Saturday, May 31, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Puttering decluttering

Is it technically summer yet?  It's nice and warm like summer.  And last Thursday was my five-year anniversary of graduating college (yes, I marked it in my calendar), so that signifies something.  The schools are almost out.  It used to be that Texas seemed to be on a schedule of its own, starting summer early, mid- or late May, and then returning to school early, mid- to late August.  From Kindergarten through high school, I don't think I ever had a true Memorial Day long weekend, because summer had already started.

Anyway, all of this is to say that my current flurry of organizing probably cannot be technically attributed to spring cleaning.  But no matter the season, it does feel good to make incremental progress towards the perpetual human goal of overcoming chaos.  So I just wanted to share a few of the organizational thoughts I've had:

  • When you're trying to catalogue your book collection, having the GoodReads app scan barcodes is a miracle.  No longer will I stand in the aisles of Half Price Books trying to remember if I already have that book!
  • I will probably never actually cut up all of the magazines I've collected and turn them into a massive collage.  So the issues of Vogue that I have in triplicate can be perused one last time for any particularly gorgeous photo spreads that I want to keep, and then taken to Half Price Books for the nickel that they'll probably give me for them.
  • I would love to take my winter clothes out of my wardrobe for the summer and store them to create more closet space, but because every indoor area is air conditioned to my personal freezing levels, I can't.  I just might need that sweater at work.  Even in July.
  • Sometimes, it's not about finding a permanent place for everything in a pile of junk.  Sometimes, you just need to disassemble the pile, get rid of a few things, find places for some things, and then move what remains into a slightly smaller pile somewhere else.
Are you doing any unseasonal spring cleaning?  What are your piles mostly made up of?  Books?  Clothes?  Future craft projects?  For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Bows and sews

Two things that are always good, but even better when combined: crafty friends and long weekends.  Both of them are gifts that keep on giving.  With long weekends, you get the week beforehand to look forward to having Monday off, then the actual holiday, and then the shorter workweek immediately following.  So what is technically eight hours of flex holiday on my timesheet is actually two weeks of morale boosting.

And crafty friends are even better.  Friends in general are awesome, of course.  Someone to chat with, laugh with, go to the movies and eat froyo with.  But if you also have someone to click needles with, well then!  Not only a companion who understands your frogging frustrations, but because no two crafters are exactly alike, someone who can also teach you something new.

I did get some work done on my Bow Peep's Black Sheep, but while it's still soft and chic, it's just not as exciting as having done my first real amount of machine sewing.  All thanks to two of my friends who quilt.  We spent two days out of the three-day weekend sewing, watching British comedies, and noshing.  It was exactly what I needed to go from a theory of a subway-tiled quilt out of Jay McCarroll fat quarters to my first sewn cowl and a lot of progress on the front of that quilt-to-be.

After ironing, I cut each of my fat quarters were cut into 4x6" bricks:

Then I used my friend's handy dandy new design board to mock up my quilt.  Each brick of fabric just sort of sticks to the matting on the board, so I was able to make sure that I mixed up all of the prints appropriately and play around with the dimensions of width and height:

I ended up with 19 rows with 10 bricks each.  I took the bricks sticking out on the righthand side and cut them in half to go back to the start of the same row.

Then it was time to actually sew!  I powered through eight rows before it was time to pack things up for the night:

I'm seriously considering invading my friend's house again this weekend to try and get the other eleven rows pieced together.  Being in the middle of a step in the process is nagging at me.  But once that is done, I'm sure I'll be feeling cautious and worried about moving onto the next step.  I always get comfortable with each step and become paranoid that I'll have problems with the next one.  Hopefully it will always be 'the next step' where the trouble lies.

This is why I need crafty friends, for the moral support to push me from one step to the next.  And to ring out a cow bell on their iPhones whenever I finish something.

For more WIP Wednesday posts, check out Tami's Amis; but first, tell me: How did you spend your long weekend?  Spend any time crafting with friends?  What have they helped you do to expand your repertoire?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Sew-in Saturday!

Sorry for the last-minute post, but I spent all day at a friend's house doing my first real sewing.  It's very exciting!  I did some preparatory ironing and cutting for a quilt, but I also actually finished a super-easy sewing project that I can recommend for other first-timers:

It's an infinity cowl, basically turning a yard of fabric into a tube and sewing it together.  I'll try to post more details later, but for now I'm just trying to get this posted and log my 10,000 steps on the Fitbit before midnight, so I gotta run, literally!

Do you sew?  What kinds of things do you make or would you want to make?  Garments, quilts, or maybe accessories, like bags?  I think I want to try a little of each to see what sticks.  For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Friday, May 23, 2014

One small step for a pedometer...

New gadget alert!

After many faithful years of service, my Sportline pedometer finally stopped working last week.  I can't say enough good things about my experience with it, particularly because the company was really nice about replacing the plastic clip the few times it broke over the course of five-plus years (normal wear and tear for something used every day).

But the step counter was just not incrementing, so I decided that it was time that I finally take advantage of some of the many advancements made in pedometer offerings in recent years.  Again, nothing against the Sportline, but the model I had was kind of like the first cell phone I ever had, which was a chunky flip phone that had the same screen the computer I played Oregon Trail on in middle school, black with green pixels.

Now, I have one of these:
It's a FitBit Zip.  And it's pink!

I thought about getting some of the fancier activity trackers with sleep monitors or the ones you wear around your wrist all day.  But I really only need the step-counting part of it.  It is fun to be able to sync to my computer and phone, but otherwise, I'm just glad that I didn't have to go more than a few days without a pedometer.

Do you use a pedometer or other snazzy activity tracker?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Stayin' alive, stayin' alive

I just caught sight of a headline on the cover of Rolling Stone about the BeeGees, and now their disco fabulous voices are in my head.  Hence the title.

While I was posting every day for blog week, I also managed to do some knitting.  It doesn't look particularly interesting, so I took some inspiration from the challenge to do different kinds of graphics from last week and came up with this:

Original image by tiny owl knits
So close!  I'm nearly done with the neck section and ready to mirror the first half of the bow.  I continue to love the feel of the yarn and the simplicity of the pattern.  I can't wait to see if it really does tie up like a pretty bow in the end.

Another thing I've managed to do for the past couple of weeks is keep some plants alive (ah! ah! ah! ah! Stayin' aliiiiiiiiiive!).  Texas drought is no joke, so while the beautiful wildflowers inspire gardening aspirations, it's not always easy to keep things from drying up, even before we've entered the truly roasting summer.  Particularly because I have no interest in 'spending' more water by using a hose or sprinkler.  So instead, I save some water from the sink from things like soaking ears of corn before steaming or washing out a dish.  I've been pouring that over over a rose bush and another flower pot every day or so, and if it's been a 'bumper' crop for water, I offer some up to the pomegranate tree.  So they are my unofficial works in progress as well:

What are you working on, knitting-wise, gardening-wise, or just life-wise?  For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami's Amis.

(And I'm sorry if you now have the BeeGees stuck in your head.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Owl Blondies

First of all, I want to give a congratulatory shout-out to myself and all of the bloggers who participated in the 5th Annual Knitting & Crochet Blog Week.  A particular shoutout to Eskimimi Makes for putting it all together.  I had a lot of fun, and it's really making me think about the possibilities for blending a little more fiction (and composed non-fiction) into my blog.  And, of course, it has me remembering all of the craft promises I've been making to myself and my stash.  Hopefully I'll be fulfilling them soon.

Second of all, I've been doing a little spring cleaning around my room, and speaking of stashes...I have collected a lot of magazines over the years.  I fulfilled my role as a stereotypical teenage girl and consumed my fair share of magazines.  And then I saved them all (fashion, beauty, fitness, even home and gardening!) for the purposes of collage.  Except I haven't found the time to do a lot of the application of the images to paper.  Maybe that should be one of my goals, to tear apart a magazine and toss the remnants regularly.  Just what I need, another goal.

Third of all, the reason for this post: a recipe!  I'm a firm believer in the melted ice cream cake, but this was my first time making melted ice cream blondies.  I'm happy to report that it works just as well.  I had two pints of Ben & Jerry's that each had just enough left in them to replace the butter in these blondies.  Because the flavors were peanut butter-y, I threw in some chopped nuts, which I also had on hand in my just-enough-to-bake-with inventory.

I guess what magazines used to be to me, baking accessories now are, because I could not resist this owl pan.  Except that unlike the magazine collages, these blondes actually did get made.  And eaten.

Owl Blondies
Adapted from smitten kitchen: blondes, infinitely adaptable
Makes a dozen


  • 1/2 cup melted ice cream*
  • 1 cup unpacked brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, mixed (optional)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • a handful of M&Ms

*I used a mix of Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Jam Session and Banana Peanut Butter Greek Frozen Yogurt


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a bowl, mix together melted ice cream and brown sugar.  Add egg and vanilla, mix until combined.  Finally, mix in nuts.
  3. Prepare owl pan by coating with non-stick spray.  Fill each well about 3/4 full.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes, until middle is set and edges are golden.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before carefully removing from pan and transferring to wire rack.
  5. In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar with just enough water to create a glaze.
  6. Using a fork, drizzle a dot of glaze onto the eyes of each owl and press an M&M in place.  Then, place another dot on top of the M&M.
  7. Drizzle glaze over owls to highlight beak, feet, and a zig-zag of feathers.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

5KCBWDAY7: The ghosts and goals of KCBW past

Looking Back, Looking Forward.  If you took part in last year’s Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, look back on your Day Seven post. Did any of the techniques, ideas and hopes for the last 12 months that you wrote about at that time ever make it onto the hook or needles?...And there is also time to look forward again: One year from now, when the 6th Knitting & Crochet Blog Week rolls around, where do you hope your crafting will have taken you to? What new skills, projects and experiences do you hope you might have conquered or tried? Do you have any wishes for your blogging that you’d like to follow?

My hopes from last year's Day Seven were:

Finishing my first cardigan.

Bam!  It took me most of the twelve months between blog weeks to get this one done, but I did it!  In a fit of impetuousness I actually knit a swatch to possibly test knit a pattern as my second cardigan.  But then I realized that the stress of an actual deadline and the higher possibility of errata was probably not conducive to success.  Plus, I have several other cardigans with patterns and corresponding yarn already picked out.

Racing through another Tour de Fleece.

I finished Mom's handspun yarn, but since then, I've been spending too much time knitting with commercially-spun yarn to do any spinning of my own.  But I hope to get my Ashford spinning soon.  I think taking it to Yarnorama for one of their first Saturday spin-ins to get started will be a gentle introduction, with the peer pressure/social support to keep me motivated.

More experiments in dyeing.

Yes and no with this one.  Earlier this year I dyed up another batch of mini skeins, this time inspired by Jane Austen.  But I stuck to my Kool-Aid comfort zone.  I have another planned yarn dye coming up that will again be using Kool-Aid, but I'd like to try some other dyeing methods, both in the dyes and the effects, soon.

Trying my hand at sewing.

Unfortunately, this bag was sewn by my mother, and I am still woefully unskilled in this arena.  I helped with the fox pillow for Christmas, but I'm still more observer than crafter.  I'm hoping that this will change as soon as next weekend, though, because I the same knitting friends who we celebrate foodie holidays with are also quilters.  So we're going to spend one day out of the three-day weekend doing a little sew-in.  And they already enabled me into buying some fabric yesterday to add to my aspirational stash, so they've promised to help me along in learning how to actually put it all to use.

Owning my stash.

Well, I have gotten better about logging my yarn purchases in Ravelry so that I know what I have and can match skeins to projects.  Outside of the interwebs, though, my stash organization still has room for improvement.  The hanging organizer in the spare room closet works, but can't hold everything, and Mom and I both really want to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep stash and FOs moth-free.  We have some ideas that we're working on, but I'm still open to suggestions and inspiration if you have any.

For the coming year, I hope to continue to make progress on what I laid out for myself last year, because the cardigan was really the only one I expected to be completed in twelve months.  The rest are all about gradual improvement.  And even counting the cardigan, now I want to try a top-down, seamless pattern, and the completely-differently-constructed Spoked Cardigan.  I think that when it comes down to crafting in the next year, I just hope that I can enjoy what I create and express myself through it.

And speaking of expression, I have some more specific ideas and hopes for this blog.  I'll be making some behind the scenes changes like going self-hosted and buying a domain, but you'll see some of the results on this side of the curtain because I'll probably be changing the name.  Basically, I want to turn this into a more complete expression of myself, from knitting to baking to writing to everything. You might even be seeing more of my cupcake alter ego from day three.

It's not going to happen overnight, and right now I'm in cautious research mode to make sure that when I make the switch everything goes smoothly and I don't lose any of you.  But just so you know, even when I'm not posting, I'm still thinking about this blog and how to make it better.

I'm looking forward to the next year, whatever it holds.  I feel comfortable in what I know I can do and excited about what more I can learn.  I hope you'll all enjoy coming along with me.

For more 'Looking Back, Looking Forward' posts from day seven of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, search on the 5KCBWDAY7 tag.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

5KCBWDAY6: Every day is Mother's Day

Views Of Others, Views Of Yourself.  Write about another knitter or crocheter that you admire...Next, think about if anyone has ever told you how they feel about your knitting, positive or negative.

I'm sure that, if pressed, I could come up with some other knitters that I admire.  But really, when I read this prompt, I knew that there was no one I could possibly pay homage to before my mother.

My mom knit for years before I was born and when I was little, but her crafting went into hiatus when we moved from Germany to Texas when I was three years old.  The reason, as you can imagine, was the heat.  Woolen cables are just not as desirable in a summer that can last six months.

It wasn't until I went away to college and joined my campus' Stitch 'n Bitch group that I even realized that my mom was a knitter.  Thankfully the yarn selection had come a long way in 15 or so years beyond itchy, too-warm woolens and she could imagine knitting again, so as I was discovering the craft for the first time, she was rediscovering it. Here was her first second-time-around project:

While she was making a teddy bear, I was struggling with my first scraggly scarf.  You know the type, where each row is a different width and when you take it out again years later you don't even know how you created and lost so many stitches.

Since then, she's made so many cool things:

Mosaic dishcloths for the Yarnorama swap

Lots and lots of shawls

That's just a random sample, you've already seen some of the others that she's done for me, like my Blackberry cardigan and Sasha skirt.  There's nothing she can't knit.  Although she doesn't like to knit socks.  So there's my opportunity to do something that she doesn't.

I don't know that anyone has ever expressed any feelings about my knitting, either positive or negative.  The only thing coming to mind is strangers telling my how colorful my Fruit Loopy Shawl was.

For more 'Views Of Others, Views Of Yourself' posts from day six of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, search on the 5KCBWDAY6 tag.

Friday, May 16, 2014

5KCBWDAY5: Because blogging in rhyming couplets isn't hipster at all

Something A Bit Different.  It’s the annual challenge to blog in a way different to how you normally blog.

A hipster?  Not me!
That kind of ironic cool I just could not be.
I can see you're confused, and lest we debate,
Please give me a moment to set the record straight.
I do live in Austin, that much I allow.
But I'm not in a band, just like I don't raise cows.
I love watching sports, on the sofa I sit,
And cheer on the Longhorns (yes, while I knit).
Okay, fine!  To that point I concede:
I not only knit, I spin and I bead.
And while we're at it, I didn't go to UT,
But a liberal arts school, Sarah Lawrence (SLC).
A mythical mascot and no football team,
Where toppling the patriarchy is a literal pipe dream.
But I never suffered from drug-induced munchies,
I indulged played cards with my friends for four-hour brunches.
I beg your forgiveness, for that terrible rhyme,
But those marathon Sundays were my favorite times.
Perhaps being a hipster would be preferred,
But looks are deceiving, I'm just a nerd.
I don't have qualms about being enthused,
My childlike excitement must be excused.
"But ah-ha," you may say, "You blog and you bake."
To which I reply, "But all inorganic, to the last cupcake."
Yes, there is evidence, that earlier this week,
I went to BookPeople to hear Garrison Keillor speak.
But I must implore, for Guy Noir's sake,
We can't all be hipsters, who long for Wobegon lake.
I'm so glad we had this clarifying chat:
I'm not a hipster...not that there's anything wrong with that.

For more 'Something a Bit Different' posts from day five of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, search on the 5KCBWDAY5 tag.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

5KCBWDAY4: Apologies to my Ashford

Conversations Between Workers.  Start by writing a few short paragraphs from the point of view of one of the tools you use for your craft...Then, write a dialogue between yourself and this item.

I do not have delusions of grandeur.  I know that I am but a humble spinning wheel.  I have been described as functional, practical, a good wheel to learn on.  But since making the arduous journey across Texas to Austin last October, I have not functioned, I have not practiced, and she has not learned.

Instead I sit in the living room, waiting and watching as she knits with commercially-spun yarn.  I know she yearns to turn roving into handspun.  I see her turn her glance my way, I feel her best intentions (we wheels are very wise in that way).  I know the time is drawing near when plans turn to actions and research becomes lessons.  If only I could talk to her...

J: I'm sorry, Ashford.  One day I'll learn to spin.
A: I know.
J: Did...did you just talk?
A: Well, not talking.  I'm tapping into the psychic link that connects all crafters and their tools.  The 'Bob' line.
J: I'm having a conversation with my Ashford.
A: You can call me Ashley.
J: Ashley.  Right.  Hi?
A: Hi.
J: So, um, I'm sorry.  I really do want to learn how to spin on you, but...
A: I know.  Work.  Knitting.  Running.  Blogging.
J: Yeah.
A: But wheels were meant to spin.  It's not difficult, I promise.  You just have to get started.  I promise not to prick your finger and send you into a deep sleep.
J: Alright.
A: So...when do we start?
J: I'll find a class or something.
A: You could have taken one at Hill Country Weavers.
J: Yeah, but that was for three Sunday mornings.
A: The marathon was Saturday mornings, and more of them.
J: True.
A: So...when do we start?
J: I'll take you to Yarnorama for a First Saturday spin-in.
A: Which one?  June?
J: Maybe July.  June is Yellow Rose Fiber Fiesta.
A: Will you buy me some fiber?
J: Maybe.  We've already got a couple of braids for you, though.
A: Just don't wait until October.

I won't.  Don't worry!

For more 'Conversations Between Workers' posts from day four of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, search on the 5KCBWDAY4 tag.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

5KCBWDAY3: Wednesday means the week is only half-baked

Experimental Photography And Image Handling For Bloggers.  Refresh your skills at creating attention-grabbing pictures.

For more 'Experimental Photography' posts from day three of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, search on the 5KCBWDAY3 tag.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

5KCBWDAY2: Dread pirates need not apply

Dating Profile. Write a dating profile for one of your past finished projects.

Name: GlamoROUS!
Age: 3 years
Looking for: A fellow rodent of unusual size to roam the fire swamp with and some day build a summer home with a white picket fence.
Dream date: Roasting marshmallows over flame spurts.

About me:  I'm the most colorful creature in the fire swamp and I don't mind letting everyone know it!  I'm a flamboyant, fun-loving rodent of unusual size and even more unusual color.

I may have permanently manicured beaded nails, but that doesn't mean I'm just a girly-girl.  I'm not shy about getting my silky mohair mix a little dirty by rolling around in the lightning sand from time to time.  Life is too short not to have fun.

A day without laughing? Inconceivable!

For more 'Dating Profile' posts from day two of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, search on the 5KCBWDAY2 tag.

Monday, May 12, 2014

5KCBWDAY1: Wobegon knits

A Day In The Life. Describe a day in the life of a project that you have made, or are in the process of making.

The rumors had been swirling like colors in a dye pot for days.  The TARDIS mitts had reported from the office, but could only discern clues from Joanna's typing.  As usual, it was the WIPs that had the most information, overhearing Joanna as she knit and chatted with her mother.  Mini Fox was at a disadvantage, being cooped up in her project bag for the past week, and as yet not having been given ears.  But she had been sitting on the sofa by Joanna's side, and so was able to confirm Bow Peep's excited account.

"She's going to take the bus," Bow Peep paused for effect.  The other knits were sufficiently awed, as few of them had ever been worn on a bus.  It was only the more senior FOs who could boast of the grand old days of public transportation when they were worn to keep out the cold on the Prague trams or New York City subway.  Most of them had, from the time they were first bought as skeins of yarn, travelled only by car.  Except, of course, the swap items.  They never let pass an opportunity to regale the group of their harrowing journeys at the hands of the US postal service.

"Where is she going?"  Union Jack piped in from high up on the shelf.

"BookPeople," Bow Peep answered.  "She's going to see..." her stitches spread across the cable of her circular needles as she strained to remember.  "She's going to see..."

"Garrison Keillor," Mini Fox intervened.

"Yes.  Garrison Keillor."  Bow Peep didn't like to be upstaged.  She was quite taken with the spotlight that came with being the current WIP, having Joanna gush about the softness of her angora/alpaca blend and then gushing to the FOs about Joanna's gushing.  But she and Mini Fox were friends, so she wasn't too annoyed.  And anyway, she knew that whatever exciting adventure was to come, she would likely be brought along, so she could let her have this little moment.  "She's going to see Garrison Keillor and have him sign something."

"A book, presumably." Amigurumi Joss Whedon was in a sarcastic mood.  No one paid any mind.

"So it's inside the store?" Knitter in the Rye asked.  "That means she's going to have to wear something knit.  She's always cold indoors anyway, and she'll want to wear something pretty.  Something like a lacy shawl made from yarn by one of her favorite indie dyers..."

"What makes you so sure she'll take you?"  Fruit Loopy confronted Rye.  "Maybe she'll want something more colorful, to catch Garrison's eye.  People always comment about my colors."

"Ladies, ladies.  Shawls are all well and good, but a cabled cardigan, now that is impressive."  Blackberry rolled her collar impressively.  But she was no longer the only handknit cardigan in the bunch.

"Oh yes, cables are impressive," Lexe-ME began innocently.  "But beads are so subtly striking, don't you think?  And you could hardly blame her for wanting to wear something she knit herself rather than something her mother made for her."  She knew Joanna was still quite proud of her first cardigan, despite the fact that her sleeves owed quite a bit to the mother's sewing.

This contentious discussion continued for some time.  The swap items were indignant at the implication that just because they had been knit by someone else did not make them any less likely candidates to see this Garrison Keillor, while the berets insisted that it would not be cliche for Joanna to wear them to a reading by an NPR personality, despite quips from Joss about a critical mass of hipsterness.  Easter Impulse thought a cowl would be the best compromise between showing off Joanna's crafting while not looking like she was trying too hard.  But in that case, Sea Cowl was sure that, having been not only knit but spun by Joanna, she should have the edge in the cowl category.

Secure in her role as the way Joanna would spend her time before the reading and perhaps in the signing line, Bow Peep eventually intervened before anyone started felting.  "Now, now, there's no way to know what she's going to wear.  And it isn't as though we can actually do anything about it."  She looked to Vincent's Brushstrokes for confirmation that indeed, no one had any sort of fiber-fluence over Joanna.  Purple Prague, one of the oldest and wisest among them, confirmed Bow Peep's assumption.

"She's right.  We cannot control what Joanna wears.  She could wear Sochi Socki on her hands as mittens for all we know," the knits all chuckled.  "The needlepoint is, someone's going to get to keep her warm and proclaim her to be a knitter.  And whoever it is, it's their responsibility to tell us all about it when they get home."

This was a truth which twisted no ones stitches.

For more 'A Day In The Life' posts from day one of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, search on the 5KCBWDAY1 tag.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: A haul from Half Price Books

There are two kinds of shopping trip.  The first is mission-based, like stopping in the grocery store for ten ears of corn because they are 6 for $1, as I did yesterday.  The second is more along the lines of 'the journey is the destination', where you meander into and around a store just to see what you can find.  I am more of a meanderer by nature, and even when I have a mission, I tend to explore areas of the store that have nothing to do with the mission.  Just in case.  But some shopping trips are strictly a case of being in the general area and not having been in there in a while.  This is usually how I end up  in Half Price Books.

Half Price Books is such a dangerous place.  It blends my intrinsic desire for a good deal with my voracious hoarding of books.  There's no way I could ever have the time to read them all, but the idea of reading them is too alluring to ever leave them behind.  Eventually, I tell myself, I will get to them.  And for a dollar, it seems silly not to.

So last Saturday, before seeing the free form lace at Gauge, and even before swirling frozen yogurt at Yogurtland, we stopped at Half Price Books.  I ended up with two distinct stacks: literature and knitting.

First, the knitting books:

I just love lace so much.  I most want to try Sea-Foam Top, although one day the Silk Stockings might be fun.

Rowan's Greatest Knits by Rowan Yarns

The Long Leaf Coat is epic, but never, ever going to happen.  The Geneva Camisole, however, that's a possibility.

Japanese Inspired Knits by Marianne Isager

We all know how much I love anything that reminds me of my trip to Tokyo.  And I am in love with The Carp, although I must admit that looking at the construction is kind of traumatizing.  It's done with mitered squares in long strips, and turning that into the cute tee is pure magic as far as I'm concerned.  But I want to try it.

Lacy Knits by Alison Crowther-Smith

Now technically this book is all patterns for mohair-silk yarns, but I'm thinking more alpaca for the Spiral Shrug and Sunday Night Mitts.

Okay, that's it for the crafty books, now the book books.  I was clearly missing my college days and decided to recreate my own personal 18th-century literature class:

Evelina by Frances Burney

After reading some of the highlights of classic literature, now I'm trying to find some other authors of the era that remind me of what I liked, so Fanny Burney is someone I have to try.

Cecilia by Frances Burney

Another Fanny Burney.  I like the blurb on the back: 'Cecilia is an heiress, but will inherit her estate only if her husband consents to take her surname.'  Scandalous!

I hadn't heard of Mary Hays before, but we're talking about a late 18th-century feminist author writing about a passionate young heroine.  I'm in.

Okay, so I know what I should be busy doing for the next few years.  Except I know that next week I'm also going to be busy with Knitting and Crochet Blog Week.  I've already started some of my posts, it's so much fun!  I hope to see (um, read) you all there!

Until then, there's more inspiration at Woolen Diversions.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Coconut Lime Cereal Treats

We had a sort of a picnic lunch last Friday at work, so for part two of my coconut, lime, and Chex adventures I made some cereal treats.  They fit all of my criteria for an outdoor potluck: easily transportable, easily eaten, and not affected by temperature.  Plus, hey, it's gluten-free!

I'm starting to think that Rice Krispies really are the best cereal for making cereal treats.  My Big Red Treats were intriguing (mostly because it was cereal that tasted like Big Red soda), but the spherical shape didn't lend itself to sticking together.

These cereal treats, similarly, taste yummy, but the squares of the Chex make it hard to really pack a solid bar of treats.  That made the treats a little loose and crumbly in places.  Perhaps if I crushed some of the cereal ahead of time, that would help.  Some extra marshmallows might also help to provide extra 'glue'.  So if you want to try these, you might want to just go for all Rice Krispies.  In which case, you'll probably just need six cups.

No matter what cereal you use, they will taste good.  I really like using the Kool-Aid in the treats and the glaze, it gives them a sour kick.  I'm thinking that for Halloween I might make some orange ones, then I can call them Rice Krispy Trick or Treats.

Coconut Lime Cereal Treats
Makes a 9x13" pan

  • 1 bag lime marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 cups Rice Krispies
  • 2 cups Corn Chex
  • 2 cups Rice Chex
  • juice and zest of one lime
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 packet unsweetened Lime Kool-Aid
  • 1 -1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

  1. In a large, microwave-safe bowl, combine marshmallows and butter.  Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the marshmallow has completely melted. (Alternately, you could use a large pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat, stirring, then removing from heat when melted.)
  2. Quickly stir in cereal, coconut, lime zest, and half of the packet of Kool-Aid.  Mix until cereal is completely coated.
  3. Transfer mixture into a 9x13" pan lined with parchment paper (or two smaller pans), smoothing down with a spatula.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar, lime juice, and remaining Kool-Aid.  Add powdered sugar or water as needed to achieve glaze consistency.  Drizzle over treats.  Can sprinkle additional coconut on top if desired.
  5. When treats and glaze have set, cut into squares.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

WIP Wednesday: The smell of pink and the touch of black

I wanted to paint my nails because the past few times I've been in yoga, my centered, spiritual thoughts have been interrupted when I looked at my toes and thought how nice it would be to have happy, colorful toes to look at during my sun salutations.  And so, I currently have, applied, dried, and shining on the tips of my fingers and toes, scented nail polish.  It's a very light pink that could pass as the neutral main color in a French manicure, and it supposedly smells like cotton candy.  Except that I just chopped some celery for my lunch tomorrow, so it smells like someone put creme brûlée in a celery stick.  Like the fanciest ants on a log ever.  What will they come up with next?

My fingers are very pampered, actually, between the polish on my nails and the soft squooshiness of the yarn I'm working with.  My Mini Fox Stole My Heart is hibernating, shall we say.  It's one leg, two ears and some brain stuffing away from completion, but I'm setting it aside for a little while because I cast on something else last week that was more suitable for mindless social knitting and I'm on a roll with it.

It's another tiny owl knits pattern, bo peep scarf.  Because I'm knitting it in black, I'm calling it Bow Peep's Black Sheep:

The yarn is Cascade Indulgence, an alpaca/angora blend, and my goodness, it feels so good.  It's like knitting a cloud.  The pattern calls for a fingering weight yarn held with a mohair lace, but this being worsted has about the same weight and the fiber still has that mohair halo without any itchiness.  It doesn't take the best pictures, as you can see, but I think a black bow will be cute and chic.  It's another project that's going in the pile of handmades for my longer-term swap, but I also have some pink yarn, unfortunately not Indulgence, to make one for myself later.

For more WIP Wednesdays, go to Tami's Amis.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Crunchy Coconut Lime Cookie Cups

One of the things I love about baking is that there's an infinite number of possibilities.  When you walk into the kitchen, you can not only mix and match the ingredients, you can also switch up how you bake them to create something new each time.

Last week, I made two treats from three main ingredients:

  • Coconut
  • Lime
  • Chex cereal

These cookie cups are the first result.  The Chex adds a crunch to what is basically a sugar cookie recipe that is pressed into a mini cupcake pan to create little tartlets.  The filling I just kind of threw together, adding powdered sugar and corn starch to thicken up the condensed milk a little more so that you can safely take two bites to eat them without losing any of the creamy gooey deliciousness.  Then the coconut and lime comes in to make these a tasty way to ease into the realization that it's practically already summer and where is the year going?

Plus extra crushed Chex, because more Chex means more crunch, and more crunch is always good.

Crunchy Coconut Lime Cookie Cups
Makes 4 dozen


Cookie cups:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 cups Chex cereal*, crushed (ended up measuring about 2 1/2 cups when crushed)


  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • juice and zest of one lime
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 cup Chex cereal, crushed*

*I mixed equal parts Rice and Corn Chex


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and extract and combine.
  3. Add the baking powder, salt, and flour to the wet batter and mix just until combined.  Mix in crushed cereal.
  4. In a well-greased mini cupcake pan, scoop an spoonful of batter, pressing slightly to create a well in the center of each.
  5. Bake for about six minutes, then remove from the oven and (carefully) re-press the well into the half-baked cookie using the other end of a wooden spoon.  It will have risen slightly in the oven.  
  6. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing from pan.  Set cookie cups aside.
  7. In a bowl, stir together all of the ingredients for the filling.  Spoon into the cookie cups.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Free form lace

My inspiration is hot off the presses today.  I went to a trunk show at Gauge (after, of course, a tasty stop at Yogurtland) and got to see some really gorgeous pieces of free form knitting.  Here are some of the photos I took, the rest are in an article I just posted for Examiner.

The pink was my absolute favorite piece, the 'pattern' flows like a stream, with some stitches bunched together like a stone sticking up out of the water and yarnovers flowing around.

You can't see it, but the gray scarf has little beads all over it.  I think they were threaded onto the yarn before knitting, then pulled onto the active stitches whenever she wanted to add them.

You can see some of the stitches better in this picture, and I kind of love how it's been matched with the knit poncho thingy.

All of these were made by Susan Johnson, a local fiber artist who teaches classes in free form knitting occasionally at the store.  I won't get to join them for the class tomorrow, but I'm itching to learn more and maybe try my hand at it.  I love the idea of just knitting whatever I feel like as I go and ending up with something totally unique.

Have you ever knit free form?  Or are you a slave to your patterns?  For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Cheese Fudge Brownies

I know that the 'rules' of good grocery shopping dictate that you should go in with a list, and come out with only what was on that list.  And I do make lists to make sure that I don't get home and realize that I've forgotten the eggs or anything, but part of the fun for me is exploring the aisles and seeing what they have.  You never know what you're going to find: multigrain and pretzel croissants in the bakery, bubble gum sparkling water in the soda aisle, and chocolate cheese fudge in the deli section.  All of these are real items that I have discovered and purchased from the grocery store.  And not even from a fancy one like Whole Foods, just the regular old HEB.

But so far the chocolate cheese fudge is the only one of those to make it into my baking.  It was on clearance, and it was just too intriguing not to try.  I sliced off a little to try as-is; it was like a creamy fudge you might get from a fudge shop, but not nearly as sweet.  Tasty enough, but I couldn't imagine finishing the entire block myself, so I decided to bake it into something.  Exactly what I wasn't sure, because I wasn't sure what the texture of a melted cheese fudge would be like.  Which is why I ended up settling on brownies, because it wouldn't really matter if the pieces of fudge completely melted away or stayed as chocolate chip-like chunks.

The result was somewhere in between, making these extra-moist and creaming brownies.  Using a chocolate extract I found in a local spice shop also added to the chocolate factor, especially aromatically.  So even though they look like one of my more straight-forward treats, there's always something different going on.

Do you ever just grab something from the shelves because you wonder what it's like?  Any success or horror stories?

Cheese Fudge Brownies
Adapted from Ghiradelli's Award Winning Brownies (from the back of a can of cocoa)
Makes 1 pan

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup sweetened cocoa mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon chocolate extract (can substitute with vanilla)
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 block Kelly's Kitchen Chocolate Cheese Fudge, chopped into chunks

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Mix together butter with sugar and cocoa.  Add eggs and extract, stir to combine.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix in the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  4. Fold chunks of cheese fudge into the batter.
  5. Spread batter into a prepared 8" or 9" pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.