Friday, October 17, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Traditional Shortbread with Earl Grey Glaze

Okay, everyone.  I promise, I really did go to the UK.  It was not a dream, nor was it a extreme fib to excuse a blogging break.  I was there for a relatively few short days, and I filled those days with lovely walks in the park, yummy food, a little culture and of course a few yarn stores.

I still hope to share some photos from my trip in later posts.  But to prove my point, here is just one from another 'of course'.  At least it was an of course for me.  Because when I would visit my grandparents for weeks at a time during the summer when I was a kid, Hamley's, the seven-story toy store, was always high on my list of places I had to go to.  So even as a twenty-something, I have to have a wander around.

Though I was able to keep myself from buying any toys, I did snap some photos of these excellent Lego displays:
First, the Queen and one of her Corgis, and then Prince William and Kate doing the wedding wave alongside Charles and Harry.  There you have it, proof that I was there less than three years ago.

Further circumstantial evidence could be taken by the fact that the first klatch treat I made after the trip was shortbread with a tea glaze.  What can I say, I was feeling British.  These are excellent for enjoying with your tea, which should of course be drunk out of some Royal Wedding china.

Traditional Shortbread with Earl Grey Glaze


  1. In a cup or small bowl, sift powdered sugar.  Add tea and use a fork to mix until you reach the desired consistency.  I look for it to easily flow from the tines of the fork, but not drip.
  2. Drizzle glaze over cooled and cut shortbread.  Allow to dry.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Days dwindling and projects multiplying

Two things happened to me on Monday when I finally bought my ticket to New York for the end of the month:
  • I was annoyed that I couldn't use my member miles, because they would have charged me $75 to 'expedite' the rewards in fewer than 21 days, and it didn't make sense to pay that much to use miles when for about $130 I could buy the ticket and earn more miles that I can use later, now knowing this restriction
  • I realized that, dude, I'm leaving in less than 21 days
Not much has changed since last week in terms of my progress towards the move, other than plans coming together in my mind.  I still have a few days left at my current job, so I'm trying to keep my head in that game just a little bit longer.  Then I can focus on how best to fill my boxes with my spinning wheel, baking equipment, bedding, and every last thread of possible warm clothing that I own as a Texan.

One of my other goals before I leave is to finish my Vlad Helsing Shawlette.  Because blocking mats are not currently on the top of my prioritized list of items to have with me, so I want to be able to finish and block this thing before I go.  Plus, then I can show it off at my new job and establish my crafting cred.

Check out that mad lace work, yo.

I've also been working on Head in the Silk Clouds, but it doesn't really progress that interestingly.  It just becomes a bigger triangle.  I love the way it's working up, though, and it is super-simple for mindless knitting.

I also cast on a new project this week.  Because, not to bury the lead, but we completed the Hill Country Yarn Crawl over the weekend.  Fourteen official stores, one nearby that we also decided to visit, and a yarn dyer's studio.  And it was at that yarn dyer's studio, Alisha Goes Around, that I picked up some yarn for a project that I needed to swatch and cast on for ASAP, just to make sure I didn't need an additional skein.

I've been admiring Alisha's pattern for Diamonds Go Around Infinity Scarf for some time, so when I saw her bright pink fingering weight yarn and paired it with a charcoal gray, it was a perfect fit.  My mom wanted to buy the pattern anyway, so it was clearly time.  
Photo by Alisha Lariscy
Because the pattern is written for DK and I had chosen fingering, I bought two skeins of pink and one of gray.  To make sure that I didn't also need a second skein of gray, I first swatched to determine the needle size that gave me the fabric that I liked, used the pattern to tell me how many stitches to cast on based on my gauge, and then started knitting the bottom border of the cowl to see just how much yarn it would take.

If it would take more than a third of the skein, Alisha advised me to get another.  Thankfully, things look promising that I only need what I have.  So I guess this will be my next 'thinking' project after Vlad.  I'm calling it Caged Pink Monster.

There are other new projects in the works for my crawl haul, which I'll have to share in later posts.  Let's just say, I have plenty of soft packing material to protect everything I'm shipping.  Who needs packing peanuts when you have yarn and fiber?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Big news!

Sometimes I struggle with how much myself to put into this blog at the exact moment that it's happening.  Obviously, when it comes down to it, this blog is about me and my passions.  But it can feel weird to talk about work, or friends, or even going on vacation.  I think this is a sign of how I'm on the cusp of the social media generation, as opposed to having been completely brought up on it.  So this is why sometimes I'll talk about something just after it's happened, as opposed to while it's progress.

Do you see what I did there?  I brought it back to the central theme of these Wednesday posts.  That's right.

So this time, I'm going to talk about something major in my life that's in-progress.  If this were a knitting project, then the pattern and yarn would be picked out, and the first row would be cast on.  But much still remains to be determined in the stitches.  Without further suspense-building...I'm moving to New York and starting a new job.

Whew!  I feel better letting that out.  I'm currently wrapping up my time in my current job in technical documentation, and I am really going to miss everyone that I've worked with while there.  But I'm also ridiculously excited about where I'm headed.  Which is back to Sarah Lawrence College to be the Alumni Relations Coordinator!  Over the years, some of you might have noticed that my nostalgia for my alma mater is deep and unwavering.  If I could make anything my job for the rest of my life, it would be being a student there.  But there's no such thing as people paying you for that.  So I'll settle for being responsible for keeping alumni connected to campus via social media, events, and other communications.

I have to keep reminding myself how awesome this is, to counteract the stress of moving across the country and the sadness of what I'm leaving behind.  Things like, 'How am I going to get my spinning wheel to New York?' and 'Who am I going to turn to when I mess up my knitting without my mom there?' are laments of a traveling crafter.

It's been therapeutic to knit while dealing with these and other questions.  I've made progress on two projects.  I'm on the final repeat of the body chart for my Vlad Helsing Shawlette:
And my Head in the Silk Clouds continues to grow:
In other fiber news, the Hill Country Yarn Crawl starts this weekend, it's sort of like my farewell (for now, at least) tour of all my Austin-area yarn stores.  Like everything having to do with this move, it's going to be bittersweet.  But I suppose I can tell myself that all yarn and fiber purchases are just extra packing material for the boxes, right?

As with my knitting projects, I'm also accepting advice for moving.  This is the first time I've done this anywhere other than to a dorm, so any tips will be appreciated!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Whiskey Sour Cupcakes

I like to think of these as part of my rule-bending baked goods collection.  Because in my office, as I'm sure in most, you can't bring alcohol.  Unless it's a special morale-boosting event sponsored by department heads complete with beer and wine.

Now, I'm not a big drinker.  Some wine or a beer with dinner or a fancy drink with a cherry at happy hour.  Always assuming there are enough calories left in the day.  Otherwise, I've just personally never seen the point in being drunk.  Anyway, for happy hour, I've always been partial to Amaretto Sours.  Because sweet and sour are more appealing to me than the actual potency of the drink.  But amongst the random alcohol selection I was looking to use up (because we weren't drinking it), there was no amaretto.  So, whiskey it was.

No one turned down these corporate-policy-ambiguous Whiskey Sour Cupcakes.  Hopefully I didn't contribute to any poor afternoon decision-making in meetings after klatch, but you would need to put yourself into a sugar coma before you could make yourself drunk on these.  Having said that, though, they have a distinct smell and taste of alcohol.  Which is the point, being cocktail-inspired cupcakes after all.  The lemon in the cupcake is just a complement to the whiskey, but the frosting helps amp up the citrus and mellow out the alcohol.

Whiskey Sour Cupcakes
Adapted from bethcakes: Whiskey Sour Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup whiskey
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tablespoon grenadine
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Sift together flour and baking soda in a separate bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs, vanilla, and whiskey and mix until combined.
  4. Incorporate the flour mixture.  Add the lemon juice and zest.
  5. Fill liners 2/3 full.  Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool before frosting.
  6. Cream butter.  Add lemon juice, grenadine, and extract.
  7. Incorporate powdered sugar until desired consistency.
  8. Frost cakes.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Grapefruit Spritz Cookies

Whoops!  Guess who totally forgot to post on Wednesday?  Without any good excuses like not having an internet connection?  That would be me.  All I can claim is to have a lot on my mind, and maybe that the yoga helped me clear it a little too well.

Oh well.  At least I still have lots of recipes to share with you all, starting with one from just before my trip.  This was my first time using a fancy cookie press, and even though it can be a bit fiddly, once I got the hang of it, it wasn't actually any more difficult.  And people were very impressed by spritz cookies.  Because I can't leave well enough alone, of course I had to add a puddle of glaze in the center to make them into even more citrusy flowers.

So I guess this is my way of apologizing for not posting yesterday, with a bouquet of flower cookies.  Forgive me?

Grapefruit Spritz Cookies
Adapted from Bakers Royale: Lemon Sandwich Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen

For the cookies:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 yolk
  • 1 Tablespoon grapefruit zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 1/2 cup flour, plus 2 Tablespoons
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
For the glaze:
  • About 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • About 1/2 Tablespoon grapefruit juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Cream together butter and sugars.  
  3. Add egg (including additional yolk), zest, and extracts.
  4. Whisk flour and cornstarch together.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture until dough forms.
  6. Follow the directions for your cookie press.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are lightly golden.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.
  8. In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar and juice together until you reach the desired glaze consistency.  Drizzle over cookies and allow to dry.

Friday, September 26, 2014

FO Friday: Poppin' a Wheelie

Hallelujah!  I have been connected to the world wide web once more!  And who is to blame?  Squirrels.  Squirrels nibbling the cables outside.  Squirrels.

Anyway, moving swiftly on.  Remember, way back when, all those weeks ago, when I learned how to spin on my Ashford Traveller?  I spun and I spun, and then I plied, and was amazed at how much yarn you can end up with compared to what I could get from my drop spindle.  Just shy of 200 grams in two large and one small hank.  Here's the breakdown of weight and yardage:
  • 95 grams, 86 yards
  • 87 grams, 97 yards
  • 14 grams, 12 yards
There's a mix of colors, fibers, and techniques in there, between the supplies from the class and the gatherings of fluff that I had in my stash.  A little bit of very colorful silk, various long-staple wools, some natural and some not-so-naturally orange, purple, get the idea.  I added them to my single ply at random, taking whatever roving I had on hand and switching it up at intervals to mix it up.  We did a simple two-ply, so the randomness twisted together just as randomly again.

Here are my fabulous photo shoot shots:
I kind of love it.  But then, it's hard not to love your own handspun, isn't it?  I found a pattern for a chunky little monster/toy in one of the knitting magazines I bought on my UK trip, so some of this might work for that.  Although, I also kind of feel like it's so pretty, I want to wear it, which makes me lean towards Syrinx Shells from my blogging friend Alicia at Woolen Diversions.

So this is kind of a finished object that will then become a WIP, and then an FO again.  Hurrah for learning new crafts!  And again hallelujah for thwarting the mischievous gnawings of squirrels.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Offline, but still in progress

There are a couple of things that have made me better prepared to face a week at home without either cable or internet.  There are the obvious things, like having the barest of online lifelines in my smartphones data connection and having a job that gives me internet from 9 to 5.  But more specifically, I think that having a ginormous DVD collection and being a knitter have made this technical isolation more bearable.

I’ve always had a relatively large movie collection, from dozens of VHS tapes that are now hidden away in a closet somewhere and should really be handed off to Goodwill to today’s bookshelf absolutely bursting with TV and film on DVD.  I’m the kind of person that, when I like something, I want to watch it multiple times.  And if I love something, I want to watch it so many times that I could recreate it in a one-woman show at the drop of a hat.  Imagine the way that little girls watch Disney movies again and again.  I basically never grew out of that.  Also, I have a need for constant background noise, otherwise my mind will get distracted by the normal creaks and squeaks of the world.  Which is why a majority of the collection also came with me to college, because without access to television for the most part, I needed to ensure a steady supply of entertainment options.

So I have plenty of reserves when faced with more than half a dozen evenings that cannot be filled with ‘Big Bang Theory’ syndication or football games.  Mostly, I’ve taken this opportunity to watch the complete series of ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ with my mom.  I’m happy to say that we do not have an Edina-Saffy relationship.

And, of course, while watching the drunken antics of Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, I have my knitting to keep me busy.  I’ve alternated between my Head in the Silk Clouds shawl, which I began during my UK trip, and Vlad Helsing Shawlette.  Both are coming along nicely.

Silk Clouds is pretty mindless, with three rows of seed stitch, five of stockinette, and steady increases along one edge.  That’s what made it such a great travel project, and now it makes it perfect for knitting while walking back and forth across the living room to rack up steps on my pedometer.

I’m on the final repeat of the main body chart for Vlad.  No picture for that one, so I’ll leave it to your imagination.  I’m still crossing my fingers that the yarn colorway will turn dark in time for the end of the shawl…

Alright, that’s my progress for this WIP Wednesday, don’t forget to check out a few others at Tami’s Amis.  I still don’t have internet, so I’ll take all of your virtual mojo in the hopes that tomorrow’s service appointment will be a success.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Don't worry, Lassie, this blogger hasn't fallen into a well

Hello all!  I'm sorry to have sort of popped up after my vacation and then just as suddenly disappeared again.  I've been without internet (or cable for that matter) at home since last Wednesday.  Rather than try to compose a post via my smart phone, or subversively blog while at work, I've just been offline.

Keep your fingers crossed for me that when Time Warner finally comes to visit on Thursday they'll fix it, and if they do, maybe I can finally show you my handspun yarn in an FO Friday post...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Summer cinema: The Birds

One thing I noticed for the few days I was able to spend in London is just how much of a theater town it is.  I already knew this, because my childhood summers usually included going to see one show.  As I grew up, I checked a lot of classic musicals off of my list: Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago.  I also saw some Shakespeare, both at the Globe and in Stratford.  But being in London again, everywhere you look there's a poster advertising the latest, greatest show on billboards or a passing bus.  And there are plenty of theaters to house them all, around every corner.

Here in Austin, we have just a handful of theaters, including of course the Paramount.  Before I left, I caught my final summer classic film, The Birds.

It's interesting when you watch classics like this, because you have to remind yourself that what you've now seen many times over was being done for the first time.  When we watch these kinds of movies now, we're coming from a place of awareness and cynicism that audiences just weren't back then.  So you end up mentally shouting at the screen, 'Don't go in there!' while the blonde wanders into a situation that should be obviously avoided.  You have to appreciate that this is the foundation of what made Buffy the Vampire Slayer so cool, and just enjoy the show.

While others did it for decades after him, no one does it quite as deftly as Hitchcock.  Because you still end up with moments, like when the crows gather on a school playground, when you are still totally, uncynically, scared of the birds.  I found myself eyeing the pigeons of London very suspiciously, I can tell you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wind-swept and interesting, the traveller returns

'Ello, 'ello, 'ello!  I'm back, jolly blog readers!

I was already back last week, but between wicked jet lag and possibly having caught a bit of a bug, I felt lousy and decided to extend my blog vacation past my real life vacation.  I'm feeling better now, though, so it's time to try and get back into the swing of things.  My trip gave me a lot of ideas for blog posts, plus I have some drafts of things I didn't manage to put out before I left.  So there should be plenty to talk about for the next few weeks.

I'm not sure where to start, though, so I'll keep this a fairly lazy Sunday and tease you with some highlights from my trip:

  • A few walks in the park, and a visit to a stately home with a rose garden
  • Lots of culture, as absorbed from the National Gallery and Tate Modern
  • Several cups of tea, but even more cappuccinos
  • Some essential shopping on Regent Street
  • A delicious journey through Borough Market
  • Two DIY presents finally revealed in a birthday celebration
  • Delicious food from cuisines across the globe, from a full English breakfast Indian curry takeaway to Korean steak tartare
  • And of course, a couple of yarn stores!

Friday, August 29, 2014

London calling

I kind of feel like I've been holding out on you by not mentioning something for the past few weeks, but I wasn't sure how to bring it up.  Okay, that sounds ominous, but it's not.  I just need to tell you that I'm going to be in London for the next week.

It's been about six years since I was over there, so I'm counting down the hours (literally, I fly out later today) to my return.  I probably won't be posting any blogs while I'm away, but I'll try to come up with lots of fun things to post about when I get back.

I hope everyone has a happy Labor Day long weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Game, set, matching mitts

You think you've had a productive week.  You think you've accomplished a small something worth feeling good about.  And then you watch a player in her grand slam debut upset the #12 seed and you hear that she was born in 1999.  And suddenly you feel just a little bit lazy and unambitious.

That's what happens when you watch sports as you get older, I suppose.  But I'll leave the tennis prodigy-ing to CiCi Bellis and watch her as I make progress on my knitting and spinning.  And I have made progress.  I finally blocked my Mittacles, so now I just have the pesky task of weaving all of the ends in:

My Vlad Helsing is moving along as well.  I've gone through the chart nearly three of the prescribed four times:

Aside from the momentary confusion with the placement of the repeat on two of the rows, I've really enjoyed this.  My only worry is that it won't use up enough of my yarn to get to the color change in the skein that starts a little late.

So, do young upstart athletes, movie stars, or other random celebrities ever make you feel lazy?  Or are you confident in your awesomeness?  For more WIP Wednesdays, go to Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Coffee Crunch Chocolate

Have you ever gone through the stages of weird food?  Like:

Stage One: Disgust.  You hear about some new thing, and you just think, 'Why would anyone ever want to eat that?  Gross.'
Stage Two: Curiosity.  You start to wonder just how bad it might taste.  And really, why would they make it if it really was so horrible?
Stage Three: Connecting.  You think about some other foods that you like that might have similar traits.
Stage Four: Craving.  You decide that you must try this thing.  Maybe it will be horrible, but by this point you start to believe that maybe, just maybe, it could be good.  And you wouldn't want to miss out on that, would you?
Stage Five: Tasting.  You actually get to taste it, and from there you might either fall in love with it, or perhaps you were right in the first place and it is the work of a flavor sadist.

I went through all five of these stages with the new Lays chips, specifically the Cappuccino flavor.  Coffee potato chips?  Huh?  But then, I made some intriguing connections.  After all, salty and sweet is an intriguing combination.  Kettle corn, for example, is delicious.  That thought, and stumbling upon the chips in an end cap at the grocery store, fulfilled the destiny of Stage Five.

The result?  I wouldn't say I'm obsessed, but they were good.  I found that while eating the chips themselves was intriguing, I preferred them with just a little bit of peanut butter.  I happened to have a jar of Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter, and it was the perfect 'dip', if you will.  It might also be yummy with one of those cream cheese fruit dips, maybe with some instant coffee flavor.  Something to round out the slight sweetness and bitterness of the chip.  And nut butter is great because it also has a complementary saltiness.

So there's a further Stage Six that I go through with these things, which is then to want to put them into a treat for klatch and share them with the world.  Combined with my almond butter, I thought that some kind of bark would be a simple way to keep the chips recognizable but turn them into something new.  Plus, I thought dark chocolate would play nicely with the other flavors.  And it did, this is just as good as all of those crazy chocolate bars I've seen all over the place, and everyone was very amused at my strange potato chip find.

This isn't a recipe that I expect a lot of people to recreate exactly.  But it's something you can certainly play around with.  Maybe just with plain potato chips and creamy peanut butter.  Or pretzels and cookie butter.  Whatever you find that intrigues you.  Push it all the way to Stage Six!
Coffee Crunch Chocolate


  • 36 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup nut butter (I used a Vanilla Espresso-flavored almond butter)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons strongly brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • About half a bag of Lays Cappuccino potato chips


  1. In a bowl, mix together nut butter, coffee, and powdered sugar.  Mixture will be crumbly, kind of like the inside of a Reese's cup.  Set aside.
  2. In a large glass bowl, melt a third of the chocolate chips by microwaving on medium power for about a minute at a time, stirring until totally smooth.
  3. Spread the melted chocolate onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  4. Sprinkle crumbles of half of the peanut butter mixture and crunch handfuls of chips onto the chocolate.
  5. Repeat the melting of chocolate, spreading, and topping sprinkling. (Note: You could also choose to do a single layer of 'toppings' if desired.)
  6. Melt the remaining chocolate and spread carefully.  Sprinkle additional potato chips as desired.
  7. Chill in fridge completely.  Break or cut into pieces.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: The wheel keeps on spinning

Tomorrow morning I'll be going to the last of three sessions in my Intro to Wheel Spinning class.  It's been a lot of fun, and I've been pleasantly surprised by how quickly I picked it up.  It certainly was a great help that this wasn't my first experience spinning, just a new tool.  Though the mechanics are a bit different, the principles of drafting and twist are the same.  So here are some pictures of what I've been spinning up on Sundays and with a little practice every day in between.

The first week, after figuring out exactly what the parts of my wheel were and all that, we started out with some silk hankies and Corriedale.
I am now in love with silk hankies.  It feels like cheating, spinning with them because they work up so easily.  The Corriedale was nice as well, and the gray against the bright colors was fun.

Once I got home, I just grabbed some of the random fluffs of fiber that I had gathered over the years.  Roving samples and things like that, anything that wasn't a complete and labeled braid that could be a project in and of itself later.  And with those, I added to my bobbin's collection:
And then, last Sunday we ventured out into batts.  Sparkles!
This was a lot of fun to work with, and I tried spinning woolen, which was interesting.  I might do more of that for a particular project, but I think for the most part I'll be sticking with worsted.  I brought some of my fiber scraps and continues to just mix and match.
I filled up an entire bobbin very early into the class, and now my second is also basically full.
The crazier the colors the better, I think.  So now I have two bobbins ready for tomorrow's session of plying.  And then I have to decide what to knit with my newly handspun yarn.  At the moment I'm thinking perhaps a Danger monster?  I'm open to suggestions!

And check out Woolen Diversions for more spinning inspiration, she's done some great stuff!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WIP Wednesday: I vant to slip your stitches...

I had a terrible shock on Friday afternoon when I was about to head out to my usual Friday froyo and knitting session with nothing on my needles.  Not that I had actually completed any FOs that I could blog about that day, but all of my WIPs were at a stage where progress could not be achieved while sitting in the froyo shop.

Because it would have been weird to try and block my fingerless mitts with thumbs there on the table.  Although despite having had the whole rest of the weekend to block, I still haven't quite gotten around to it.  Why is it that sometimes the easiest things take the longest to get done?  Then again, I kind of deserve a break after fiddling with the DPNs and few stitches for the thumbs, so I don't feel too bad about that.

I've also handed off responsibility for sewing the mini fox's head to my mom, so that remains in the same state as before.  But here's a picture of the first ear I knit up which ended up too big for my fox's head, so it's become an impromptu hat for a wooden duck:
So for Friday's crafting, I had to quickly grab something form my Ravelry queue, and I cast on my Vlad Helsing Shawlette:
The pattern comes from the What Would Madame Defarge Knit? collection, and this shawl is inspired by Wilhelmina from Dracula.  Since my yarn (a gradient from Heavenly Fiber that goes from red to black with sparkles!) is called Vlad, I decided to go with a Van Helsing reference from the same novel.  It feels like it's been a while since I've done a lacy shawl, but it was comforting to go back to what I think is probably my favorite type of project.

I did have a bit of an issue today while knitting because I thought I had an extra stitch somewhere.  Let's see if I can describe, the 10-stitch repeat in the chart ended on 2 knit stitches and started back again with a slip 1, k2tog, psso (represented by a single icon at the start).  But when I reached the end of the 2 knit stitches, instead of meeting with my stitch marker, I found another stitch.  After much (and I do mean much) hemming and hawing, I believe I have determined that, in fact, that last stitch is meant to be the initial slipped stitch, but because it's something that happens over 3 stitches represented by a single icon, the chart has issues making that clear.  It took me so long to come to this conclusion and mentally knit the row that I haven't been able to actually knit it and be sure, but I think that's it.  It was, at least, a good exercise for me in reading lace and understanding what is going on beyond just blindly following the directions.

So, crisis averted, I have an active WIP to take along with me wherever I go, along with other WIPs I still need to make progress on.  For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer cinema: The Philadelphia Story

Unlike the rest of the movies so far this summer, I have seen The Philadelphia Story many, many times before.  The first time was over the holiday break during one of my college years.  I was so taken with it that when I returned to campus and discovered that the DVD was also in our library, I checked it out and proceeded to watch it at least three times in a row.  As in I watched it all the way through and then pressed play again immediately when it was over.

So it's fair to say I love this movie.  It's in my top 5 of favorites, and it's the only one on that list that I didn't grow up with.

But there's still something special about seeing it with an audience (other than my family) for the first time.  Sitting in my dorm room with a big grin on my face as Jimmy Stewart drunkenly calls out 'Oh, C.K. Dexter Haaaaaaaven!' is one thing, laughing along with a theater full of people is even more fun.  Plus, when you have seen a movie so many times that you've memorized the lines, you can tend to only be half-watching it (and half-knitting or surfing the web), so being 'forced' to focus on just the movie is refreshing.

Back to the movie itself.  For those who haven't seen it before, I cannot recommend it highly enough. The dialogue is snappy, the characters have depth, and their relationships shift throughout the course of events.  Some things don't age well, like the treatment of Seth Lord's 'investment' in the shapely legs of showgirl Tina Mara.  It's cringe-inducing to feel that the movie sort of agrees that it's a daughter's fault for not loving her father blindly enough if he cheats.  But I do my best to gloss over that intellectually and go with the emotional reconciliations of the end of the film.

Finally, how much do I love this movie?  I love it so much that one of my life's goals is to have a pet dachshund (blame that on growing up in Buda, where we have an annual weenie dog parade and race) and name him C.K. Dexter Haven, so that I can mimic Stewart's call in my backyard, as well as Dinah's ecstatic, 'Dexter, oh Dexter you've come back!' when I let him into the house.

Tracy Lord might judge me for my ridiculousness, but I think Dexter would understand.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Cranberry Peach Thumbprints

Have you ever seen Gosford Park?  Remember the scene where one of the guests is found indulging in preserves straight from the jar after his interrogation?  This is a minute or two into it, but you can see that he's still tasting away while Dorothy gives a great little treatise:
Yes.  Yes to believing in love.  And yes to jam.

Everyone thinks of cranberries for Thanksgiving, but they are so tart and bright, they go very well with the summery peaches from my day trip to Fredericksburg a few weekends ago.  I don't know that it would be deemed appropriate for the inhabitants either upstairs or downstairs in an English country home, but it's very tasty.

I also really like this particular recipe for the thumbprint cookies.  Thank you, Martha Stewart.  It's the texture that makes them, from the crunchy sugar coating to their overall lightness.  They make these really taste like fresh, summer cookies, not an autumn dessert that forgot what month it was.  Although you could still make them for Thanksgiving as a surprise for the dessert table.  I have diced peaches in the freezer, so this could actually happen.

Cranberry Peach Thumbprints

For the jam:

  • 1 lb diced peaches
  • 4 oz cranberries
  • 1/2 brown sugar Splenda
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon orange juice
  1. Mix together all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Microwave in 8-minute intervals, stirring after each interval, for a total of 24 minutes cooking time.
  3. The mixture should be thick and jammy.  If necessary, microwave for a few more minutes.
  4. Allow to cool, then set aside.  Can be stored in a container in the fridge for about a week.

To make the thumbprint cookies:
Follow the recipe from Martha Stewart: Shira's Cranberry Thumbprint, substituting your jam for Martha's filling.  You should have some leftover jam.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Cotton Candy Grapes and other produce-breeding requests

I was all set to show you some daily progress shots of my wheel spinning from this week, but after an exciting sampling experience at the grocery store, I'm switching up my inspiration.  Don't worry, I'll be spamming you with handspun fiber soon.

I vaguely remember hearing about Cotton Candy Grapes when they first came onto the scene, probably on NPR.  I was intrigued, but not desperate to try them for myself.  Cotton candy is a fun, if messy, treat that reminds me of county fairs and field days, but it's not a flavor that I seek out in other forms, because to me the airy texture tends to be what I like about it.  But still, when I spotted them at Central Market this afternoon as a sample offering, I wanted to give them a try.

Wow!  They really do evoke that cotton candy flavor.  I resisted the temptation to actually buy any (they're a bit pricy and I opted instead to invest in some pomegranates), but they were yummy, and I imagine they would be really good frozen, which is how I like to eat my grapes in summer.

So, if they can use traditional plant breeding techniques to evoke a flavor as specific and man-made as cotton candy, I have a few requests for possible research and development:

Ginger Apple: I'd love to bite into a crunchy apple and have the spiciness of ginger cut into its juicy sweetness.  I know most people tend to favor the sweeter apples, but I love the tangier Granny Smiths, so something like this would be right up my alley.

Caramel Pumpkin: There's still time before autumn for them to try and come up with one of these.  Can you imagine how amazing these would be?  Pumpkins, with their delicious and vitamin-filled flesh, could only be made more enticing with the addition of creamy, burnt sugar notes.  If the Cotton Candy Grape can use particular grape genes to evoke vanilla, I don't see why pumpkins couldn't also be endowed with this particular kind of sweetness.

Garlic Potato: Everyone already loves garlic and potatoes, right?  They roast garlic and add it to mashed potatoes for deliciousness that absolutely steals all of the spotlight from the poor, neglected meatloaf.  So what if you could get a potato that was already herbaceous and wonderful without any clove-smashing required?  I would still need to have heads of garlic on hand for all of the other things I add it to (almost everything savory), but I think it would be amazingly convenient to just be able to scrub a potato, prick it a few times, stick it in the microwave, and voila!  An instant baked potato made even better because it's already imbued with garlicky goodness.  Just add your butter of choice.

Cordial Cherry: Maybe this is just crazy talk, but I feel like it shouldn't be impossible to develop some kind of essential cocoa flavor.  And I think we've already strongly established our ability to toy with the sweetness to the point where it tastes like candy.  This year's cherry crop was so good, we were eating a bag a week for about a month.  If these were around, it could be dangerous.

Peanut Butter Banana: Now we're just entering a realm where I start naming flavor combinations that I love.  But really, again, why not?  Peanuts are a plant.  Not the same kind of plant as a banana at all as far as I know, but a plant nonetheless, and thus I think I should be able to peel a banana and enjoy a potassium-filled, peanutty treat.

Lavender Lemon: I'm not crazy enough to imagine picking up a lilac-colored citrus, but it would be cool to have a lemon that, like a Meyer lemon, was just a bit less tart, perhaps a little sweeter, and had a touch of lavender.  The clean taste of lemon goes really well with a little herbaceousness, and lavender would be a great way to mellow out the zing.  It would make a really nice lemon bar...

Mandarin Grapefruit: We're well past the trendy days of the grapefruit diet when people were eating them every day for breakfast, but I've been known to polish one off as a fruity dessert.  So I think it would be good for grapefruit to make a comeback with a clementine-like hybrid that would result in easy to peel, snackable citrus.  Still with the tanginess of grapefruit, perhaps a little more mellow for the mass market.

I'm going to stop myself now because I'm only making myself hungry and sad that I can't eat any of these fruits and veggies.  What about you?  Have you tried the Cotton Candy Grapes?  If you could breed your own favorite fruit or vegetable, what would it be?

(And don't forget, more inspiration at Woolen Diversions.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Best foot (and ear) forward

As I mentioned on Saturday, I finally made the leap from staring at my spinning wheel to actually spinning yarn on it.  I am now on Day Four of being a wheel spinner, following my instructor's guidance like a good little student and spinning just a little bit each day to build the muscle memory.  Here are the results:

Though I'm not completely comfortable yet, I am really enjoying how much faster it all seems to be on the wheel versus the spindle.  It helps to have had the spindle experience, though, because I already get the concepts of drafting and twist, I just have to add my feet into the process.  I think I'm going to need to replace the drive band very soon as well because mine is a little stretchy, so I need to figure out how to do that.  Preferably one that is pre-done as opposed to one that I have to measure, cut, and fuse.  That scares me.

I don't know if I was feeling empowered by my new skill or had just reached the limit of letting a WIP hibernate, but I also picked my Mini Fox Stole My Heart again and finally gave him his second leg:
Then I also knit his two little ears:
The next step will be to sew his head together, attach the ears and stitch on the nose detail.  And, of course, attach the head to the body.  I did use a meeting on Monday to weave in all of the ends I've created on the body so far, so I'm a step ahead there.  Which is just as well, since as you can see, I've created a whole new slew of ends with the head and ears.

Speaking of animal extremities, my Mittacles have all of their tentacles, with just a few rows left until it's time to rib:
So even though nothing is quite done, I feel like I've been productive this week, craft-wise.  How about you?  For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Blueberry Cupcake Cones

I always think its kind of perverse that just when the rest of the country seems to have decided that it's fall, based on the back to school ads and slow introduction of autumnal items in the stores, Texas is actually ramping up the hottest weather of the summer.  I suppose I should just be grateful that I haven't seen any Halloween costumes out yet, although I am looking forward to pumpkin treats, like this one Dorothy from Crazy for Crust just posted.

But since it is most definitely still summer, I thought I would try my hand at putting a baker's spin on a classic summer treat with ice cream cone cupcakes.  I used one of my favorite tricks for moist and yummy cake from a boxed mix by using melted ice cream, which also went with the theme.  

Because of the sweetness of the cake and jam, I didn't sweeten the cream cheese frosting too aggressively, just a few cups of powdered sugar.  Instead of going with fancy piping, I thought using the ice cream scoop was simple but effective.  

Also simple but effective: microwaving  and mashing up fruit to make a quick jam.  You'll see this in another upcoming recipe, but I've now tried this with blueberries, grapefruit, and peaches and each one has worked pretty well.

One thing to keep in mind with these: I read varying reports on how long the cakes could be stored before serving, because the cones can turn sort of stale/soggy.  I baked them a day in advance of bringing them into the office and didn't frost until I was ready to serve.  I don't think staleness was an issue, if they were chewy it was just as much a factor as when they were freshly baked.

Blueberry Cupcake Cones
Frosting recipe adapted from Local Kitchen Blog: Jam + Cream Cheese Frosting


  • 3 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • Dash dried lemon zest
  • 1 box Blue Raspberry cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 pint Blue Bell's Red, White & Blue ice cream, melted
  • 24 ice cream cones (not waffle or sugar)
  • 1 lb (2 8 oz packages) Neufchatel cream cheese
  • 4 oz (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup jam (see above)
  • up to 1 lb powdered sugar

  1. Combine all jam ingredients in a microwaveable bowl.  Microwave for 10-12 minutes in 5 minute increments, stirring after each round.  When the mixture is thick and jammy, it's done.  Set aside.  Jam can be made days in advance and kept in a container in the fridge.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°.
  3. Stand cones up either in a pan specifically designed for the purpose or carefully in a mini muffin tin.  
  4. Mix all cake ingredients except cones in a large bowl until combined.
  5. Stand cones up either in a pan specifically designed for the purpose or carefully in a mini muffin tin.  Scoop batter into cones until half full.  (I had some leftover batter to make a few cupcakes on the side.)
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool.
  7. Cream together cream cheese and butter.  Add jam.
  8. Add sugar 1/2 cup at a time until you've reached the desired sweetness and consistency.
  9. When the cake has cooled completely, use an ice cream scoop to frost.  Spoon extra jam on top.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: My wheels are spinning (or they will be)

You know how when you first get a new crafty thing you have all of these ideas about what you're going to do with it?  And you think that you'll start first thing tomorrow, you can barely contain your excitement.  Then tomorrow comes and you figure you should really finish what you're working on now.  Then the next day maybe you have to go to work, then the next you just don't have time for anything, until all of the days pile up and before you know it it's been a month.  Or ten.

I really hope it's not just me that has this problem.

I'm trying not to think about how many months I let pass between a Ravelry friend so generously gifting me her spinning wheel to be my first.  Instead, I'm focusing on the fact that I didn't let it become a full year.  And telling myself that I've been busy with other crafty things, like learning to sew and knitting my Twist of Death, another project that I completed less than a year after buying the yarn.

Tomorrow I'm going to the first of three sessions in an introduction to wheel spinning class at Hill Country Weavers.  I probably could have ambled along on my own and figured it out, but this way I'll have some help and a jumpstart to get really spinning by the end of the month.  Huzzah!

That means that soon I shall hopefully transfer some of my fiber stash into handspun stash in Ravelry:
How could I possibly resist this fiber dyed after red velvet cake for Yarnorama's anniversary?
My plan for this braid has always been to spin it into singles and then ply it with a bright pink thread.
Malabrigo makes such gorgeously soft yarn, I can only imagine what their roving will produce.
This was sent to me by someone in New Zealand.  It travelled such a long way, it deserves to fulfill it's destiny.

Speaking of travels, Woolen Diversions is back from her honeymoon and has lots of gorgeous pictures to share for the next few weeks of her Inspiration Saturday posts, so don't forget to check those out.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

WIP Wednesday: On the tip of my tentacles

For some reason the transition from July into August didn't seem as monumental until I had to start writing the date numerically.  That's when I realized that we're in the 8th month of the year.  And there are only 12 of them total.  That's two-thirds of the year!  I know I'm a word nerd, but in this case the math is what got to me.

But whether I like it or not, it is August.  And for the 8th month of the year, I want to finish this pair of mitts featuring a sea creature with 8 tentacles.  I've completed 3 out of 4 octopuses in my Mittacles so far:

Now it's time for the 4th octopus, whose tentacles are only just starting to poke out of my colorwork. I'll also have to try and remember to put the stitches for the thumb in the right place so that I end up with a mitt for each hand instead of two lefts or two rights.

With all of the things I'm doing at the moment, I wish I had 8 arms.  Then I could have one hand typing up emails for work, while another was knitting away, with a few left over for blogging and baking at the same time.  I would feel much more productive.  But, alas, I have only two arms, so my progress is what it is.

What would you do with 8 arms?  Can you believe it's August already?  For more WIP Wednesday posts, visit Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Red Berry Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Bars

In comparison to the rest of my library of books, my cookbook collection is actually quite small.  I'm occasionally seduced by the dishes in a particular book while browsing the shelves of Half Price Books.  But I often overlook cookbooks entirely when thinking about what I'm actually going to bake, turning instead to Chef Google.

Last week I decided to turn the tables and instead flipped through one of my cookbooks before going out grocery shopping.  I chose CakeSpy's Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life.  Because I love her and her blog, and the book was calling to me in all of its pinkness.
I was lucky enough to find a recipe that used mostly ingredients that I already had on hand, some of which I was keen to use up.  And you're lucky too because it turns out that she published the same recipe online.  So you can make this too!

The only real changes I made to Jessie's recipe were substitutions, using cereal and peanut butter that included berries.  'Red Berries' to be precise according to the cereal box.  That feels like one of those terms they use on products to be deliberately evasive.  Like 'natural flavorings'.  What exactly are red berries?  As near as I can tell in the cereal it meant dehydrated strawberries.  I tossed in another berry which is technically red by using a Cranberry Crunch peanut butter.  If I were going to change things up even more, I might add some jam (raspberry, to round out the red berry cast?), maybe as a layer between the cereal and the chocolate.  Just to bump up the fruity factor.

I've also noted that I didn't have any issues with cutting these bars after refrigerating.  Which is true.  The only problem I had was that they tasted so good that I kept justifying the need for me to eat more 'scraps' by adjusting the size of the bars.  Like, 'Oh, this one looks too long, let's just cut a little bit off the end,' then, 'Oh, now it looks too wide, I'll just trim it down the side.'  And so on and so forth until the bars went from three to two bits, and now some of the leftovers have been further reduced to bite-sized.

Red Berry Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Bars
Recipe from CakeSpy: Chocolate Peanut Butter Special K Bars

My notes:
  • Substitutions: Special K with Red Berries (generic brand) rather than original, Planters' Cranberry Crunch peanut butter in addition to regular creamy
  • The recipe used up enough of the box of cereal that I went ahead and finished it off, adding a little extra cereal to the bars and crushing the rest to sprinkle on top
  • The recipe recommends not chilling the bars in the fridge before cutting into squares, but I didn't have any issues cutting even when it was completely cold

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Fredericksburg Peaches

This weekend's forecast promised the slightest of cold fronts, meaning that highs would be in the low 90s rather than triple digits.  Taking advantage of this relative coolness, today we went out to Fredericksburg to look at flowers, sample and buy jams, and most importantly, get some peaches.

I don't know if the idea of 'Fredericksburg Peaches' is a thing outside of Texas, but around here, once the season starts, stands begin popping up along the side of the road touting fresh, juicy peaches from that little town in the hill country.  Whether or not all of those stands are practicing truth in advertising I can't be sure, but it's not too far a drive to go out there ourselves.

So now we have a box full of fresh peaches just begging to be eaten, plus a slightly smaller box of bargain peaches that I've already diced for baking/cooking possibilities.  All of those possibilities are what's inspiring me today.

Do you realize how easy it is to make jam?  Maybe it's not what a purist would call a true preserve, but with this microwave recipe from Good Housekeeping, you can make a chunky spread in less than half an hour with peaches and just a few kitchen staples.  And it's infinitely adaptable, mix and match fruits and flavors to your heart's content.  I've actually already made some jam this afternoon out of some of today's haul, plus some frozen cranberries.  You might see them in a later post as part of a baked good.  Perhaps a thumbprint cookie?

Another super-simple peach dish is Roasted Peaches.  Because what can really go wrong when you add brown sugar and butter to anything?  No a whole heck of a lot.  And a scoop of ice cream melting into the hot sugary peach...yum.

But I also like the idea of doing something a little more complicated.  Perhaps Joy the Baker's Peach Cobbler Scones?  I like that they take a really homey dessert that's generally served family-style and turns it into something individual that would be really easy to bring into the office.  Then there's Peach Upside-Down Cake.  I love the magical moment when you turn upside-down cakes over.  I also love this totally non-traditional idea of making Peach Flan.  That would probably be a dessert that stays at home rather than going to klatch, but sometimes you just have to be selfish.

Do you have any favorite peach recipes?  Or is there any particular produce in your area that you look forward to coming in season?

As always, thanks to Woolen Diversions for creating this blog series!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

WIP Wednesday: IS II: The inspiration strikes back

On Saturday I shared some of my thoughts on planning a back for my first quilt.  After publishing that post, I figured out that I could make four large squares out of each of the three fabrics, and I would be able to use nine of them on the back of the quilt.

I then spent most of the rest of that evening mocking up possible piecing patterns.  I'm telling you, being able to snap quick iPhone photos, snip them on the computer and move them around in a presentation program is dangerous.  I stopped myself when I had collected more than a dozen different options.  I won't share them all with you, but these are the ones that are currently in the top running:
Feeling dizzy yet?  Me too.  But not so dizzy that I haven't been able to make some progress on the second mitt in the Mittacles pair.  It's not going as quickly as the first, which I attribute to a mitt version of second sock syndrome and a lack of sporting events to watch while I knit.  I'm aiming to finish the pair, thumbs and all, by the end of the month at least.

Do you have a preference, looking at the quilt back options?  Rock the vote!  And check out more WIP Wednesday posts at Tami's Amis.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer cinema: The Heiress

Every once in a while at school, a class would be replaced with a movie.  Usually one with at least a modicum of relevance to the subject of the class.  Once, in our Government class, while the teacher presumably caught up on grading tests/papers/worksheets, we were treated to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  I'll never forget how all of the girls sighed over Jimmy Stewart.  Filibusters and grafts, all of the political lessons were lost on the dreaminess of this classic film star.

That memory popped into my head as I was watching The Heiress at Paramount last week.  Because like my fellow students by Stewart way back when, I was totally and utterly distracted by the beauty of one Montgomery Clift.
Who could possibly blame the naive titular heiress for falling in love with him?  For the first half of the film, while he woos her despite her comedic awkwardness and her father's suspicions, I knew it was too good to be true, but I kind of just wanted the movie to end right there and pretend that I could also be ridiculously awkward and win the affections of a Clift-lookalike.  Except I don't have the equivalent of millions in inheritance coming to me.  Hmm, a small hitch.

Olivia de Havilland won an Oscar for her role in this, presumably because the Academy was enthralled by her dramatic portrayal of the spurned young lady, but my favorite part of her performance was as the slightly comedic and highly awkward girl Clift seduces.  She was such a great mix of lovely and endearing but completely hopeless.  I love the scene when Clift comes to visit and they are left alone in the drawing room.  I might not be as gullible as de Havilland's character, but I might be just as awkward in the same room as him.

So I have another classic Hollywood hunk to add to my list of timeless crushes.  Although I'm not sure I'll ever be able to trust him...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Back in the future

I've just finished up the main leg of a Fabric Shop Hop here in Austin, so I have sewing on the brain.  I was most uncharacteristically restrained and only bought a few new fabrics for my stash.  Tomorrow we're going to visit one last shop, though, so I shouldn't speak too soon.

Of course, I tell myself that I will make lovely things out of all of my stash.  Many new project ideas are swirling in my head.  But the pragmatist in me is also inspired by finishing the sewing I've already started.  That is, I'm thinking about what the back of my Taking the subway to Sewing Town quilt is going to look like.

As a reminder, here's how the front turned out:
I bought some batting the other week, and I also picked up yardage of four of the fabrics I used on the front as fat quarters:
I bought extra extra of the one on the far left, because I think it would make an adorable box pleat skirt.  And now I'm thinking that because the other three are so predominantly gray, I should just stick with those three for the quilt back.  I have a yard and a quarter of each, which should be more than enough.  Now I just have to figure out how to put them together.

So right now I'm dealing with a 'fun' (read: torturous) puzzle.  And I'm having flashbacks to old math classes as I work out the measurements.  I've done some quick Google searches and Pinterest browsing for quilt back ideas, but I'm open to suggestions.  What do you think?

And once again, shoutout to Woolen Diversions, the founder of Inspiration Saturdays!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Sixteen tentacles down...

How do the weeks just keep going by?  Somehow I get from Wednesday to Wednesday, and I'm not always sure what's happened in between.  I have vague visions of meetings, frozen yogurt, and, of course, knitting.  But mostly I'm just working my way to another Friday afternoon for the respite that is the weekend.

Maybe if I had as many hands as an octopus has tentacles I'd be able to get more done.  As it is, I've finished the first in the Mittacles pair:
I definitely prefer the high contrast of the red and blue to the turquoise and blue I began with.  The strip of pink is for the thumb which I haven't added yet.  I decided I would rather get going on the second mitt and tackle both thumbs at the end, so I don't forget what I did between one and the other.

Overall, I'm really liking this colorwork.  It's actually easier changing the colors every few stitches than the projects I've done in the past where I needed to carry yarn for much longer stretches, which messed with my tension sometimes.  I'm only on the start of the rib on the second mitt, because it's been that kind of week.  But soon there will be more tentacles on the horizon.

What animal hybrid would make you more productive?  The nocturnal nature of an owl?  Or do you just want to be lazy like a koala?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes

When it comes to recipes that are healthy or accommodate some kind of special dietary requirement, I prefer those with two qualities:
  1. They don't require ingredients whose purpose is solely for that dietary requirement.
  2. They taste good enough that people with no desire to be healthy crave them.
That means that I tend to stay away from gluten-free recipes that use fancy flours.  Yes, I would like to one day experiment with them just to see what they are like, but my baking pantry is bursting enough with just all-purpose, cake, self-rising, and whole wheat flours, I don't really have room for others.  Things like corn meal, oatmeal, and quinoa I already have on hand, so I tend to seek out recipes that utilize those.

And of course, describing a baked good as primarily 'good for you' is like describing a potential blind date as having a good personality.  It may very well be true, but it's not the first impression that's going to inspire a first bite or a first date.

These cupcakes meet both of my requirements perfectly.  First of all, it uses leftover cooked quinoa, so it's perfect for dessert after making some stuffed tomatoes.  And because you blend the quinoa, you end up with a gorgeously moist cake that reminds you of a decadent flour less chocolate cake, the ultimate example of something that is gluten-free practically as an afterthought.  

Plus, being quinoa, it's not just about the lack of gluten.  It's also about being a superfood with lots of protein and qualities that allow you to feel completely self-righteous as you lick frosting from your lips.

Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from A Dusting of Sugar: Chocolate Quinoa Cake

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 3/4 cup sweetened cocoa (hot cocoa mix)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine milk, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Add quinoa and butter.  Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, cocoas, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Divide evenly between cupcake liners, about half full.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For frosting, make a double batch of cdkitchen: Easy Cocoa Frosting

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Rather Be (in Tokyo)

I know I mentioned a while ago my intentions of rebranding this blog, and I'm still planning on doing that.  I'm just still in the consideration and procrastination phase.  But I'm already thinking about some of the things I'd like to write about.  One of those things is music.  I'm not a huge music aficionado, but I think everyone lives their life with their own soundtrack, and every song means something different to each person, depending on when, where, and how they heard it.  Exploring all of the ways we identify with music, and the sometimes surprising reactions I have to music, continues to fascinate me.

So perhaps consider this a kind of sneak preview of the things I'd like to write about in the (hopefully near) future...

For many years, I had a morning ritual every school day that included spending a little time watching music videos, flipping between VH1 and MTV to pass the time before I needed to walk out to meet the bus or (for the last few years) drive myself to school.  Now, when I'm working from home, I occasionally like to indulge in some melodic nostalgia and do the same channel surfing.  That's how I found this music video about halfway through, which caught my eye when I recognized the Yamanote train line.  I immediately went to YouTube to watch the whole thing, and I've since replayed it several times over and had the song stuck in my head.  And so, I pass it along to you, "Rather Be" by Clean Bandit, featuring Jess Glynne:
Tokyo!  And not just Tokyo, but some of the lesser-known but extra-special bits that maybe not everyone will recognize.  The fish market, which I've wandered around quite a bit of in search of our favorite conveyor belt sushi restaurant; the Yamanote line train, which my dad loves and even downloaded an album of ringtones from; and the quintessential yakitori on the grill serving straight-faced businessmen (before the burst into song), which just rings so true.

It's enough to bring my always-latent desire to return to Tokyo up to sigh-inducing levels.  But since that won't be happening any time soon, I should probably just focus on making something out of the yarn I bought the last time I was there from Avril yarn store in Kichijoji.  And maybe drink a cup of Karel Capek tea, which I've been hoarding and drinking only on very special occasions.

Are you also from the TRL generation?  Do you have any favorite music videos?  Do you ever watch them now?  Alicia from Woolen Diversions is having a hopefully great time on her honeymoon right now, but I'm sure she'll have lots of inspiration from Costa Rica when she returns.

Friday, July 18, 2014

FO Friday: Twist of Triumph

Let me just take a moment to say: Hurrah Germany!  They weren't my first choice for World Cup champions, but it is the land where at least two great things were born: Wollmeise yarn, and me!  I kid, I kid.  But did you know,  both Wollmeise and I come from the same town?  Pfaffenhofen.  Of course, the yarn store wasn't there when I was there, and being three years old when we left, I probably wouldn't have had much use for yarn, but still.  Just one more reason to want to visit my birthplace again.

So anyway, I was rooting for Germany in Sunday's match.  And I enjoyed it all the more because I wasn't having to rush to finish my Twist of Death.  Despite losing two days of knitting to lack of yarn, I was able to finish up the sleeves on Friday.  The finishing was a team effort, which means that my mother was kind enough to sew the sleeves in for me.  What can I say, she's awesome like that.  I did complete the weaving in of the ends, the blocking, and the modeling, though.  Of course, Mom did take the photos.  So, um, still a team effort.  We took the photos pre-blocking to make sure that I could post them before the end of the tournament, so there's not as much rolling at the edges now.

I love how many ways there are to wear this:
Style #1: Open front
Style #2: Wrapped front
Style #3: Open back
Speaking of team efforts, I'm going to give a shoutout to one of Mom's FOs this Friday as well, because I played a vital role in it.  Behold, from my handspun yarn:
I had totally forgotten that the yarn I spun ended up being fingering weight, so she had plenty of yarn for this shawl.  There was a little bit of unevenness between the hanks, but nothing you can really notice.  And I love the way the colors worked up:
I'm not doing the Tour de Fleece this year, and I missed out on a recent wheel spinning course at an LYS last week, but this definitely makes me want to spin some more.

In the meantime, though, I have more WIPs that need to turn into FOs.