Friday, January 31, 2014

FO Friday: A bowlful of cereal and some cartoons

I'm still waiting for the time when I think to myself, 'Yup, I'm an adult.'  Well, first of all, I probably shouldn't be starting any sentences with 'yup' as an adult.  But I also don't think it's really a state of mind that I'll ever accept for myself.  As mature and downright boring as I can often be, there's also a strong streak of childlike whimsy that runs through everything I do.  And that most definitely includes these two FOs.

First, the much-anticipated shawl, which I knit one and a half times due to an asymmetrical pattern error:

These are the shots from the pretty nature staging, but here's the less artistic inspiration which is the project's namesake:

I love how bright the rainbow colors are on this shawl, and also how the flecks of white kind of remind me of the frosted effect of the sugary cereal.  I'm relieved that this is finally done, because the colorway really does make me smile, even though having to redo half of it didn't.

Next up, if we have cereal, then we might as well watch some cartoons.  But here's one you might not have seen before:

Krtek the mole is a beloved children's character around the world, translated into dozens of languages.  But he is originally Czech, and I grew up with a few Krtek storybooks, so he's near and dear to my heart.  I was perusing the favorite patterns of my spoilee for a new, long-term, swap when I saw this, so I immediately wanted to try it.  And here it is, modeled by Krtek himself:

The pattern is for a scarf, but I shortened it to a cowl to make it a very quick knit.  Another alteration I made was that when I was turning the short rows for the texture I wrapped, which gives more of a cobblestone effect than the original.  However, it also eliminates the de facto buttonholes that unwrapped short rows created, so I also made an i-cord and sewed that onto the edge.  I love the buttons, I think they match perfectly.

Are you more of an adult or a child when you craft?  For more FOs this Friday, go to Tami's Amis.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Now with actual progress

I reached a tipping point in the past week, and not just in my running.  I completed my 20-mile run and have now entered the taper phase of marathon training.  That involves ambivalently looking forward and seeing that my mileage will be decreasing for upcoming runs, which is exciting, but that there aren't nearly as many upcoming runs before the actual event, which is a little scary.

I suppose there's a similar dichotomy of feeling when you finish up a knitting project.  Casting off is exhilarating, and then there's the perhaps not exactly exciting but satisfying weaving in of the ends, washing, and blocking.  But invariably, after casting off and weaving in the ends, I sit on the sofa and think, 'Now what?'  There's nothing to knit.  And most of the time I don't want to get up to start the blocking.  I want to knit something.

I had this feeling over the weekend, when I managed to cast off my Fruit Loopy Shawl, and put the finishing touches on that other project I teased last week.  Both of these will be FO features on Friday, because I spent Monday blocking them.  Here's a fuzzy photo to sort of prove it:

With two cast off projects, the desire to knit something was even stronger.  But I fought the urge to cast on something new, knowing that I have my Sochi Socks ceremonially starting up soon.  Instead, I returned to that beloved WIP, my cardigan.  I finally finished seaming the back to the left and right front panels.  And I think I've reached the point where I understand what I'm doing when I'm seaming, rather than just blindly sewing it up.  When it comes to these sorts of things, I often have trouble 'seeing' what bump is the part of the stitch I'm aiming for.  Which is why I rely on a lot of help from my mom to show me.  Or, in the case of then picking up the stitches along the bottom for a ruffle edge, to do most of it for me.

In my defense, however, once she picked up the stitches, I tackled something I had never done before: beading!

See the sparklies?

Even though it's one majorly long row, I really enjoyed beading (while knitting) for the first time.  And I love how the color matches the yarn and adds just a little hint of sparkle.  I still have about half of the tube left, and I'm planning on beading the sleeve ruffles and hopefully some of the neckband as well.

So all in all, it's been a very productive week!  I hope I can take this momentum into my first pair of socks, and continue to make my way towards finishing this cardigan.  I'd like to actually wear it one day.

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

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Gooey Peppermint Brownies

I felt a little unseasonal bringing Lime Cracker Parfaits in for the first week.  I think of citrus flavors as a refreshing flavor for hot weather, and that tart sensation feels somehow wrong when it's so cold outside.    If you're going to have a refreshing winter sensation, it should be peppermint, right?

Of course, trying to match baked goods to the weather is a futile effort in Texas, because there is just no telling.  Last week, for example.  There it was, lovely and mild in the high 60s, and then two days later we had a snowpocalypse.  Well, a snowpocalypse as far as Central Texans were concerned.  What people who have real winters would see is less than an inch of sleet and a little bit ice on the overpasses.

Put it this way: there is more minty glaze on these brownies than there was snow on the ground.  Unlike ice on the roads, though, you can never have enough minty glaze.

Gooey Peppermint Brownies
Just a boxed mix with a little extra chocolatey chill.  Brr!

Makes one 8 x 8 pan


  • 1 box of Peppermint Bark Brownie Mix
  • Additional ingredients as called for in Mix
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped mint chocolates (such as After Eight, Andes Thins, Ritter Sport Peppermint, etc.)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2-3 Tablespoons milk, enough to achieve desired glaze consistency


  1. Mix brownie batter as directed, stirring in the chopped chocolate just before pouring into the pan and baking.
  2. You can glaze the brownies immediately after baking while warm or after cooling.  In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar, extract, and milk.  Add the milk a Tablespoon at a time and stir until you have the right consistency (you can drizzle, but it's not too drippy).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: In Jerome, or we will be

I've heard that apparently the period of greatest happiness caused by a vacation comes before you actually go.  It's the planning, the expectation, the anticipation, that brings us the greatest pleasure.  Even more than actually being wherever it is.  You could think of that kind of cynically, but since I'm currently in that honeymoon phase of pre-vacation, I choose to revel in it.

The week after running the marathon, my mom and I are going to Phoenix for a long weekend.  The impetus for this was an exhibition by Dale Chihuly at the Desert Botanical Garden.  Chihuly does glass blowing on a large and fantastical scale.  His pieces are full of color and interesting shapes.  Here's a sort of highlight reel from the DBG:

I've only seen a few of them in person in Dallas, but Mom visited his exhibit in Kew Gardens a few years ago and took so many photographs.  She does that anyway, but these particularly piqued her interest.  So when we heard about this exhibition, we were both interested in trying to get out and see it.  Not only does the glass look amazing, I think it being in that desert setting is going to be another layer of beauty.  Plus, we're going to aim to make the rounds around the grounds twice: once in the daylight, and once at night.

Other than colorful glass, we're also going to be hitting up some local yarn stores, of course, and I've started scoping out froyo and other food options.  We have a Ravelry friend we'll get to spend time with, and one of my childhood best friend lives there now so I'm hoping to meet up with her.

We're also going to take a day trip out to Jerome.  Apparently it's America's largest ghost town.  After bustling with copper, now it's more of an artist's community.  Mom's excited to take lots of pictures, while I mostly just have this Barenaked Ladies song stuck in my head:

So if you have any ideas of things I just have to do or see in Phoenix, let me know!  I'll only have two and a half days total, so our schedule is mostly fully booked, but I'm still open to suggestions, especially food or fiber related.  It's not a big trip, but I'm starting to get excited!

For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

WIP Wednesday: One step (and a few stitches) at a time

This is 'the' week in my marathon training plan.  Yesterday I ran five miles, I just put in ten on the treadmill at the gym, and I'll do another five tomorrow.  And then, oh and then, it's the big 2-0 on Saturday.  That's right, twenty miles.  The long run that's the longest distance until actual race day.  Once I get through that, it's a tapering traipse to the starting line.  I'm trying not to psyche myself out about it, though, because it's only two miles more than I did the other week, so it's really just a matter of time.  I know I'll get it done, I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Unlike running, where you can only ever take one step at a time, in knitting you can be working on several things at the same time.  Okay, so you probably still can't physically knit more than one stitch at a time, but you don't do half a run, start another, then hop back onto the first trail again.  Whereas this week I did a little jumping around between projects.

My Fruit Loopy Shawl is tantalizingly close to completion.  I just have one more section of gussets before I finish up.  I would probably have cast it off by now if I hadn't decided to cast something else on over the weekend.  It was a super-quick knit, so I actually just have to add buttons and some i-cords.  I'm hoping that I might get that done in time for Friday, so I'll optimistically save it for a possible FO post and keep you in suspense.

Part of the reason I started a whole new project was because I just wanted to be doing something other than the gussets that I feel like I've been making for so long now.  And that something wasn't seaming my cardigan.  I know, I'm so picky.  The other reason is that I've joined another swap.  This one has a longer timeframe and will involve several handmades.  And I always feel a little antsy about a swap until I have at least one concrete idea.  So I was perusing my spoilee's favorite patterns and found one that intrigued me.  Once the idea was there, I had to search my stash for a yarn to try it out.  And to further build the suspense, I'm really pleased with it.

Do you ever just feel the need to cast on something new before you finish a WIP?  Or are you strictly monogamous when it comes to knitting?

More WIP Wednesday posts at Tami's Amis.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Lime Cracker Parfait

My Key Lime Pot de Creme was my last dessert of 2013, but I came into 2014 with a few extra limes left over.  And so, I decided that the first office treat was going to be something a little less fancy-sounding, but just as delicious.

This doesn't require a water bath, or anything more complicated than mixing and layering.  Well, except for the part where you should try and remember to bring spoons for serving.  I had planned to grab plastic ones from the cafeteria, but didn't remember until after they had closed for the afternoon, so I had to beg some forks off of the administrative assistant.  Whatever works, right?  The next option would have been those little stir straws from the coffee shop, which might have turned into some kind of chop stick strategy.

It sounds like a joke, but it might have been worth trying, because people loved these.  Including me.

Lime Cracker Parfait
Recipe from Serious Eats: 10-Minute Lime Cracker Pie

My Notes:

  • Instead of a pie plate or casserole dish, I assembled about 1 1/2 dozen individual parfaits in 5-ounce Dixie Cups, with a single cracker for each layer
  • I added about 1/2 Tablespoon of zest to the filling as well as sprinkling it on top of the parfaits, just for extra zing
  • I used four crackers per parfait, but could have added one more layer to completely fill the cups (obviously then having fewer parfaits)
  • You should definitely let these sit overnight, so the crackers absorb the filling and soften

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Resolutions

Okay, insta-poll: we're halfway through January, who has already broken their New Year's resolutions?

There was a brief discussion about resolutions at the table when we were eating lunch on Christmas Day at my dad's house.  I offered (jokingly) that my resolution was to run a marathon, which apparently doesn't count when you spent most of your time working toward that goal the year before.  Oh well.

Thankfully, Hill Country Weavers came in and brought me a concept of resolutions that I think I can stick to throughout 2014.  I wrote about it in an Examiner article, if you'd care to read it.  But essentially, they're hosting a Knitter's Toolbox program throughout the year where knitters add skills to their theoretical toolbox, collecting stamps on their card for chances to win prizes at the end of the year.

You can earn up to twelve stamps, so breaking down to about a project a month, each one representing one technique.  These are the choices:

  • Stranded knitting
  • Intarsia
  • Lace
  • Mosaic knitting
  • Socks
  • Double knitting
  • Triangle scarf or shawl
  • Cables
  • Sweater
  • Hat
  • Try a new Fiberart: Spinning
  • Try a new Fiberart: Weaving
  • Try a new Fiberart: Crochet
  • Knitting in the round
  • Short rows
  • Steeking
  • I-cord
  • Felting
  • Make a buttonhole
  • Nupps or bobbles
  • Kitchner stitch

I haven't settled on all of the 12 of the 21 options that I'll try to tackle this year, but I have some goals.  Like socks, which is on the list, and you already know it's on my list for Ravellenic knitting.  Then I think finally getting my spinning wheel going and transitioning from the drop spindle will count as trying at least a new variation on the fiber art.  I know that I will definitely not be brave enough to try steeking, though, eep!  And then there will be some stamps that I earn with new projects that just aren't the first time I've used that technique, like shawls, lace, and of course, mosaic knitting.

I like that this isn't a resolution about avoiding anything, and it's up to me how many of these things I try.  I feel like it's going to give me a thread running through the year without constricting.

Did you make any resolutions for 2014?  Are you still resolved?  If you're resolved to be inspired, check out Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Training for runs and rows

My upcoming marathon is not the only big sporting event to look forward to, there's also this little gathering of athletes happening in Sochi.  And like it's warm season counterpart, there will once again be a corresponding event for crafters who will be watching the Games and challenging themselves in their own way between torch lighting and torch extinguishing.

Some people will be knitting entire sweaters in this relatively short timespan.  I'm not that bold, but I am going to be attempting something totally new and exciting for me: socks!

Technically these aren't a work in progress because I can't officially cast on until the opening ceremonies, but as these are my first pair of socks ever, I wanted to make sure to do them right.  I would hate to put all of that effort into turning a heel only to find that I've ended up with socks that are so tight I can't put them on or so loose that they end up in a puddle around my ankles.  And so, I have swatched:

Look, a thumb cosy!  No, just the first of three swatches I knit before reaching the gauge specified in the pattern.  I'm calling the project Sochi Socki and using a pattern from the wonderful Alicia from Woolen Diversions.  My Hot Cocoa Cowl was a test knit for her and I really like her thorough pattern writing, so I feel like I'm in good hands.  Or should that be feet?  And the yarn is Heavenly Fiber, a dyer I love both for her yarn and herself.  This yarn was always destined to be socks.  I'm so excited to hopefully get these done and be able to wear them the next time I see her at the same fiber festival where I bought the yarn last year.

Until I can actually cast on the socks, I still have my standby WIP that was almost an FO and then became decidedly a WIP again, the Fruit Loopy Shawl.  Here it is last Friday, during what is becoming a weekly frozen yogurt and knitting fest at Chill Out:

Still a bit of a ways to go, but it's pretty mindless knitting.  I'll probably bring it to a meeting tomorrow and hopefully get another 'wedge' of short rows done.

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Key Lime Pot de Creme

New Year's Eve is an interesting holiday, food-wise.  Thanksgiving has turkey and cranberry and pumpkin, Christmas has candy canes and potato salad (at least in my family).  But New Year's Eve has kind of a random flavor profile, if you will.  There's champagne, of course.  And…black eyed peas?  Hmm, no thanks.

So when our knitting group had an all-day get-together, aside from being complete with potluck spread of veggies, chips, dip, and fruit, it was entirely up to us what we wanted to eat.  There were no real traditional norms to guide us.  Ultimately, we decided that we fancied baked potatoes.  Because they are delicious.

Also delicious: lime.  Winter doesn't strike me as the time of year for citrus necessarily, although the last time I was in Central Market they seemed to be kicking off a citrus extravaganza, so maybe my mom just didn't realize how on-trend she was when she suggested a lime dessert.  Apparently her sister would always make her something called lemon posset, and that got her thinking about a lime pot de creme.

Essentially, a pot de creme is a custard.  Creme brûlée is a pot de creme that's been torched to have that fancy sugar shell.  Leaving out the brûlée part and adding in some tart citrus flavor makes for a super-simple dessert that tastes delicious.  And what makes it even more simple in the recipe I found was that it uses sweetened condensed milk, so you don't have to dissolve any sugar or anything.  Just mix, pour, bake, and chill.  And then, of course, enjoy.  That's the easiest part.

Key Lime Pot de Creme
Recipe from Bakin' Bit: Key Lime Pot de Creme

My Notes:
  • Didn't use any key limes, just the regular, less pesky ones
  • Added a little more zest, about a Tablespoon
  • The recipe doesn't give a volume, but my mixture filled five 1/2-cup ramekins perfectly
  • Tip: For water baths, to reduce the risk of splashing water into the ramekins when transferring into the oven, I don't put water into the pan until I'm putting it into the oven.  So just as you are setting it on the rack, carefully pour in the hot water.  It was helpful to have a second person around for this, but it can be done alone.  
  • Served with freshly whipped cream and fruit

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Mosaic knitting

In the past month or so I've been straying away from the knit-related inspirations.  I guess it's the influence of having my long runs on Saturdays that has lead me to a couple posts about running, and one sort of about ice cream.  Because nothing refuels you after a few hard miles like ice cream, right?

But this week, there's a technique I want to highlight.  I didn't realize until I was writing this post that it's called mosaic knitting.  I was just calling it 'slipping stitches'.  As Knitty says:
Using a simple slip-stitch technique, you can create bands and borders in pattern, or even a whole sweater, and you won't ever have to carry a second yarn along! ... 
Mosaic knitting simply involves slipping the stitches in a row that should be the "other" color. If you are knitting the dark color, you slip the light; if you are knitting the light color, you slip the dark.
I can slip stitches!  I can also carry two yarns at a time, sort of, but it's scarier.  Slipping stitches seems much safer.  So here are a few slipping patterns I'm digging:

Blue Jean Cowl by RMW Knits
Photo credit: RMW Knits
I have a friend that just finished this cowl, and it looks really cute.

Ballband Dishcloth by Pisgah Yarn & Dyeing Co., Inc.

Photo credit: Me ; )
And hey, I've already done this myself with my dishcloths for the Yarnorama holiday party last year.  The party ended up being postponed, hopefully we'll have it soon so I can show these off.  And I think I want to make a cowl using this pattern as a base, I really like the subway tile effect of it.

INSULATE! Hat by Amy van de Laar

Photo credit: Amy van de Laar
How awesome is this?  You have to love a Dalek knit.  And apparently it uses "a combination of solid-colour rounds with occasional slipped stitches, and stranded-colourwork rounds."  Neat!  I like that it gives you a still-impressive colorwork project, but with a little simplification where possible.

Mosaic Diamonds Dishcloth by Carol Schoenfelder

Photo credit: My mom ; )
Back to dishcloths, this is one from the pair my mom made for the same Yarnorama party swap.  You'll notice that we pooled together our yarns.  She really loved this technique, she kept saying how amazing it would be as a sweater.  And it would be fantastic.

So if you want to explore color in your knitting and maybe after Color Affection you want something other than stripes, you can always try a little slipping.  Unlike in running, in knitting it's a very good thing.

For a different kind of color inspiration (dyeing), head over to Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Looks like it's back to Norman...

After at least one 'morning' when I didn't get out of bed until after noon, I can't say that I was happy to hear my alarm ringing bright and early on Monday morning.  But it's not a vacation unless it ends and you go back to work.  And I know I'm not the only one feeling the 'shock' as my dad calls it of returning.  Everyone has that same wistful tone in their voice as they answer the requisite question of the week: How was your break?

So it's back to the hustle and bustle of the work week.  But it's not all evil alarms forcing me out of bed and disturbing the cat in her continued slumber.  Wednesday holds some good routines, like the weekly coffee klatch, which brought another successful recipe I'll be sharing soon.  It also gave me enough crafting time to do a few more rows of my shawl, slowly making my way back to where I was before I discovered its fatal asynchrony.  Other than that, I've been doing some non-knitting crafting for my Jane Austen swap.  One project involves committing a cardinal sin and deconstructing a book, while the other involved a lot of blanket stitching, but was not, in fact, a blanket.  Tantalizing hints, I hope, to keep you in suspense for the big reveal sometime in February, when packages go out.

I was also kind of looking forward to running on the treadmill again.  While at home, I was either on the road or on the elliptical, and I kind of missed the compromise that is the treadmill.  It was a little annoying, though, to finally reach the standard time limit of 100 minutes and have to restart my workout in order to reach my designated 9 miles.  Oh well, at least I maintained my skill at reading magazines while running over the break.  I'm tempted to try knitting and running, but, um, how about after the marathon?  Yeah, definitely after.

Another relatively recent edition to the work routine has been dinner with Dad on Wednesdays after my workout.  This became a habit in the past few months, and it's nice to count on a little face-to-face time no matter what else the week may hold.  Today we again went to Tarka, as the two of us are the only ones who seem to like Indian food.  Mmm…I won't say that Channa Masala has completely replaced my beloved Kerbey Lane pancakes, but it's perhaps slightly less incongruous with the very healthy way I spend the hour or two before dinner to eat a curried mix of veggies than to have a stack of banana bacon pancakes with peanut butter sauce pancakes.  (Proof: despite not going to Kerbey Lane Cafe, I did check their Facebook page to find out that these Elvis pancakes are the pancake of the week.)

I hope those of you who are also returning to your regular working lives are not in too much shock and that there are some good things to return to as well as the mundane minutiae of office life.  For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami's Amis.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Marathon knitting

So this is kind of a news story from October, but I just found out about it on New Year's Eve and I wanted to share it with you.  There's not a lot of overlap between the world of running and the world of knitting.  But there are a few pioneers who cross the borders in exciting and somewhat crazy ways.

Like David Babcock, who broke the existing record for the longest scarf knit while running a marathon.  I love that there was an existing record to break in the first place, but David broke it by knitting a 12-foot long scarf in under six hours running 26.2 miles.

I found David's whole set up interesting:
I have an old ugly fanny pack that has a squarish open pocket that lets a ball of yarn turn freely inside of it. The opening in the bag has just enough of a lip that the ball tends to stay inside. Once the knit scarf gets to a length where it is in danger of hitting the road, or my stepping on it, I attach the end to a carabiner on the pack. Later I take a loop of paracord and wrap it around the scarf, cinching it up, and then loop the paracord through itself and onto another carabiner. When the scarf is long enough it wraps around the back of my body and to the front again.
I will admit that I have done some knitting and walking before.  I have a pedometer and always make sure to take at least 10,000 steps a day.  Before I got deep into marathon training, I would sometimes need to take a few turns about the living room in order to earn those steps at the end of the day.  To make this look even more strange, and possibly even more Jane Austen-esque, I would slip my project bag over my wrists and knit as I went.  As long as it was just plain knitting, it was okay.  I never tried anything crazy like lacework.  I probably would have tripped over the cat.

Other interesting tidbits:

  • He used 100% acrylic yarn (because this is just not a luxury fiber situation)
  • The scarf is plain garter stitch, 30 stitches wide in size 15 needles (straights)
  • Finished length: 12 feet, 1 3/4 inches
  • Finish time: 5 hours, 48 minutes, 27 seconds (faster than I will finish)
Aside from the sheer impressiveness of the achievement, I find it funny to read the articles, because what the reporter deems to be the interesting information is determined by the direction from which they are approaching the story.  It makes sense, for example, that Runner's World cared about his pace and that they would be surprised to find out that there is such a thing as knitting experts.  I didn't see any interviews with knitting magazines or websites, but that might be a weakness in the Google search, who knows.  I imagine that their questions would have been more about the yarn, the needles, and the scarf itself.  

So there you go.  Whether I'm huffing and puffing through a training run, or maybe just struggling through a long row on a shawl, I'm going to think of David and realize that I could be making things a lot harder on myself.

Have you ever knit while walking?  Or while doing anything else unusual?  For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Cranberry Swirl Citrus Cheesecake Bars

Leftover puppy chow.  Now there's something I never thought I would have.  But I guess when you make a double batch, then hoard it just a little, it can happen.  And it happened to me just after Thanksgiving, and resulted in a recipe that I didn't get a chance to share with you until now.

First, I should explain that by puppy chow I actually mean what most bloggers call Muddy Buddies, which is kind of like cake balls versus cake truffles.  It sounds nicer, and people don't do a double take when you tell them you're bringing Muddy Buddies the way they do when you say puppy chow.

Whatever you call it, it's traditionally Chex cereal combined with chocolate, peanut butter and powdered sugar for a deliciously addictive sweet snack.  In this case, I wanted to experiment with a different kind of chow, a lemony chow.  I used Lemon Tree Dwelling's recipe which essentially substitutes lemon curd for peanut butter to make a really yummy citrus version.

It was a great addition to the smorgasbord of food we had at Thanksgiving, a kind of mid-afternoon snack between lunch and the actual dessert of pies and cheesecake.  So I made a little more to bring into work.

If there's any downside to this chow, it's that it gets a little soft faster than the original version.  There's nothing wrong with it, but it loses that cereal crunch.  We all know how I feel about using leftovers, so I decided that these could be used in just the same way that cookies can to create a crust.  And I was in the mood for cheesecake, so I decided they would be cheesecake bars.  And then, to keep to the Thanksgiving leftover theme, I swirled in some of my slow cooker cranberry sauce, because I love any excuse for more cranberries.  I didn't add too much, though, because I didn't want to mess up the delicate balance and end up with unset cheesecake.  This way it was pretty in just a little bit of pink.

A great end to a year of cubicle kitchening, and another year starts tomorrow…stay tuned!

Cranberry Swirl Citrus Cheesecake
Adapted from Kraft Philadelphia: 3-Step Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Makes one 8 x 8 inch pan

  • 1 1/2 cups leftover Lemon Bar Muddy Buddies, crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 8-ounce packages of Neufchatel cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon prepared cranberry sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Mix crushed cereal crumbs with butter and press into pan lined with parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, zest, extract, and Tablespoon of cranberry sauce.  Beat until fully combined, then beat in eggs one at a time.
  4. Pour cheesecake mixture over crust.  Spoon remaining cranberry sauce into mixture and swirl lightly for a marbled effect.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the center is almost set.  Allow to cool before placing in the fridge to chill completely.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Practically perfect in…some ways

Happy 2014 everyone!  Did you pop champagne bottles?  Set off fireworks?  Watch Carson Daly and think, 'Wow, I'm old, and I wish this was TRL'?

I celebrated the new year with some friends in an all-day knitting, eating, and chatting session.  It was good times.  We had fruit, veggies, chips, dip, and for dinner we did baked potatoes with all of the fixings.  And, of course, I baked something for dessert.  Stay tuned for that recipe coming soon.

It's always nice to be able to spend some quality time with fellow crafters.  Especially when you're facing some frustrations with your WIPs.  Because as sympathetic as non-knitters may be, they just don't understand what it's like to be a few rows away from finishing a shawl, only to discover that you need to rip it back to the halfway point.


Yes, unfortunately my Fruit Loopy Shawl has suffered a setback.  I was finishing up the final section, all of the gussets behind me, when I decided to check and make sure that the end was shaping up symmetrically to the beginning.  It wasn't.  After doing some digging in others' project pages and the comments, I discovered that the Coquille Shawl pattern has an erratum.  Well, it's an erratum if you were expecting it to come out symmetrically, which I was.  Basically, the shawl is constructed with short row 'gussets' that turn out kind of like ruffles (here's a picture from when I first started):

For the first half of the shawl, you are also added stitches on the rows between the gussets.  Then for the second half, you are decreasing at the same rate.  The problem is that the pattern has you including these increases for the center gusset section.  When you do that, you end up with four more stitches then you should have.  So your second half ends up being a fatter wedge than the first, and when you are working the final section to get back down to three stitches to cast off, you have to work several additional rows, resulting in a longer length from final gusset to tip than you have from cast on to first gusset.

Would the shawl still have been fully-functional and 'fine' had I just accepted this asymmetry?  Yes.  But it would have irked me, and taken away from the happy feelings I wanted to have every time I looked at this colorful shawl.  It didn't need to be perfect, but this was too much.  So I bit the bullet and ripped back to the halfway point so that I could reknit the center gusset sans increases.

What adds insult to injury is the sneaking suspicion I have that if it weren't for the extra four stitches across the entire second half of the shawl, I might not have needed to buy extra yarn, and this shawl could have been done not just in 2013 but at least a month ago.  Grr.  But I'm taking deep breaths and letting it pass.  This way, I know I have plenty of yarn, and I've gone ahead and done the two gussets on either side of the center that I eliminated the first time around in order to try and conserve yardage.

Just so you don't think I'm a crazy perfectionist, I have another project that I'm nearly done with which had it's own unexpected results.  And this time I didn't respond to it by redoing the whole thing.  It's for the Jane Austen swap, so I can't give you too many details.  But suffice to say, it involved some colorwork and for some reason my gauge between a swatch of just plain knitting and the actual knitting with the colorwork was different.  The image I was aiming for in the colorwork is fine, but the item itself is a bit larger than I was hoping.

Thankfully, I have my mother, who has a lot of experience with knitting fixes.  She picked up the stitches on the shawl for me, and she's helping me reconcile the dimension issues for this project.  Then I just have to quell the voices in my head that start to pipe up anytime something turns out even mildly disappointing.  I know that in the end it's still going to be amazing, and that my spoilee will love it.  At least I hope she will.  I think it's a good sign that I'm still really excited to be able to show it to you all.

So my 2014 crafting didn't necessarily start off on the best foot, but I think the bright side is that I faced them all with relative calm and without any tears of frustration.  After all, it's not about the problems you face, you can't control those.  It's about how you face them.

Before I turn into a Hallmark card, I'll send you on to Tami's Amis for more WIP Wednesday posts.