Saturday, March 30, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Celebrating in spirit

Yarnorama is one of my favorite local yarn stores, despite being just on the other side of 'local' for me, since it's closer to Bastrop then Austin, and just over an hour's drive from home.  It's worth the pilgrimage as often as we can make it, because owner Susan Fricks has so many pretty things.  Plus, with events like the annual holiday party, it's also a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to make the trip today to help Susan celebrate five years of her playground for the fiber obsessed.  But as I nosh on spaghetti squash, I'm wondering what people brought to the potluck this time and who is winning prizes.  So I'm going to share a few of the things I love about the store, as I wish it a happy birthday!

Along with stocking a wide variety of commercial yarns, Susan dyes not only her own yarn, but fiber as well, called FiberObsessions.  I have several skeins of Simply Sock in my stash, like this one:
Photo credit: FiberObsessions
The colorway is 'All Shaped Up', and I love the way the pink and the gray interplay to create some mauve and dusty rose.

Here's another yarn base, Enliven, that comes in 50 gram skeins.  I don't have this colorway, Live Wire, but it looks like something I really should:
Photo credit: FiberObsessions
Okay, to the fiber!  Remember my first ever completed, self-spun yarn?

That started it's life as Blue-Faced Leicester in a colorway called Seeing Pluto:

And the spindle pictured here comes from Jeri Brock, whose gorgeous pieces are sold in the store.  Jeri and Susan have also teamed up for a Spindle and Fiber Club which has me constantly drooling.

While I have yet to plunk down the money for membership to the club, I do occasionally break down and buy a braid.  Especially at the start of a new month, because Susan dyes a special colorway for each month.  Here's March, Random Happiness:

Photo credit: FiberObsessions
Um, yum!  It's an 80/20 Merino/Tussah silk.  This is exactly why my spinning stash is growing, slowly but surely, to match my knitting stash.

I have a feeling I've crossed the line from inspiring to taunting, but for those of you who are also wishing you were in tiny little Paige, Texas right now, you can order a lot of Susan's stuff online, or feel free to call them to find out more at (512) 253-0100.

For more inspiration, check out Alicia's post at Woolen Diversions.  This week she's spotlighting some Malabrigo Madness projects, so it's a tribute to soft and fluffy fiber all around!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Anna Chlumsky, still 'My Girl...2'

Before we get started, I have to just put this out there: Yes, I watch some trash TV.  Yes, I realize that it's trash TV.  No, I don't plan on stopping any time soon.  I promise, I balance it out with 'real' culture as much as possible (like Shakespeare, for instance).  I also eat candy balanced out by fruits and veggies.

Growing up, I had a few models for my bookwormy tendencies.  One major icon was one Miss Vada Sultenfuss.  She was the heroine of 'My Girl', played by Anna Chlumsky, who was on 'Watch What Happens' last night with Andy Cohen, making me feel equal parts old and like a child as I realized how long ago that movie was for both of us.  Congratulations to her, by the way, she just announced that she's pregnant.  See what I mean?  I'm so old, the child stars of my childhood are having kids.

While I think everyone knows and loves the original, it's the sequel that came out a few years later that is truly a formative part of my childhood.  Partly because the first, well, it's a little sad.  And for repeated watchability, it's a heck of a lot easier to watch Vada develop a romance with a boy who ends up being her cousin (through marriage! not blood!) than it is to watch her lose her best friend to a swarm of bees.

Vada's love of words is present in the first film, driven partly by a crush on her teacher.  In the second, she's still infatuated with books, but she's definitely not crushing on poet Alfred Beidermeyer.  Here are just a few choice quotes that I hope show you why I love this movie so much, despite it being a typical sequel that everyone agrees isn't as good as the first:
Alfred Beidermeyer: My dear, this is not a country that rewards poetry, this is a country that rewards gas mileage, besides, people don't read poetry anymore, they watch television.  Don't be a poet, be a TV repairman.
Vada: I love the fragrance of vintage books.
Nick: I love the fragrance of chili dogs. 
Vada: How come guys talk so much when they have nothing to say, and girls have plenty to say,  but no-one will listen?
Phil: We may go out for coffee after the meeting so don't expect us before midnight.
Rose: There's plenty of fruit.
Phil: You know where the fire extinguisher is.
Nick: If the fruit burst into flames I'll be prepared.
Am I the only person who knows this movie frame by frame?  Who thinks that the definitive version of 'Smile' is the one sung by Vada's mom in the home movies?  Who loves the fragrance of both vintage books and chili dogs?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Planning, plotting, planting

The good news is that I have my role and goals for 2013 at work all planned out.  The bad news is that nearly three months out of 2013 have been and gone.  But the nine that remain, oh boy, watch out, I've got them covered.  Which isn't to say that I haven't been toiling away in my cubicle throughout January, February, and March, making progress on projects and generally being a productive worker bee.  But now it's official.

Still unofficial are my swap projects.  While my handknit item for the Gilmore Girls swap is most definitely an FO, the box itself is tantalizingly close to completion.  It will be trusted to the care and keeping of the postal service on either Friday or Saturday to start it's journey to an undisclosed location.  I spent some time over the weekend getting ahead of the sometimes overwhelming task of wrapping each item in tissue paper and affixing a tag which has a quote or screenshot from the show.  The beauty of Gilmore Girls is that you can find something your spoilee loves and half of the time, a quick Google search will find you a quote that mentions it and makes it completely theme-appropriate.  The box will be filled to bursting, and I hope I can hear the squeals of joy coming from my spoilee all those many miles away when she opens it.

My spoilee in the Joss Whedon swap will have to wait a little longer, but the good news is that I did indeed cast on another handknit last week.  Again, I must only provide confusing clues:

  • This is my first project I've knit using my Knit Picks Harmony needles from the kit my dad bought me for Christmas.  So far I'm really liking working with them, and they are so pretty.
  • I'm also using some Knit Picks yarn which I happened to have in stash.  The colorway reminds me of an indie yarn that my spoilee favorited in Etsy, so I'm hoping she likes it.
  • The pattern is one where the stitch count steadily increases, and I'm more than halfway through the first section.  The rows are starting to grow to the point where during my half hour coffee social time at work this afternoon, I was only able to get through two of them.
I'm also putting together pages in my current notebook, which is also due to go out this weekend, not to its final destination, but to it's next stop on the tour.  Last night I did two drawings to go along with the recipes I'm including, and colored my own Van Gogh 'Starry Night'.  It's one of my entries under 'Trees I grew up with' (pun intended), along with 'Ferngully' and an excerpt from a Czech book I found on my shelf the other week.  She loves trees, so I thought I would share a few that are particularly a part of me, to go along with my feelings on family and a few recipes.  These notebooks are so much fun, they bring out some random stuff, but all with a certain meaning.  I'll be able to show off some pictures of that soon.  For now, though, you'll have to make do with a thousand of my words.

For more WIPs, check out Tami's Amis!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Froyo files: Kühl Yogurt (Fredericksburg)

When I was younger, I didn't really want to go for walks just for the sake of it.  There needed to be a reason, or failing that, a bribe of some sort.  Last weekend, I was looking forward to the hike up Enchanted Rock just for the walk itself.  But that doesn't mean that I didn't take the opportunity to stop by another frozen yogurt place!

Kühl Yogurt: 301 East Main Street, Fredericksburg, TX

When I visited: Saturday, March 16th, around 4 pm

Cost per ounce: 45 cents

Number of flavors: 12

Sorbet options: 2

Experience: Fredericksburg is a cute little town, but my oh my, does it get overrun with tourists on a pleasant Saturday afternoon.  And we weren't the only ones who thought that frozen yogurt sounded good.  Space in Kühl (love that name, by the way) is a little tight, with the froyo in a smaller room to the left and the cashier to the right.  

Navigating the other patrons can get interesting, but they've made efficient use of their space for the most part, splitting the yogurt machines with a bar of toppings in the center of the wall that has fruit, nuts, etc.  And then, another wall has even more toppings, including some really fun and unusual ones, like strawberry marshmallows and other fruity gummies.  The tower of toppings at Sweet CeCe's in San Antonio was impressive, but this was certainly the widest variety of toppings I've seen so far, including fruit.  I do have to deduct some points, however, for the fact that the fruit was frozen, and not completely thawed.  It makes sense that they would have peaches, being in Fredericksburg, but having them not be fresh kind of negates it.

Anyway, back to the yogurt.  As with the frozen fruit, the yogurt was a good effort that didn't quite earn full marks.  They had a Reese's flavor that tasted more of chocolate than peanut butter, but was a good chocolate for what that's worth.  Sweet Coconut was also pretty tasty, as was Cake Batter.  Cheesecake was pretty bland, though.  It lacked either the richness or the slight tang of the original dessert.  Toasted Marshmallow was also kind of disappointing, I was looking for more of a burnt sugar taste.

I did like their fruity offerings, though.  Wild Berry Tart was tasty, and they had two sorbets, Mango Tango and Kiwi Strawberry.  Those were the three that ended up in my cup, along with some of that wide selection of toppings, including a banana gummy.

Because the gummy versions are still a good source of potassium, right?
Worth a revisit? If you're already venturing into the depths of downtown Fredericksburg and can find a parking space, it's worth stopping in and choosing from the wall of toppings.  If you're just passing through, stopping at Skinny Dip is easier.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: You know you're a lit nerd when... practically squeal out loud as you scan a list of upcoming movie releases and discover that the 18th-century Gothic novel 'The Monk' has been adapted.  Because I'm assuming that's not a reaction that most people had.

Some of you might recognize the book just from the references made to it in Jane Austen's 'Northanger Abbey'.  Matthew Gregory Lewis' novel about a holier-than-thou monk's fall from grace was one of more than a dozen on the syllabus for possibly my favorite class at Sarah Lawrence: The 18th-Century British Novel in Context.  We read it over the break between fall and spring semester, and my mother can attest to just how 'involved' I became while reading it.  The sheer villainy that this monk stoops to, it's deliciously evil.  I found it difficult to analyze the novel in class because I experienced it more like a reader just in awe of what was happening in the story. I felt just like Catherine, eyes wide as I carefully but quickly turned each page.

So there being a new French film adaptation of the book strikes all of the right chords with me.  Unfortunately, it's a 'limited' release over here in the US, even two years after coming out in Europe, and so far no showings have popped up in the Austin area.  I did write an Examiner article about it, though.

Also, I'd just like to shout-out to a fellow blogger, Faith over at Faithfully Geeky, particularly for her recent FO post.  Her sweater, along with this movie, are making me even more nostalgic than usual for my college days.  It's been several years now, I'm pretty sure my missing them isn't going to go away.  I'm really tempted to e-mail my professor about the movie, maybe they'll have better luck finding showtimes nearer New York City.  Then I can at least live vicariously through another class of lucky lit nerds.

Alicia at Woolen Diversions has taken the weekend off, but she's left a really cute kitty photo for you!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Still secret, still safe

Crafting for swaps and blogging about said crafting is a little tricky.  I am bursting with braggy pride and a desire to plaster pictures everywhere, but I must maintain secrecy for the sake of my spoilee and thus create a facade of humbleness.

Or I can split the difference and brag with no identifying details.

I've been WIP-ing through my first knitted item for the Joss Whedon swap all week, and it's looking really cute.  It relates to one of Joss' lesser-loved shows, 'Dollhouse'.  While not a perfect piece of television (like, say, 'Firefly'), it's the only show so far that I was smart enough to watch while it was on the air, and it bears some quality Joss trademarks.  There is biting wit and hilarious dialogue between characters who have deep emotional connections, with a little moral ambiguity thrown in for good measure.

This particular knitted item is based on one character, but I won't say who.  Another hint: it's also turning out as a sort of proof of concept for some other techniques, which is even better.  It's giving me confidence and showing me how far I've progressed as a knitter.  Because no one imprinted me with amazing crafting skills, I had to earn them one stitch at a time.

With that nearly ready to cast off, I'm considering making something else for this swap.  I completely finished what I was working on for the 'Gilmore Girls' swap, I just can't show you until I send it, maybe next weekend.  The ends are woven in and everything.  So of I finish this by Friday, I've decided that I'm going to have to do it.  After all, the alternative is knitting for my own self, and that just seems wrong somehow.  I'm already scoping out patterns and some stash yarn.

For more WIPs, check out Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Black Raspberry Cocoa Cupcakes

If I was a negative person, I would be sad about all the things I will never have time to do.  All of the books I won't read, the projects I won't knit, and the recipes I won't bake.  Simply because my shelf, stash, and recipe box is already so full of great stuff.  Maybe if I won the lottery (in an unexplained miracle, because I never play the lottery) I could devote all of my time to stacking books in the 'read' column and casting off everything I cast on.  But all I can do it bake one recipe at a time.

And that's nothing to be sad about, because the results are always delicious.  This week I decided to try one of the recipes from the page-a-day cupcake calendar I grabbed on clearance at Half Price Books earlier this year.  Every day I peel back a page and get another recipe, or version of a recipe that switches up some of the flavors of yesterday to try something new.  I was drawn to it because it used fat-free milk, that wasn't one of my alterations.  And I love baking with berries.

The changes I made started with using some frozen black raspberries that I had stored away.  I chopped them a little, just because I was turning them into mini cupcakes and didn't want them to be too big.  This made baking time a complete guess, because the directions were for 20 minutes originally, but I was miniaturizing them, and then switching fresh for frozen fruit.  I wasn't sure what was going to win out in terms of lengthening or shortening the perfect time, so I just kept an eye on them.

Then I decided to use the same frosting that I had for those Black Velvet Sandwich Cookies, so I thought I might as well substitute a little cocoa into the cake batter.  It doesn't make much of a difference, but I didn't have more cocoa on hand, and I didn't want to further jeopardize the baking potential of the batter.  As it was, it added that little bit of extra richness that would tie the cake in with the frosting on top.  If I make these again, I might venture into adding some chocolate chips into the batter, just for the sake of it.

Another successful outing for my baked goods at the office, another recipe crossed off the list.  What's not to be happy about?

Black Raspberry Cocoa Cupcakes
(Adapted from Glazed Blueberry-Lime Cupcakes from The Cupcake Calendar 2013 and 500 Cupcakes)
makes about 5 dozen mini cupcakes

  • 4 Tablespoons margarine, softened
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 Tablespoons Brummel and Brown
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 cups (minus 1 Tablespoon) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa (I used Dutch processed)
  • 1 cup frozen black raspberries, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried orange zest
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream margarine, butter, and spread together with the sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla and milk, mixing well after each.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa.  Add to wet ingredients slowly beating until incorporated.  Fold in the raspberries and zest.
  4. Fill the mini cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter and place in the oven.  Let bake for 15-20 minutes.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Enchanted (by the) Rock

Today I did something which I have apparently done countless times, but only really remember doing once or twice.  Childhood is strange like that, you have a handful of vivid memories for countless experiences that fade into the background.  So it's nice to go back and try them again.  In this case, I went for a walk/hike at Enchanted Rock.

Photo credit: Texas Parks & Wildlife

About an hour and a half's drive, Enchanted Rock is a state natural area not far from Fredericksburg.  What 'natural area' means as opposed to park I'm not at all sure.  But what it is is essentially a big dome of pink granite.  There is an interesting geological story I could go into, but I wouldn't really know how to tell it.  I just walked up and around it.

They also have camping, picnicking, and rock climbing, the last of which I'd like to do sometime.  It's different on the granite because it has such great grip, you aren't so much searching for hand holds and pulling yourself up as you are walking up at just the right angle like Spiderman.  It's another one of those things I've done at least once many years back and would like to try again since losing weight.

Why is this inspiring?  Well, there's the fitness inspiration, how nice it is to get out and climb something and feel your legs.  I love a lost weekend on the sofa watching movies and knitting, but I also like getting out and doing something.  And feeling like I earned those shrimp fajitas I had for dinner.

Then there's the natural beauty part of it.  I'm always seeing granite as that 'must have' item on episodes of 'House Hunters', and pink granite was used to construct the Texas Capitol building.  And then you go out here and there it is, just a huge mound of it, unpolished but still rosy with flecks of black and white, with the occasional sparkle.  It's almost strange to step on it.

And then you climb to the top and you're about 400 feet up, looking out on the hill country.  Can't beat that.

For more inspiration, read Alicia's post at Woolen Diversions.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Oreo Upside Down Cheesecake

What can I say, I'm a giver.  I've written before about how I donate blood every time the drive sets up shop at work.  It's just a little something that makes me feel like I'm doing good, and as long as I don't faint, it's really not a lot of effort on my part.

But what really makes me a giver is what I do with the cookies that are offered as the reward for a hard day's donation.  I prefer to snack on an apple than cookies in the middle of the afternoon, so I bring my own post-poke fruit, and snag a pack of cookies for later.  Or in this case, a pack of cookies to add to my collection of pantry goodies for later baking use.

I suppose that we all imagine that others think in a similar way as us, but every so often you are shown how untrue that is.  Because to me, I see Oreos and immediately see them fitting perfectly in the bottom of a cupcake form.  From there, my mind follows a logical path to Oreo Upside Down Cheesecake.  But my co-workers were amazed that I had come up with such a delight.  There's clearly a sweet spot where the nostalgia of Oreos meets with the decadence of cheesecake and results in people taking the time to stop by my cubicle and thank me for a particularly delicious treat.

I'd like to take all of the credit, but in fact a quick Google search proves that while I may be unique to my office, I am certainly not the only person on the internet to think of this.  The recipe I used even comes from Kraft, so it's relatively 'established'.  This was my first foray into cheesecakes as an independent, adult baker, so I wanted a tried, tested, and true recipe.  This was certainly that.  And as much as I'd like to take credit, I don't think the reason they tasted so good was because of their good samaritan origins

Oreo Upside Down Cheesecake
Recipe from Kraft

My Notes:
  • The recipe says it makes 12, but I got 27 little cheesecakes.  I could have filled the cups a little more (I'm so used to cakes that rise), but you could safely presume to get at least 18 from this recipe.  Keep that in mind when considering how many Oreos you're going to need to have on hand.
  • 24 of the cakes were baked in paper-lined cupcake pans, while the three were using my silicon cups.  I only have six of these, so I couldn't really use them for the whole batch, given the baking and setting time.  While that would have been less wasteful, it was easier to remove the paper wrappers than to extract the cheesecakes from the mold, particularly with the Oreo on the bottom intact.
  • I baked for the prescribed amount of time, but I could probably have pulled them a minute or two early, they were slightly brown on the bottom edges.
  • I used the suggested variation of substituting Neufchatel cream cheese and light sour cream.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Catching my breath

This week, I've been...not quite sick, but not quite healthy.  It started with a tickle in my throat, which became a scratchy cough.  Thankfully, aside from feeling a little achy, I didn't actually feel sick.  Even when yesterday it moved into my sinuses and made me sound like a wretch, I still didn't feel like someone with a cold.  I'm cautiously grateful, hoping that the final phase of whatever this is isn't that I sound perfectly fine but feel awful.

I even went to the gym today, though I skipped out on my group exercise class.  I thought I would quit while I was ahead: running on the elliptical was not only possible with my stuffy nose, it actually temporarily cleared some of my nasal congestion.  Add it to the list of reasons to feel self-righteous about working out, I guess.

Post-workout, I'm ready to share what I've been working on this week between the sneezes:

  • The only thing keeping my Gilmore Girls handmade from the FO category are the ends, which I'm hoping to weave in this weekend.
  • I barely paused between casting that off and starting another secret project for my Joss Whedon swap.  Here's a little teaser photo, in sepia effect to protect sensitive color information:

  • I sent off the notebook I was working on last week, and there should be another in the mailbox now for me to get started on.  The owner of this volume is interested in genealogy and asked for a pot roast recipe rather than one for a sweet baked good.  I'm thinking of writing up some nostalgic non-fiction about my time in Prague, along with a recipe for svickova, which is a roast beef dish with a creamy root vegetable sauce.
That's all, and that's plenty to keep me busy for at least the next week!  For more WIPs, check out Tami's Amis.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Froyo files: Yogurt Planet (Hill Country Galleria)

What's this, an Austin yogurt place I haven't reviewed yet?  Believe it or not, they are out there.  This one just happens to be one I had been to before I started this blog.  I used to work in the Galleria, and Yogurt Planet was a delicious treat after a long day of retailing.  This was the first place out of the current froyo trend that I tried and fell in love with.  Since then my connoisseurship has evolved, but this is still a great place to find frozen yogurt without venturing from the hill country closer into the city.

Yogurt Planet: Hill Country Galleria 12801 Hill Country Blvd, Bee Cave, TX 78738

When I visited: Saturday, February 23rd, just after 9 pm

Cost per ounce: 39 cents

Number of flavors: 14

Sorbet options: 1

Experience: This is one of the busier places I've been to over my froyo career.  Yogurt Planet benefits a lot from being in this shopping area, and in particular less than a block's walk from the movie theater.  So instead of walking into an empty store, there was a line at the cash register and many of the tables were filled with yogurt eaters.  Thankfully, there's a small plate set out with sample cups already set out next to the toppings bar, so we were still able to start tasting.

And because of my blogging diligence, I tasted everything.  Overall, the flavors are slightly above average, I would say.  This was my first ever taste of Taro, which I love, so that's obviously good as far as I'm concerned.  Their Caffe Latte was also a standout, with a stronger coffee flavor than some I've tried.  I also liked Root Beer Float and Cheesecake.  Three of these four made it into my bowl with some fruit (Root Beer Float didn't seem to 'go' with Caffe Latte, so it lost out).

Less memorable were Pistachio, Cookies and Cream, Cake Batter, Chocolate, and Vanilla.  Nothing wrong with them, and maybe if they were my favorite flavors I would love these versions more.  There was also a no sugar added Chocolate, which I appreciated them having.  White Chocolate Mousse to me was just kind of a filler flavor, nothing special.  I've yet to have an impressive white chocolate frozen yogurt.

On the fruity side, their Strawberry was just okay, and their lone sorbet was Kiwi Strawberry, again, just okay.  Not strong enough in their fruity flavor for me.  The Tart was fine, if the sorbet had been better I might have been in the mood for some Tart with it.

Worth a revisit?  Yes, this is the best option for miles around.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Bringing sexy back

Ravelry is a repository for thousands upon thousands of patterns, I'm sometimes a little worried about all of the great ones I haven't found simply because there are so many out there.  But then I remember that I don't even have time to finish the ones I've found, faved, and queued, and I feel a little better about the as-yet undiscovered.  Besides, I know that I'm bound to stumble on most of them sometime.  Like this week, I added about seven new patterns from a single designer to my favorites, and had one to my library, thanks to her awesome giveaway.

Sarah Wilson is The Sexy Knitter, and from now until March 16th, you can get one of her patterns for free.  Just go through this list of patterns and choose five to add to your favorites or queue, depending on how you organize things.  Then PM Sarah with the names of those patterns, and she'll send you one to get you started.

Of course, you aren't limited to only adding five to your faves.  Which is good, because I couldn't narrow it down.  I love how Sarah mixes textures to create special pieces that are still wearable for everyday.  These are the ones I've added to my growing list of projects I'm hoping I'll live long enough to cast on:
Photo credit: Sara McDonald
A different spin on cables, I like the texture of this little topper.

Photo credit: Woolgirl
I love a little bit of ruffle, especially with a few swirls.

Photo credit: Sara McDonald
Eyelets and button stitches make 'bubbles' in this shawl that was inspired by a delicious-sounding drink at her local diner:
With plenty of fresh limes, the refreshing fizz of club soda, and practically any fruit flavor you want to add (my favorite is strawberry), it’s topped off with a scoop of lime sherbet, making it difficult to resist buying anything but the largest size.
Photo credit:
I just think this is so cute.  It reminds me of the long-tailed stocking cap that Katharine Hepburn wore in the library scene of 'The Philadelphia Story', which is one of my favorite movies of all time.

Photo credit:
I think this would be great for wearing to work, since it can be worn gathered up close to the neck or pulled over the shoulders.
Photo credit: Emily Brewer
The cabled center spine is a really nice touch, and adds to the flow of the lacy shawl without being too bulky.
Photo credit: wondrlanding
Well, there was no denying the name, was there?  I love red velvet.  So it makes sense that this was the one I happened to be gifted by the designer.  The faux cabling makes it reversible, so it will be easy to wear wrapped up or open.  I love this look with the belt, check out the bilingual Wondrlanding blog this pic comes from, she's made some really pretty things.  I'm envisioning myself one day wearing this in a deep red velvet color, with a long sleeved tee underneath.

Along with my freebie, I now have a code to get a discount on her other patterns throughout the month, so maybe I'll grab some of the others on my list.  To get more info for yourself, check out the giveaway post, and her Ravelry group.

And for more inspiration, read Alicia's post for the week.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

WIP Wednesday: I don't care, I'm still free, you can't take the swap from me

I've been feeling a little frazzled this week, at times wondering if I was in over my head.  But I was able to make it through those moments to the other side by just getting one thing done at a time.  With each step forward, the way seemed less daunting.  It helps that the way I'm referring to is having fun coloring in notebooks, knitting, and otherwise crafting.

I'm still spoiling away on the theme of Gilmore Girls, and I thought I would offer a little teaser photo of the actual knitted item, since I've given away the yarn and the stitch without spoiling the actual project:

You can sort of see the through-line of a knit every four stitches going up, and the color shift of silver to purple.  I'm into the rhythm of this pattern, I could almost do it without referring to my directions.  But I still use them anyway, because I'm paranoid.  Just a few inches more and I'll be ready to weave the ends in!

I also made progress on a non-knit handmade for this swap, which involves upcycling an old book into something new.  I found the book itself at Half Price (on my birthday trip), and all I can say for now is that it involved cutting, which felt really wrong, and decoupaging.  I'll likely post a tutorial on Examiner, since it is literature related, and they've just introduced a feature that let's us write lists.

In a similar vein, I've added color and a page or two more to the notebook I'm working on.  That should be ready to send this weekend with a little bit of luck.  I've developed a similarly comfortable rhythm in doodling bunnies as in knitting my stitch pattern, but I still can never quite make them look as artistic on paper as they do in my head:

Notice also the roses, which have been 'painted' red, and the pocket watch which tells the White Rabbit how late he is.  I wanted to add in a little color since the bunnies really needed to stay white.  If I had been doing this strategically, I might have drawn them on white paper and pasted them on, but what's drawn is drawn.

And finally, I've also been given a spoilee for a swap themed around the genius that is Joss Whedon.  My mind is swirling with possible connections to random bits of hilarious dialogue, heroic bravery, and gut-wrenching character deaths.  Well, probably not that last one, I want my package to be a happy one, so we'll ignore the death and stick with things like 'the funny syphilis' and 'sudden but inevitable betrayal'.  Which Joss fans know are happy memories.  So my plotting and planning for that is another work in progress.

For even more works in progress, check out Tami's Amis!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Salty Apple Shortbread

There's probably a really interesting graph out there that could chart my confidence level rise and fall during the course of any baking session.  

It begins relatively high at the start, as I search through various recipes and narrowing down the contenders.  I think crazy thoughts like 'Maybe this time I'll try puff pastry!' or 'I wonder if the humidity is right for meringues'.  I usually even out a little as I make my final decision, but there's still a sense of 'Sure I can' that shows itself in my alterations an improvisations.  From the demure switching of chocolate chips for butterscotch ones, I've gone as far as mixing and matching various recipes in more fundamental ways.

This is usually followed by a dramatic fall in confidence in the time the treat spends in the oven.  I don't know if it's the waiting, or the fact that I still don't quite trust myself to decipher the various terms that recipes use to define 'done'.  Just how golden should the edges be, and what is 'barely set'?  This terror will sometimes abate when they emerge from the oven looking delicious.  But sometimes it takes a few people telling me how tasty it is for me to believe it.

This was one of those times, because my pesky 'done' identifying skills were not up to par with these shortbread bars.  I made a few mistakes.  First, I made my bars about twice as thick as in the original recipe by using a different pan, and needed to adjust the baking time accordingly.  Which I might have been able to do, but I realized half way through baking that the oven was set to broil rather than bake, so the heat was coming from the top.  That made it impossible to connect a golden top to a fully cooked bottom.  

When I finally committed to taking them from the oven, I just hoped they were done.  After they had been cooled, glazed, cut, and were about to be served, I was pretty sure that they weren't.  But rather than admit defeat, I decided that because this was a shortbread (and thus eggless), I wasn't risking illness to offer these up as 'soft shortbread bars'.  And everyone loved them, yet again.

The recipe is wonderful, as testified by the fact that I was able to come out with something that people loved.  I would absolutely make it again, this time trying to do it right.  But this particular blogger has so many other recipes I want to try, I'm sure I'll be trying those first.

Salty Apple Shortbread
Recipe from vanilla sugar blog

My Notes:
  • It only took one XL Granny Smith to get the 1 1/4 cups required, those things are huge!
  • I substituted apple pie spice in place of the cinnamon in the glaze
  • Make sure to check your oven, and adjust baking time according to the thickness of your bars

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Loving lemon

Whenever we try something new that is purportedly lemon, my mother usually makes the same judgement: not lemony enough.  She wants something just shy of pucker-inducing, something which is absolutely, unequivocally lemon.  And while I don't grade as harshly as she does, I also am on a constant search for yummy lemon.  It seems like we are falling in line with a current trend, because I'm seeing a lot of lemon lately.  So that's my subject of inspiration this week.

The epitome of lemon lusciousness to me is lemon curd.  It has the sour brightness of lemon ever so slightly mellowed out by the richness of egg yolks and butter.  A spoonful of lemon curd can be enjoyed by itself or added to anything from fresh fruit to baked goods.   For anyone who lives in a city blessed enough to have a Trader Joe's, their lemon curd is one of the few things to have Mom's seal of citrus approval.  We're still waiting for them to open up here, in the meantime we have to stock up whenever we're in San Antonio, or make it ourselves.

What is available now in Austin, Hey Cupcake has a new flavor to go with their new South Congress location, the John Lemon.  Lemon cake and lemon buttercream, yum!  I haven't had a chance to try this, maybe next time I'm at Hill Country Weavers.  Nearby, Sugar Mama's Bakeshop has a Jack's Lemon cupcake with a similar description, plus some lemon sour candy sprinkled on top.  I'm loving the celebrity references with both of these.

Blue Bell has so many different flavors, they have a rotation each month of which ones are available at any given time.  This month the rotation has two new flavors, one of which is Lemon Bliss.

Lemon ice cream with vanilla sandwich cookies.  And even better, available in pints.  I found one at Fiesta and decided that it was my bloggerly duty to try it.  The downside of a dairy lemon is that it is rarely lemon-y enough.  We just had some lemon frozen yogurt at Chill Out that exemplified this (their strawberry sorbet, though, was delicious).  The ice cream also could benefit from a lemon curd swirl (why oh why don't they consult me before they make these things?), but it has good flavor, and the cookie pieces are a nice touch.

Also in the freezer aisle, Ben & Jerry's Liz Lemon is their latest Greek frozen yogurt:

I haven't tried this yet either.  I was instead lured into getting some of their limited edition Cannoli ice cream.  Greek yogurt or Italian dessert, that's still vaguely Mediterranean, right?

Once I'm back in the office next week, I'll have to put a Lemon Zinger Herbal Tea K-Cup in the Keurig to continue the inspiration.  I toyed with the idea of making something lemon-y as my treat this Wednesday, but right now I'm leaning towards a cookies and cream cheesecake instead.

Outside of the kitchen, I have to give an honorable mention to Knit Picks' City Tweed yarn, with a lemon curd colorway:

Which Ali Tong designed into a Lemon Curd Slouch:
Photo credit: Ali Tong
And I love Diana Rozenshteyn's Lemon Drops shawl:
Photo credit: Diana Rozenshteyn
But mostly, I just love eating lemon-flavored things.  What about you?  And don't forget, there's more inspiration at Woolen Diversions!