that I wanted some Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  The sprouts we roasted in the oven with some dijon, and the cauliflower was just steamed with some seasoning.  Delicious.  And that left plenty of calories for me to indulge again for dessert.  The bakery had so many things to choose from, but ultimately I went with creme brulee.  It may never be Jello, but that's a good thing.  It was so luscious, I could literally feel the conditioning effect of the full-fat cream on my lips.

Another birthday gone, another 364 un-birthdays to celebrate until the next one!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: How a snow bunny stays warm

I am notoriously cold all of the time.  Hot showers are the perfect ambient temperature, and walking out into hundred-degree heat in summer is a welcome relief from the excessive air conditioning of most places.  It's just unfortunate that snow and heat tend to be so mutually exclusive.  But on my ski trip last weekend I managed to make it through without blue fingers, thanks to a few warm things, some knit-related, some not.  And even though I'm back in Texas, where we expect a high in the 60s today, I'm still relying on a few of them.


Somehow, a warm bowl of soup seems more comforting than a warm plate of anything else.  Maybe it's that all-important slurp factor, which is so integral to my beloved ramen.  No ramen in Ruidoso, though, unfortunately.  But I did have a green chile corn chowder, minestrone, and Wisconsin cheese soup over the course of three dinners.  Plus those cup-o-noodles (with dried shrimp!) for lunch on the mountain.

And it's great to make at home as well, where you can just toss in whatever you have and layer flavors all day long.  Last night we grabbed a ready-made kit for baked potato soup at HEB, so that's clearly on the menu this week.  I particularly love split pea soup made in the slow cooker.  I've found that it's the perfect use for all of the random scraps of ham you have after all of the pretty spiral slices are gone.  Tossing in the bone is a bonus if you have it.  I also really want to try making my own chicken stock a la Recipe Girl one day.

Lana Del Ray

I have music associated with many memories throughout my life.  Back in the days before iPods, I would bring books of CDs with me to visit my grandparents over the summer, because I needed to have as many options as possible.  I usually end up with a theme for certain trips based on whatever I listen to around that time, and then whenever I hear it again, it brings back fond memories.

In the past, the Spice Girls' 'Goodbye' has been a ski song.  This year, I went a little less pop with Lana Del Ray:
It occurred to me that 'Born to Die' is probably not the best message while careening down a mountain, but the opening lines of 'Feet don't fail me now, take me to the finish line' are appropriate.  And the whole album has a strong but flowing rhythm to it that I like.  So there's my first ever music recommendation.  It might not keep you warm, but it could distract you from the cold.

Alpaca Berets

Most of the time, my need for warm fibers is superficial.  Like I've said, I'm countering air conditioning or what Central Texas laughingly calls winter.  But here is where the soft warmth of alpaca is really appreciated.  Even in a relatively loose-knit beret like this one I made a few years ago:
It's nice and warm without having to be a thick beanie.  I can't tell you the pattern, I received it in one of the Yarn Crawls, and it was full of errors anyway.  But I found this one from Michele Wang which is gorgeous, the Cables & Lace Beret:
Photo credit: Michele Wang
I love the way the cables and lace weave in and out of each other, gives it a great texture.  This isn't the kind of thing I'd wear on the actual slopes, but it would be perfect for walking down main street on the way to dinner.

Get even more inspired by reading Alicia's post at Woolen Diversions!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Magic of Love Brownies

(I didn't get a chance to write up last week's treat, so I'm catching up now.)

Valentine's Day can be taken sincerely or cynically.  Either it should be the most romantic date night of the year, or it's a conspiracy to sell flowers and Hallmark cards.  I've fallen somewhere in the middle with office treats the past two weeks that have hinted at the theme of the holiday.

Last week, it was chocolate and cherries.  To me, that's the first thing I think of, I just imagine a heart-shaped box of cherry cordials.  Of course, I imagine them being eaten while sitting on the sofa and watching TV in pajamas rather than being given them by an actual valentine, but that's where the cynicism comes in.

These brownies, however, were not cynical, they were delicious and decadent.  And the fact that it left me with leftover sweetened condensed milk was a complete bonus.  The recipe is a play on magic layer cookie bars, but using brownies and whatever mix of toppings you'd like.

Chocolate Cherry Brownies
makes a 7" x 11" pan

I adapted Bake or Break's recipe by using a boxed brownie mix, combined with cherry-flavored chocolates (like M&Ms and 3 Musketeers) and some dried cherries.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Slopes and stitches

Today is Wednesday, but it feels like Monday to me, because I'm just coming back from a four-day weekend.  This was an uncharacteristic use of vacation time in the first half of the year, as I tend to hoard my time for fear of not having enough at the end of the year until I realize that I'm running out of time to use it all.  So why use two days now?  To go skiing!

We've been going to Ruidoso for long skiing weekends since I was a kid, once every year or two.  When I was in school we combined it with President's Day weekend, my dad would pull me out of school the Friday before as soon as I was counted in attendance (shh! don't tell!) and we'd drive out, ski Saturday and Sunday, then trek back and hope that I didn't have any outstanding homework.

Since we don't get President's Day at my office, we wanted to avoid the holiday weekend crowds, drove out on Saturday and got back yesterday around dinner time, with two days of skiing in between.  So I made progress on two projects: my secret swap handmade, and my snow bunny skills.

The super-secret project for my Gilmore Girls swap is going well.  I would estimate I'm about 40% done, thanks to the nine-hour drive each way.  Since I gave away a little bit about the texture of the knitted item last week, I'll sneak you a peek at the yarn (this is the stock photo, not my own socks):
It's Regia Hand-Dye Effect, and so far I'm really liking working with it.  The color changes are really pretty, going from a violet blue purple to a pinky fuchsia purple, with silvery gray in between.  It's got a little kink to it, so it's not a yarn I would want to use for something with clean stitch definition, but that's not what I'm going for here, so that's okay.

This project has been pretty simple, it doesn't necessarily involve anything too complicated, but it does show me how far I've come that I'm not really intimidated by the techniques it does use.  The more you knit, the less scary it gets.

The same is true for skiing.  It's something I've done for years, but like I've said, only a few days at a time.  There's only so far you can get in your technique for getting down a mountain slope in one piece over a weekend.  What I've been trying to do the past few times we've been out is to transition from the beginner's wedge to the more controlled parallel skis, setting my edge and just generally making more of a connection between what I do with my body and where I end up.

I'm a cautious skier.  Some people may be okay with just careening down at vast speed and coming to a crashing stop somehow, but I am a far more cautious student of the sport.  I take it one turn at a time, and my dad can get down the mountain, back up in the gondola and down again in the time it takes me to do a single run.  Let's put it this way: in a race, there are rabbits, there are turtles, and then there's me.  But just like working with metal DPNs (another hint!), the more I do it, the less scary it becomes.  By Monday afternoon, I was really starting to feel comfortable.  I wasn't tearing down the gulch, but I wasn't stopping and starting as much, and I was enjoying it more than fearing it.

Hopefully I'll get back on the slopes soon, but in the meantime, I'm trading in my poles for knitting needles again.

Don't forget, there are more WIP posts at Tami's Amis.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Mittens!

Even though I'm hoping to focus more on knitting for myself this year, I think there's a great feeling that comes only from knitting for others.  On the one hand, knitting either for swap packages or as holiday gifts gives me a lot of satisfaction.  Taking the time to consider what the giftee would like most, taking into account their favorite colors, personal style, and anything else that might inspire a particular project.

On the other hand, there's knitting for charity.  You're still knitting for someone else, but often that someone else is a little more general.  You don't have the puzzle of personalization, and you often don't get the satisfaction of the reveal and getting to see your work worn or used.  But that's more than made up for by knowing that you're fulfilling a real need.

If you're in the Austin area and you want that warm, fuzzy feeling, The Knitting Nest is currently collecting mittens for Saint Louise House.  They're trying to reach their goal for donations by Valentine's Day, so now would probably be a good time to cast on.

These aren't really weekend projects, but here are just a few fun patterns I like that happen to be mittens.  Maybe you could start your Christmas knitting early.

Photo credit: SpillyJane
I have yet to truly develop a skill for color work, but cupcakes are a huge temptation.  These are so cute, I can almost forget how the inside of them must be full of millions of little loops and ends.

Photo credit: Devon Clement
Okay, so these are fingerless mitts, but I tend to get more use out of those than full-on mittens, and these are just too perfectly suited to the upcoming holiday not to include them.

Photo credit: Morehouse Knits
Yet again, I cannot resist the cute factor here.  I can't help but think how great they would be in cotton for dishes.  Then again, I can't help thinking they are too cute to be used for anything practical.

Photo credit: Moira Engel
Speaking of practical, these have a little pocket, great for your subway pass, a few bucks, or chapstick.  I love pockets!  Everybody loves pockets, they're even putting them in wedding dresses now.

Check out Alicia's inspiration this week, and forgive me for any formatting errors in this post, it's my first time 'scheduling' a release.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Where you lead, I will knit

After several weeks of displaying my progress with pride, this time I have to veil my projects in a little bit of secrecy.  Because along with a few rows on my cardigan, what I'm now working on is for a swap package.  And on the off-chance that my spoilee, or anyone else from the swap, might be amongst my reading audience, I'm not going to offer up any photos.

But I will offer up hints.

The swap is themed around Gilmore Girls, the mother-daughter show that mixed hilarity and drama, and ran on the WB in my high school and college years.  How I loved this show.  Like millions of others, I watched this with my mother when I was in high school.  There was small town quirkiness, stereotypical teen drama with a sincere twist, and constant pop culture references in a script that was several pages longer than most shows.  The fact that the daughter was a teenage bookworm with high collegiate dreams didn't hurt.  I, like Rory, constantly had a book with me, and I had an inability to pare down my library when going on longer trips.  You just never know what you're going to want to read!

Unlike Rory, though, I didn't change my mind about the college I was determined to attend at the last minute.  And when I did leave to go to Sarah Lawrence, I watched in the communal TV room with other fans (I camped out in the room up to several hours ahead of time to make sure we got the time slot).  Then I called my mom afterwards to talk about it.

So returning to this classic (don't you love how it only takes a few years for something to be classic?) has been a lot of fun.  There are so many references to pull from.  What can I make with a box of corn starch to harken back to Rory's first kiss?  How best to represent Lorelai's classic refrain of 'hockey puck, rattelsnake, monkey, monkey, underpants'?

I won't say what my first handmade is, but I will reveal that I have borrowed the stitch pattern from Lorelai's Scarf in Blue Heaven, which was reverse engineered from one of several pieces of knitwear worn over the course of the show:
Except I'm not using the four-row pattern to create a scarf.  I charted out the directions and did some crafting voodoo to turn it into a pattern knit in the round.

And that's all I'll say!  Anyone else out there a GG fan?  Any ideas for crafted goodies I could include? Favorite bits of randomness?  And don't forget to check out the other WIP Wednesday posts around the web!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Gingerbread Cubed

Gingerbread is one of those things, like fresh cranberries and peppermint-flavored things, that seem to disappear for the most part come January.  And while I understand the value of seasonality and limited availability, I wasn't quite ready to let the warm, spicy comfort of gingerbread go yet.  Plus, I have a few boxes of mix that were on super-duper clearance because of that sudden disappearance.  So last week, I refused to give into the mainstream, and kept the festive flavor going.

More than once, I've used ice cream to enhance a cake mix.  Just the week before, I made one with pineapple mix and coconut sorbet.  But why stop there, I thought?  Why not also utilize this wonderful frozen treat in the frosting of the resulting cake?  Especially when you happen to have a 1/2 gallon of Blue Bell's Gingerbread House.  That's where the 'cubed' comes from in the title, because you've got gingerbread mix, made with gingerbread ice cream, topped with gingerbread frosting.

Gingerbread Cubed
makes a 7 x 11" pan
(adapted from Cookies & Cups)

  • 1 box of Hodson Mills Whole Wheat Gingerbread Mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups melted Blue Bell Gingerbread House ice cream (less than what it calls for for cakey gingerbread, more than for roll-out cookies)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix the gingerbread mix with the egg and ice cream.
  3. Spread the batter (it will be very thick) into a pan lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely.
For the frosting, I used the same Gingerbread House ice cream along with this recipe from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody.  I needed the full 5 cups of powdered sugar, then I let it chill for a little while before frosting the cake.  I cut the cake into squares, then used the parchment paper to lift them back into the pan so I could frost them in one big square but not wrestle with actually cutting the cake once the frosting was on.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Froyo files: Happy National Frozen Yogurt Day!...?

Can someone explain to me why National Frozen Yogurt Day is smack dab in the middle of winter?  Is it a cunning ploy to try and bring in customers in a season when most people abandon the creamy treat?    If so, I think it's a rather cruel trick.  For Australia, perhaps, this would make an appropriate day to celebrate, but for most Americans, this is the time of year for oatmeal, not frozen yogurt.

I, however, live in Texas.  And for all of its faults, Texas has a mild winter with patches of downright warmth.  And we were blessed to have enjoyed a warm front this weekend that made going to Berry Austin Central a perfectly sane activity.  I feel genuine empathy for those in more sincerely winter climes who might very well long to swirl, but whose lips might freeze to the spoon if they tried.  It really isn't fair.  I should feel guilty, languishing in the mid-70s sunshine.

But mostly I'm just grateful that I was able to enjoy a heaping bowl of Pomegranate Raspberry sorbet, Wildberry Tart, and Dulce de Leche topped with fresh fruit without fear that my fingers would turn blue.  In respect to my northern counterparts, I will not taunt you with photos, though I must admit it was delicious.

Also delicious will be my bowl of oatmeal later tonight.  What can I say?  I enjoy all of my desserts no matter what the ambient temperature.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Patterns from Hill Country Weavers

Yarn stores have yarn, obviously.  But they have so much more.  They are meccas of crafting camaraderie, and in the case of Hill Country Weavers, they are the source of some awesome patterns.

The store has collected the work of local designers in a few pattern books over the years.  The newest one is Prairie Bliss, volume 1, and it's available at the store in the now-old-fashioned book format, or you can download it as a PDF.  You can also find all of the patterns they've published on Ravelry.  These are a few of my favorites:

Photo credit: Hill Country Weavers
I always like the look of these poncho-type things, but worry about arm mobility.  Not that I often find myself needing to raise my arms above my head, but somehow not being able to makes me think I would start to feel claustrophobic or something.  I love this one, though, and I think it's the perfect length for wearing in the office.  My elbows would still be free to type on the keyboard, while keeping me warm amid the excessive air conditioning.

Photo credit: Kathy Bateman
Aside from being super-cute, this is an interesting pattern because it's knit starting from the end of one of the ties up, over, and down to the end of the other tie.  Simple and sweet.

Photo credit: Hill Country Weavers
Again, something sweet.  This has a really nice shaping at the waist, and lace edging to make it special. I think wearing this would make me feel like a modern-day Jane Austen heroine, contemplating my romantic future over a cup of tea...and a cupcake.

So those are three knit patterns, but they have more, as well as crochet and weaving patterns, depending on the craft that inspires you.  And don't forget to check out Woolen Diversions for her Inspiration Saturday post, this week's is making me hungry!