Saturday, June 29, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Ready, set, spin!

Here it is again, the Tour de Fleece.  The yearly reminder that hey, I might have yarn waiting to turn into a cardigan on my needles, but I also have fiber on the tip of my spindle that hasn't even realized its dreams of becoming yarn yet.

Last year I took a 4 oz braid of fiber all the way from start to finish for my first ever yarn:

This year, I have some fiber already in progress, so I'm confident I should at least be able to finish that.  It began as a 4 oz braid, 100% wool merino top from Frabjous Fibers that I bought in last year's Yarn Crawl at Hill Country Weavers:

Currently, it's a Ravelry drawstring bag full of fiber and two single cops:

Once I get the rest of the fiber 'singled out', then I have to decide how I want to ply it.  I'd like to try and create a single-ply yarn sometime, but I know that I overspin and right now I'm relying on plying to even that out a little.  With my first yarn each center-pull cop became a hank plied against itself.  I might try unwinding the cops onto a tennis ball so I can have a longer 2-ply hank from two cops.  Lots of ideas, and I'm open to suggestion.

Speaking of lots of ideas, if I'm spinning every day I should hopefully finish this yarn with miles to spare before the cyclists end up in Paris, so then the question becomes: what to spin next?  Here are just a few of the entries in my roving stash to consider:

Merino Wool Top from WC Mercantile: Neon Pink

It's pink!  I feel like it would be impossible not to smile as I spun this.  I received it in the Favorite Color swap, and it's the perfect representation of the pink I love.  I also love this fiber artist, they were at the Yellow Rose Fiber Fiesta this year, where I brought home more from their wall of colors.

Merino/Tussah Silk (80/20) from Fiber Obsessions: Spring Green

A little different from me, this is a slightly more muted tone.  A light and lovely green, the silk makes it absolutely gorgeous to the touch.  I had to have it when I found it in Yarnorama when I came up with the idea of spinning singles from it and then plying it with a pink or purple thread, to make it floral.  Having never plied with thread, this would be an experiment.

New Zealand Polwarth from Maude & Me: Southern Hospitality

Another braid which was gifted to me from a Raveller in New Zealand, I love the mix of colors here.  Might be a good opportunity to try N-plying.  And after seeing some of this same colorway spun up in the seller's Etsy store, I'm even more excited to see how the colors would turn out.

Is anyone else spinning in the Tour de Fleece?  What are your goals?  Any advice for this still-feel-like-a-newbie-despite-sort-of-spinning-for-a-few-years-now?

For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Friday, June 28, 2013

FO Friday: A portfolio of purple

I still don't have a knitted FO to show off, but I do have another notebook that the postal service has successfully passed down the chain of command.  The big theme here is purple, because the owner loves it.  So much so that it's part of her Rav name.  I wanted to mix her favorite color with the things I was most enjoying about filling pages so far, and I really like the way this turned out.

I wrote a short story, just a page long, using four of the paint color names as my inspiration and challenge:

More paint chips cover an entire page here, then I wrote a quick little poem and tucked in some Kool-Aid so she could create her own purple:

I haven't done as much collaging as I thought I would in the previous notebooks, it always takes longer than you would think, but I managed a page of it here.  Opposite that is some of my favorite doodling, curlicues.  Can you see the word 'purple' in there?

More inspiration from the paint chips, this one was called 'Plum Good', and I think plums taste best when their in some Czech fruit dumplings, so I included a recipe:

And another recipe, this time for a Lemon-Raspberry Shortbread Tart:

I'm not sure the shade 'Raspberry Tart' falls into the range of purple she likes, but the recipe sounds yummy, so I stretched the color a little.

My next notebook is on its way to me, and the plotting has already begun.  In the meantime, for more FOs this Friday, visit Tami's Amis (I lovelovelove the sock Tami herself has posted in her TARDIS Tart Ombre colorway).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

WIP Wednesday: The WIP at my fingertips

Sometimes I don't paint my nails for a few weeks just because I can never seem to find those few minutes necessarily to not only apply the polish but wait for it to dry.  Oh, and at least a few minutes that have to be spent deciding on the color.  Have I ever mentioned how terrible I am at making decisions?

After careful deliberation over the many bottles on my shelf, last week I wore Sally Hansen's Salon Manicure in Green Tea on my tips.  I confess, I was already thinking about my Inspiration Saturday post when I made that decision.  So I extended the matcha inspiration to my polish.  And I saw a fair amount of that color as my fingers worked to make my cardigan's sleeve longer and longer.  It's still not done, but I'm optimistically hoping to cast it off by the end of this week.

Here's another 'staged' photo of my cardigan, this time I used safety pins to close up the sleeve and slip it onto my forearm:

Notice the sort-of-but-not-quite complimentary color on my nails?  I think it's more sea foam than green tea myself, it has just a hint of blue in there.  Still pretty, though, and it was remarkably chip-resistant.  On the knitting front, I think the sleeve is going to fit nicely.

I have a different polish on as I type this up, by the way: OPI's Gouda Gouda Two Shoes.  A sort of dusty rose with gold shimmer.  A warm tone for a warm summer, we've just gotten into triple-digit highs here.  Perfect weather for my one-sleeved cardigan...

For more WIP Wednesday posts, visit Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Sweet and Spicy Cornbread Mini-Muffins

My new office area is bigger, not for me personally, but in terms of the number of cubicles gathered together.  I'm still teaching myself all of the various ways to navigate the maze of meeting rooms and paths to and from my desk.  Along with this new terrain, comes a new, wider potential audience for baked goods.

Our little Keurig machine often has a line of people waiting in polite desperation for their turn for caffeine dispersal.  And just like the limitations of a single-cup coffee making system, I don't know if I'm prepared to service all of those people.  I like sharing my treats with my co-workers, but I don't feel the need to be churning out hundreds of cookies in order to make sure everyone gets one.  This isn't like chewing gum in 'Blazing Saddles':

Hopefully no one's offended by that clip, I kind of grew up with that movie.  Anyway, I've been trying to figure out how to disperse my treats so that I make sure that I have enough for klatch, and that any leftovers go first to those who at least know who I am, while also not ending up with uneaten treats to take home (I don't like to just abandon them at the end of the day to possibly be thrown out).  I'm considering setting up a little tray in front of my cube, along with a corresponding mail list of people to alert that they can come grab a treat.  Maybe with a trompe l'oeil of a window, so it's like grandma's pies cooling on the window sill.

Last week's treat shows you the dynamics of having so many people served by one coffee area and one baker.  This recipe made 48 mini-muffins.  Twelve went to work with my mom, so that left me with 36.  Of those, I set out 18 in the coffee area around 2 pm.  At 3 pm I came back from klatch to find that only 1 lonely mini-muffin was there.  I had another dozen left from klatch, so I restocked.  Another hour later, and those had disappeared.  Assuming that no one was stuffing multiple mini-muffins, that's two dozen in two hours.  Which tells me at least that these were tasty.

The marmalade in this recipe is the same as I used in the Marmalade-n Savory Thumbprints.  I wanted to go ahead and polish this yummy stuff off, and again I felt like something with corn meal was the right way to go.  After filling the mini-muffins I had a little bit left in the bottom of the jar, hence the improvised glaze fashioned out of marmalade, orange juice and nut butter, which I had in the pantry.  I liked the additional sweetness it brought to the overall balance of heat in these savory muffins, but you could just as easily substitute honey, or just use more marmalade (if you have it) and orange juice.

Sweet and Spicy Cornbread Mini-Muffins
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 48 filled mini-muffins


For the batter:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used a powdered mix)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used a mix of vegetable, olive, and walnut)
  • 1 teaspoon dried orange zest
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup orange habanero marmalade*
For the glaze:
  • 1/4 cup orange habanero marmalade*
  • 1/2 cup orange juice*
  • 2-3 Tablespoons apricot orange pecan honey nut butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line mini-muffin tin with or coat with cooking spray. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest.
  2. Combine buttermilk, egg, and oil. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture until combined.
  3. Fill cups of muffin tin half full with batter.  Then, spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of marmalade into the center of the batter.  Spoon more batter into the cups, just enough to cover the marmalade.   
  4. Bake until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. In a blender, mix marmalade, orange juice, and nut butter until smooth.  Transfer into a small pot and place over medium-high heat on the stove to reduce.  Remove from heat when it has reached desired thickness.  Allow to cool, then drizzle over muffins.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Allergic to old age

This weekend, I experienced an annoying first: allergies.  Rudely enough, they started Friday evening, with red, itchy eyes, and an occasionally runny nose.  This is the first time I've 'had allergies', the only other allergic reaction I've ever had being of the more disturbing swelling variety, when I woke up with fingers so fat I couldn't bend them around my toothbrush in the morning.  Ah, college memories.

Anyway, medication was taken and my eyes are a much more normal color.  Apparently, allergies are just one of those things you can accumulate as you get older.  Yay, another reason to feel old.  I'm hoping that this growing into allergies thing which I've heard is so common does not mean that it's going to be an every day issue.  Especially because I'm not sure which exact particulate flying through the air caused it.  I'm inclined to blame cedar, just because it's all around me and it is evil, but I don't really know.  And I refuse to consider the possibility that I'm allergic to weekends.

I'm also pretty sure I'm not allergic to cauliflower, since I just ate the equivalent of an entire head of it in the form of a cauliflower 'mash'.  If you've never tried this, it's a delicious side dish that's slightly reminiscent of mashed potatoes, but with many, many fewer calories.  Similarly to spaghetti squash, though, I wouldn't say that it's necessarily for people who love the starchy originals and hate veggies.  You should at least like veggies to consider this a possible substitute as the co-star with your meat loaf.  But it's another preparation that I hadn't tried until very recently.

A Google search will yield you plenty of results, but the basic idea is to cook up some cauliflower until nice and soft, then blend it down with some liquid and seasonings.  I boiled the cauliflower in water heavily seasoned with bouillon cubes and garlic salt and used a small amount of that as my blending liquid along with some Brummel and Brown.  So yummy.  Really.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that I ate an entire head's worth.  I'm about to explode with cauliflower goodness.

As long as I don't start sneezing cauliflower.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Inspiration Saturday/Tokyo tales: Memories of the Matcha Mitts

I know inspiration usually comes at the start of a project, but in this case, I'm taking my inspiration from something I finished last year.

Yup, I'm never letting go of that Tokyo trip.  I've told you about some of the yarn, sushi, and donut-esque desserts, now I'm remembering my Matcha Mitts, the cuffs I knit as part of a swap themed around tea while I was there.  My spoilee had a preference for mitts, and I thought ones with a lacy leaf pattern would be like tea leaves.  Especially in a lovely light green yarn with a touch of sparkle from Heavenly Fiber.  So I packed up my DPNs and took my WIP on a whirlwind tour of Tokyo.

In front of the wishing tree at the Meiji shrine, I didn't purchase my own wooden tablet for posting a wish, but hopefully some of the magical powers of that Camphor tree were imbued into those few stitches:

At the train museum, they had these interesting stained glass windows about life on the train, and one of them depicted a little old lady knitting on her commute.  In solidarity, I had to bring out my own:

I was able to finish at least one of the mitts during my trip, but here is the completed pair:

And now they are off having other adventures somewhere else, and as you've read for the past few weeks, my current WIP has been having slightly less exotic, but nonetheless tasty (pancakes!), adventures being knit while I travel around Austin.

For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Full stack, short sleeve

I already told you about the delicious pancakes that were a part of my WWKIP Saturday.  But if Instagram teaches us anything, it's that if you didn't take a photo, it didn't happen.  So here's the proof:

What's more interesting, the pancakes or the sleeve?  From left to right, you have the oatmeal raisin, gingerbread, and vegan peanut butter.  Strawberry jelly on the side.  Just looking at these babies makes me think my workout this afternoon wasn't, wait, it was.  I also had pancakes for dinner tonight, but these were veggie pancakes stuffed with onions, peppers, carrots, and spinach.  A different kind of delicious.

Placed so delicately next to the pre-syruped pancakes (sticky knitting is not good!), is the sleeve of my cardigan.  It's actually quite a bit longer now than it was then, thanks to my finally getting to join the coffee klatch and a few conference calls where knitting helped me to concentrate on the conversation rather than start multitasking on e-mails.  It's going pretty fast now, is it too much to hope that I might be done with both sleeves before starting Tour de Fleece?

For more WIPs this Wednesday, visit Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Citrus Rice Krispy Treats

My mom knows me so well.  When she sees lemon and lime flavored marshmallows on clearance, she gets them for me because she knows that I'll be able to make good use of them.  Yesterday I made up for lost time and finally shared the first treat I made with the lemon meringue marshmallows, Yellow Brick Rocky Road Fudge.  Those were inspired by a common use for marshmallows, rocky road.  Last week I twisted another tradition, Rice Krispy Treats, this time using the key lime pie variety of these Campfire Bursts.

I'm not the first to find these marshmallows and think of treats, it looks like Mallow and Co has tried something similar as well.  She's also got a wealth of other awesome treat ideas, so it's worth checking out if you ever find yourself with a spare box of cereal and bag of marshmallows.  But while she went down the actual pie route suggested by the marshmallows, I instead took the lime as my starting point and just took it up a notch.  As usual, you'll see some optional ingredients listed that reflect whatever I had in my pantry that would add to the theme.  I even decided to make a glaze, because I wanted to make sure the lemon-lime really popped.  Snap, crackle, pucker, if you will.

I also used gluten-free Rice Krispies for the first time, because one of the knitters in my mom's group is intolerant, and if it's possible to keep the gluten out without really changing the recipe, I want to include her.  Plus, I know she likes citrus-y things because we introduced her to the deliciousness that is Trader Joe's lemon curd.

Oh, lemon curd would have gone great with time.

Citrus Rice Krispy Treats
Adapted from The Original Treats Recipe


  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 package Campfire Burst Key Lime Pie marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • dashes of dried orange and lemon zest
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
Optional: candied citrus peel, powdered sugar and lemon juice for glaze

  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter.  Reduce heat to low and add marshmallows, stirring until melted completely.  Add lemon extract and dried zests.
  2. Add cereal, stirring thoroughly.  Optional: add 1/4 cup or more of candied citrus peel.
  3. As soon as the cereal is fully coated, transfer into a 9" x 13" pan lined with parchment paper.  Use a spatula sprayed with non-stick spray to spread the cereal evenly in the pan, pressing down.  Allow to cool, then cut into squares.  Optional: mix powdered sugar and lemon juice to make a glaze, drizzling on top of the treats before cutting into squares.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Yellow Brick Rocky Road Fudge

You know it's been a busy few months when you look back through your own blog and realize that you forgot to post a recipe.  Horror of horrors!  I think the reason I let it slip through the cracks was because the 'recipe' itself is so simple.  But I refuse to let it remain undocumented because the results were so delicious.  So as I recover from my pre-training run in the over 90-degree heat of a Texas summer evening, allow me to take you back in time, to several weeks ago...

It all started with the marshmallows, which my mom found in the grocery store and in her wisdom, brought back to me, knowing that I would find some use for lemon-y marshmallows.  They're called Campfire Mallow Bursts, and these are the lemon meringue variety.  She also bought me key lime pie ones, which you'll see soon.

What to do with these delicious marshmallows?  My mind first connected to rocky road, with the soft and squishy marshmallows balanced by crunchy nuts and smooth chocolate.  I didn't want to do nuts with the lemon, so my crunchy element was instead a box of Girl Scout cookies I had stashed away in the freezer.  I also had some lemon candies and bits of zest that are always worth adding.  With this fudge, once you have your flavor profile, you can pretty much add whatever you think works.  This is probably the threshold, however, for the ratio of fudge to mix-ins.  Any more and I'm not sure the squares would have maintained their structural integrity.

But each additional ingredient came together to make this fudge irresistibly delicious.  I ate several pieces, more than I usually find myself needing to with my treats.  They were that good.  So I couldn't in all good conscience keep them from you.

Yellow Brick Rocky Road Fudge
Makes a 9" x 13" pan

  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • 1 (14 oz) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 (8 oz) bag lemon-flavored marshmallows, cut into smaller pieces
  • 1 box Girl Scout Lemonades, roughly chopped
  • handful of sour lemon candies, roughly chopped
  • sprinkling of dried lemon zest
  1. Mix chips and condensed milk into a microwaveable bowl.  Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring until melted.
  2. When chips have completely melted, stir in extract, marshmallows, cookies, candies, and zest.
  3. Pour mixture into a 9" x 13" pan lined with parchment paper.  Place in fridge, and cut into squares when set.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: KIP-ing along

This week, what I'm finding most inspirational in my knitting is getting to go out and do with with some friends as part of World Wide Knit in Public Day.  Rather than seeking out an organized event, we went rogue in our mission to expose the world to knitters in their natural habitat.

First, we went to go see Baz Luhrmann's take on 'The Great Gatsby'.  I looked forward to this movie's release for a while because Baz is one of my sentimental favorites, but wasn't able to actually go see it until now.  It didn't surpass any of the Red Curtain Trilogy films for me, but there were some enjoyable aspects, like cameos by 'Doug' from 'Strictly Ballroom' and Baz himself.  And I thought Leonardo DiCaprio really captured the romantic desperation of Gatsby.

Baz's wife did her fair share on the movie as well, as the costume designer.  The 20s fashion is just as gorgeous and bold as the rest of the film's visuals, and makes me want to knit a vintage pattern.  The closest I've come to a 'roaring' project is this cloche for the NaNoWriMo swap last year:

I don't think it's something Daisy would wear, she'd never appreciate the work that goes into a handmade.  But my spoilee liked it, so that's all that matters.

After the movie, it was time for lupper - too late for lunch, a little early to be dinner.  But it's always time for pancakes at Kerbey Lane Cafe.  This time I had one oatmeal raisin, one vegan peanut butter, and one classic gingerbread.  Or to be precise, I had a half of each one.  Tomorrow I'll start on the leftovers.

We did a little knitting after ordering while waiting for the griddle to heat up, and then after having stuffed ourselves silly with deliciousness.  But I don't think the point of WWKIP Day is how many rows you can get done, it's getting to spend time with other stitchers.  And that's where most of the inspiration comes from.  Sorry, it's not very specific.  But it's pretty easy to get for yourself.

Did you do anything for WWKIP Day?

And don't forget to check out more inspiration at Woolen Diversions.

Friday, June 14, 2013

5K and froyo hits (The Yogurt) Spot

So, I think I can say that I've moved beyond contemplation of insanity to commitment.  Not to an insane asylum, but to a marathon.  I haven't formally registered yet, but when I think about it, I've started thinking about how I want to train for it, not whether or not I will.  There are several options, from training programs that hold group runs every Saturday to plans I've found online that I could follow by myself.  Whatever I end up going with (I'm leaning towards Austin Fit right now, thanks to a commenter in my previous post), I have over a month until I enter the time frame for any of those programs.  So in the days before t-minus 26 weeks to the marathon, my goal is to extend my current conditioning from running a few miles at a time once a week to running a few miles at a time multiple times a week.

Marking the start of my pre-training training, I ran the Maudie's Moonlight Margarita Run last night.  If you remember, last year I celebrated reaching the finish line and refueled with a cupcake:

This time, it was frozen yogurt.  My mom once again helped me avoid the chaos of event parking by dropping me off, then settled herself in at The Yogurt Spot for some quality knitting and wi-fi time, with some tasty yogurt refreshment.  Further adding to her case for Mother of the Millennium, when I was done running, she got back into her truck and picked me up, with a bowl for me.  The frozen yogurt didn't last long enough for an at-home photo, so you'll have to imagine the bowl in my hands instead of the cupcake.  Same savoring-the-deliciousnee face, though.  Green Apple and Tart, mixed with pineapple, strawberries, kiwi, and a cherry on top.  Yum.  In true Yogurt Spot fashion, their Green Apple compares wonderfully against the others I've tried recently, and their Tart is fabulous as always.  Their prices have risen, though, from 43 to 49 cents an ounce.

Have you seen the commercial for Lay's potato chips where the woman is having her nails done, but just can't resist the greasy, salty goodness?  It makes me shudder just thinking about it, because the idea of the chip crumbs stuck in her still-wet polish is really disgusting to me.  I mention this not because I ate potato chips after my run as well, but because before my run I painted my nails with a quick coat of China Glaze's Papaya Punch before running this year, a slightly different shade of orange than last year.  I find that a fun nail polish is a helpful psychological trick in physical exertion.  Whether I'm keeping up the pace on the final lap or pulling the last rep on a bicep curl, seeing a glimmer or glamour while I'm feeling distinctly unglamorous can give me a boost.  And the fact that these colors coordinate with my lovely company-provided racing singlet makes it even more powerful.

The connection to that Lay's commercial is also because this color could just as easily be called 'Cheeto Orange'.  But that would probably not be as appealing to their target audience.  I do kind of like the idea of a whole line of polishes inspired by junk food.  Or maybe a collaboration between OPI and Ben & Jerry's.

I know, I'm weird.  But considering the pun in this post's title, what did you expect?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Brownie Chunk Cookies

I love leftovers, but I rarely leave them in their original form.  Grilled chicken with a side of steamed veggies one night will be chopped up and mixed together to make some savory pancakes for the next.  It's not that I never eat the same meal twice, because I very often do.  Just not generally from the same 'round' of ingredients.

Now, chicken and veggies are obvious leftovers.  But brownies?  Who has leftover brownies?  Well, I did.  They had somehow survived the gauntlet of office treats and made it into the freezer.  Rather than just thawing out the squares for late night snacking, I knew I was going to have to give something else a brownie boost.  I thought about ice cream, I classic choice.  But rather than selfishly create a dessert for myself, I reinvested into another baked good.

Any time you have something you want to just toss into a baked good, cookies are a pretty safe bet.  You can substitute almost anything for the traditional chocolate chip.  Including chunks of brownies.  Other than milk, the best beverage for a nice brownie, cookie, or brownie-stuffed cookie, is hot chocolate.  So why not also use a Ghiradelli hot cocoa mix in place of regular cocoa and some of the sugar?  There is no reason why not, and so the recipe I found was one using hot chocolate mix, and I just made the brownie substitution.

These were soft, chocolatey, and delicious leftovers.  And don't worry, I don't have any cookies left over to put into anything else!

Brownie Chunk Cookies
Recipe from Cookies and Cups

My Notes:
  • I substituted the recipe's mix-ins of marshmallow bits with 1 cup of prepared brownies chopped roughly into chunks
  • I also used milk chocolate chips and some chopped up white chocolate I had in my freezer
  • Mine didn't spread as much as the originals appear to have in photos, and could probably have stayed an extra few minutes in the oven.  But they were just fine as soft chunky cookies.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WIP Wednesday: A tale of two activities

Last week, having finished one book, I stood in front of my bookshelf and stared at it for a while, trying to decide what to read next.  Apparently my confidence levels are high not only in knitting (a cardigan!) and running (a marathon!), but in reading, because I settled on a 16th-century, 785-page tome: 'Don Quixote'.

According to a recent story on NPR, high school students are reading fewer classics, and I think that's a shame.  Contemporary novels are fantastic, but there is so much more to appreciate in those novels when you have a foundation in the history of the novel itself.  So kids want horror and fairy tales?  Hand them a Gothic novel (but maybe don't tell their parents about that one).  There are plenty of stories hidden in the harder-to-read books of the past.  And once you're lead to one, you're so much more likely to seek another one out for yourself.

And so here I am, with 'Don Quixote' on the sofa next to me along with my project bag.  I'm 86 pages in, and that is part of the reason I'm only a few more rows along in my sleeve.  I keep picking up my book instead of my needles when I have a random moment.  Also: I haven't been able to go to my coffee klatch at work for two weeks in a row now, so I've been missing on that prime knitting time.

But still, it's progress.  I'll find the balance eventually, and then I can sit on the sofa curled up with a good book while I'm wearing this cardigan.  Whether that book will still be 'Don Quixote', I'm not sure.

For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami's Amis.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tell me if I'm crazy

For the past week, I've been considering something that might be a little insane.  I keep wavering between thinking that I can do this, and feeling overwhelmed at the prospect.  Here it is: I'm thinking of running a marathon.

It's an idea that's been ruminating in my mind for a while now, as a vague, 'someday' idea: running a marathon.  But since the company I worked for announced that they are sponsoring the Austin Marathon, I've been thinking that perhaps someday is 250 days from now.  26.2 miles to be covered while I'm still 26 (the day before my birthday).  The numbers are really aligning there, aren't they?  Okay, that's probably a sign of insanity, seeing meaning in numbers, but I can't help it.

The idea has been in my head for the past week, carefully revealed to just a few people so far.  I didn't want to mention it only to renege after coming to my senses.  There's nothing to make you feel less accomplished than for someone to say, 'Hey, weren't you going to run that marathon?' and have to admit that you never actually did.  But after several Google sessions about training, and coming to terms with the number of hours I will have to log, I think I'm tentatively ready to say that it's something I might do.  Possibly.  That's a commitment, of sorts.

I have a 5k to run this Thursday, which I'm thinking will be the kickstart of my pre-training running routine. So what I'm wanting from those of you out there in the world wide web is a sanity check: just how crazy am I?  And if you have any advice, please give it!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: 'A Glass of Blessings' by Barbara Pym

For the past few months, I've felt a little like a literary poser, because I haven't been reading as much as I would like.  And who is a bookworm without having their nose in a book?  The trouble is, it's rather difficult to multitask with reading.  You cannot read and blog, or read and knit.  You can read and walk, but that takes a certain amount of skill, grace, and clear pathways.  And so my poor books have sat on the shelf, waiting for me.  And one in particular waited in that perilous state of being half-read, 'A Glass of Blessings' by Barbara Pym.

Distilling a plot into a few sentences always seems hollow, but let me try.  The book is narrated by Wilmet Forsyth, a housewife in 1950s London.  She lives a comfortable life of leisure with her civil servant husband, indulging in imagined romances with various other men around her while she endeavors to be somewhat useful in the church.  Wilmet reminds me so strongly of Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse, with her secure, not to say privileged, lifestyle that has left her self-involved, naive, but ultimately well-intentioned.  Her daily dramas are on a similar scale of scandal, nothing more serious than 'borrowing' a Faberge egg.  There's even a not-unsubstantial amount of knitting in the plot, from sweaters being made to Wilmet's meeting a knitting pattern model, another suburban scandal.

I cannot possibly recommend the works of Barbara Pym more.  I love her.  I wrote an entire research paper about her in my last year of college.  A single blog post could never be worthy enough of my devotion to her wonderful novels, so I'm just going to start with this one.  You might think that because it took me so long to finish it, that should mean it wasn't interesting enough, but in fact I think the ability to set this book down for long periods of time, then pick it back up and turn the pages just as quickly again is a mark of a wonderful book.  Wandering through Wilmet's world is easy, and I wish I could join her mother-in-law Sybil in the sitting room after a lovely tea and knit with her.

I reached the end of the book last night, and now I'm wondering what to read next.  Are you reading anything at the moment?  Have you read any books, that aren't a part of the growing knit lit genre, where knitting pops up?

For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Peas for the Pod Cupcakes

I told you about last week's cubicle move in my WIP Wednesday post.  One of the downsides of our new 'neighborhood' is that our team has lost a space we called 'The Pod', an isolated quad of combined cubicles with a projector that served as a great impromptu meeting space when all of the dedicated conference rooms were already booked.

Over the next few weeks it will be totally deconstructed to make way for not just new people but a whole new floor plan, so the usual coffee social became a wake for the area, complete with eulogy given by a former manager (wearing a kilt!), memorial light show, and, of course, baked goods.  This was the first time I'd really been 'commissioned' in a sense to bake something.  After offering my services, a co-worker requested cupcakes as a crowd pleaser.

So cupcakes it would be.  But not just cupcakes.  Oh no, I decided I needed pod cupcakes.  I did a little research in hopes that there would be some obvious food that pod people ate in 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers', but no such luck.  So instead, I decided that the play on words was going to have to be peas in the pod.  I figured it sounded just crazy enough to work.

First, I tried a James Beard recipe for pea cake made from scratch, and it turned out alright, like a nice dense, moist snack cake.  But they didn't rise much, and I ended up with 15 cupcakes that were only 1/2 to 2/3 full.  If I'd had the energy to make another batch, I could have done that, but it's really a recipe that should be done when you have an electric mixer on hand.  So I turned to a standby box of cake mix and applied a tried and true mantra: substitution.  You can use almost anything you like in place of the oil called for on the box, from the often suggested applesauce to, well, pea puree.

Because the mix flavor was just a yellow funfetti, the resulting cakes were a very pretty spring green.  In a chocolate cake, you probably wouldn't even know the veggies were there, the taste certainly doesn't give anything away.  A few people were skeptical about these, I even caught some people (who weren't part of the event, but were in a second meeting where leftovers were brought) wondering why anyone would put vegetables in a cupcake.  But those willing to try loved them.  And all the more for the fried green peas I found in the trail mix section of the produce area at HEB.

Peas for the Pod Cupcakes
Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

  • 1 box cake mix (I used Rainbow Chip)
  • Water and eggs as called for in directions
  • Pea puree, as much as the directions call for oil
  • Cream cheese frosting (I used store bought)
Optional garnishes: Fried green peas, sprinkles

  1. To make pea puree: Take frozen peas out of freezer and allow to thaw.  For 1/2 cup of puree, you will need to start with at least 1 cup of peas.  In a blender or food processor, blend peas until they are a smooth puree.  Keep covered in fridge until ready to use.
  2. Follow directions on the cake mix box for cupcakes, substituting pea puree for the oil called for.
  3. When completely cooled, frost with cream cheese frosting and top with any desired garnishes.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

WIP Wednesday: The needles on the bus go knit, knit, knit

Unfortunately, I didn't get to do any knitting today because I had a surprise meeting scheduled over the top of my coffee klatch time.  I had to send my cookies down with a co-worker to keep everyone's sugar levels at reasonable levels to survive the afternoon.

But fortunately, I did get to do some extra knitting earlier this week.  I had the opportunity to attend a conference in downtown Austin for work, and rather than braving either the traffic or the parking, I decided to take the bus.  I found a route that went from the Southpark Meadows shopping center up Congress.

It may take a little longer than if I had driven myself, but aside from the money and stress savings, the additional time it takes is actually a bonus to me, because I was able to spend it knitting the sleeve of my cardigan.  No shifting gears, no red lights, no crazy commuters putting on their make-up and riding my bumper at the same time.  Just knit one, purl through the back loop, repeat, purl one, knit through the back loop, repeat.

That's right, I'm onto the sleeve, which means I've finished both the left and right front sections.  I pinned them up just to see them closer to their finished shape, rather than rolled up in the project bag and curled up on themselves.  So don't get too excited, this isn't blocking, it's more...staging.

I also went ahead and set the buttons on top, I think they are a great match.  I can't wait to get these sleeves and the rest of this cardigan done so I can wear it.  But if I did it all on a bus, I'd probably be back in New York before it was done.

For more WIPs this Wednesday, visit Tami's Amis.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Tokyo tales: Love Sweets Antiques

Okay, I'm back to reliving some memories of my trip to Tokyo.  I was browsing through my iPhoto and felt the need to share.  I also know that I should offer up some more yarn-finding advice for others who might be optimistically typing in 'yarn + Tokyo' into Google like I did.  I'll try to do that as well, but here's a totally non-crafty, but totally cute, bit of Tokyo love.

I did a lot of extra walking when I was wandering on my own through the city.  I wanted to see everything I could, so I often passed up some possible metro connections to take the longer route to the closest train station.  The bonus of the train is that you stay above ground, plus map reading those lines is a little simpler than the underground.  And in cases where destinations were just a single train stop away, I often just skipped public transport entirely and took to my feet.

This resulted in my getting to see a lot of randomly cool things (and I'll be honest, a lot of randomly boring things as well).  It also made me feel even less guilty about indulging in whatever food I felt like trying.  And as soon as I spotted this cute little storefront on my way from Harajuku to Shibuya (at the junction of Aoyoma Dori and Omotesando), I knew I wanted to try whatever it was they might be selling.  From across the street, I couldn't be sure what they were, but they sure were colorful.

What they were were donuts...sort of.  Love Sweets Antiques (that's a Japanese-only site, FYI) fulfills every expectation of cuteness, with plastic donuts dangling from chandeliers and piled up next to a big white rabbit.

The non-plastic donuts you actually eat come in little octagonal boxes and are kept refrigerated.  All I had to go on in choosing my sweet was color, so I chose the pretty purple.  That turned out to be blueberry.  Rather than fried dough, these rings have a base of sponge cake, with a mousse on top that's set a little bit like a panna cotta (with bits of actual blueberry in mine).  They don't really fit any definition of donut I've come across before, but they are circular and delicious, so it doesn't really matter.

I wandered a little down the street and found a place to sit for a few minutes to eat my sweet with one of those tiny plastic flattened spoons similar to the ones you get in fancy gelato places.  Revived nutritionally and aesthetically, it was time to continue the journey down to Shibuya to find another Tokyu Hands location.  But hopefully more on that in another post...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: A swath of swatches

I have a random assortment of things that are inspiring me which share a common term: swatch.  It's funny how a single word can end up describing so many colorful things.

Knitting Swatches

I can't write about swatches and not first mention knitting, although it's perhaps the least personally inspiring example.  For me, swatching is one of those healthy habits that I know I should foster, but usually just...don't.  Something about it just feels like a waste of time, even though I know in my crafting soul that it isn't.  Thankfully it has yet to cause me any real trouble, but there have been a few projects that I've bitten the bullet and swatched.  Like for this Extermi-mac! laptop cozy:

This involved me merging some existing charts and using a different gauge of yarn, so I needed to make sure that the Daleks would still look like Daleks.

What I love, though, are projects that are made up entirely of swatch-like samplers of various stitches.  Because there are so many interesting ones out there, just like colors of nail polish, it's probably easier to mix them all up than to aim to use them each in their own project.  Whether it's in scarves, afghans, bags, or cushions, I like swatches that become something more.

Swatch the Dog

As a Project Runway fan from season one, visiting Mood Fabrics while I was in New York for college at least once was a must.  I wasn't crafty enough to invest in any actual fabric at the time.  If I were to go back, I would at least get a yard or two of something fabulous for a project bag or something.  And I would of course go running through the aisles calling out 'Swatch!  Swatch!'
Photo credit: Mood Fabrics
He's the pet of manager Eric Sauma and has earned his own little following amongst sewing animal lovers.  He has his own Pinterest board, and the only thing cuter would be if Swatch and Ravelry's Bob got together for a play date of the crafty mascots.

Paint Chips/Swatches

I'm working on another notebook in my notebook swap, and this one's owner has a very obvious favorite color: purple.  It's even in her Ravelry username, so the other weekend while I happened to be in Lowe's I decided to go ahead and grab a selection of the deepest purples I could find.  I'm using them as my inspiration for my pages in a few ways, including taking the names and working them into a very short story.  I've also wanted to do some kind of decor project with paint chips/swatches for years, there are so many possibilities.  Here's just one Pinterest board someone has curated full of ideas.

Nail Polish Swatches

This week I took advantage of the three-day weekend by taking a little of that extra time to paint my nails.  I have a stash of nail polish which may well be just as impressive (or scary) as my yarn stash.  Like jewelry, knitwear, and shoes, nail polish is a colorful detail that I add to my outfits to make myself smile even in the grayest of days.  Ironically enough, though, this week the polish I chose to feature was on the gray side of blue, OPI's I Don't Give a Rotterdam.  It's a sort of slate blue with gold tone shimmer.  I haven't decided yet if I'm going to switch it up for next week or try and extend this three-coater as long as I can.

I probably have enough polish to paint each nail a different color for every week of the year, but that doesn't keep me from staring at swatches of the new colors as they are released.  These are a few of the sites that I have bookmarked:

Not only are they far more skilled with those brushes than I am, they take great photos.

For more inspiration this weekend, go to Woolen Diversions.