Saturday, March 29, 2008

Chocolate Berry Beginnings

Thank you to all for your wonderful compliments on my newest handspun! =)

Here is the progress so far on my Chocolate Berry cardi.

I'm about 6 inches away from the ribbed bottom edge.

Here's the shoulder detail of the cable surrounded with YO's:

Can't wait to wear this!

And just because, here's a recent pic of Daisy, just being cute:

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chocolate Berry Pie (handspun)

I typed out the title for this post, and then realizing that I have now turned this blog into a place for recipes as well as fiber related activity, I added in the last part. =)

Moving on.

The house is still; all three children are taking their naps. I should be working on my projects or doing something productive, yet I have one eye on the Ravelry message boards, and I'm composting a blog post. Hmm. I'm in a strange mood. There's some change in the air, and I can't talk about it yet, but it makes me feel all weird inside. I can post more about it in a few weeks (no, has nothing to do with another baby, I'm not writing a book or opening an Etsy shop -- I promise I'll talk about it later, and it's really not exciting at all, but it just effects our little family greatly).

I've been doing a lot of spinning lately, finishing up a pound of this:

Naturally colored Dark Brown BFL and handpainted Pie For Everyone from Spunky Club (November)

All of that has been transformed into this:

1000+ yards DK-light worsted

I decided to use it for Amy King's Sprout - Growing Roots. Here's my swatch:

I was playing around with row-counts for the stripes, and decided to go with ones that are just a bit narrower.

I cast on for this two days ago, and cannot seem put this project down. Although I don't have a whole lot of knitting time at the moment, I'm almost through with the yoke. I don't have a picture of the actual work in progress yet; I want to wait until I'm at least past the armholes, but I'm really enjoying this knit! Everything else has been put aside at the moment until this is done (or until my attention strays elsewhere...)

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Little Guy Hats

As promised, here is the pattern for the hats I knit for my little crew. I almost feel silly posting it, since it's such a simple, kind of generic pattern. However, I sometimes knit gifts for other children, and, without their little heads in front of me to measure, I find myself guessing at how big my children's heads were at that age. Also, the swirly decrease pattern at the crown pleased me to no end as I finished each. All of this to say, simple or not, here you go.

(The mitten pattern is based on the on Mittens 101 from

Sizes: 12 months and 2-4 years

Yarn: KnitPicks Swish Superwash Merino (110 yds, 50 grams; a wosted weight) -- approx 1 ball per hat.

Needle: size 5 circulars, or size needed for gauge (I always knit magic-loop, but you can use DPN's if you're more comfortable with that technique)

Gauge: 21 sts per 4 inches (knit worsted weight at a nice tight gauge to make a warm fabric)

CO 80 (90) sts, knit in twisted 1x1 rib (k1 through the back loop, p1) for about 10 rows. Switch to stockinette and knit plain (or adding a stripe of choice) until work measures 3-5/8” (4-1/2”).

Begin decreases. K6, k2tog around. Knit one row plain. K5, k2tog around. Knit one row plain. Continue to decrease as established (k4, k2tog; k3, k2tog, etc.) with alternating plain rows until 16 sts remain. K2tog around.

Break yarn, use darning needle to run end through all sts 2 times (a hole will work it’s way open at the top if it’s only done once). Pull tight, weave in all ends.

Place on the head of nearest cute child.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Curry Powder

A few years ago, my sister Hannah gave me this book for my birthday:

It is an unassuming, square volume, entirely black and white on the inside with no pictures. The gem of this book is in the text. Not only does it contain good, solid recipes, but it also gives you the tools to experiment and create your own curry dishes.

Although the author assures the reader that using store-bought curry powders and paste will be fine in any of the dishes, she includes several curry powder recipes, as well as curry pastes and Garam Masala.

I've been wanting to try out the curry powder recipe for a while now. Two weeks ago I ran out of my store-bought McCormicks blend, so after a quick run to the Asian food store, I was ready.

All of this only cost me about 10 Euro -- I don't know why anyone would buy their spices anywhere else!

One benefit of making your own is that you can tailor it perfectly to your own taste -- and even if you follow the recipe exactly, there's nothing like the freshness of a newly ground spice blend.

Here are the toasted whole and untoasted ground spices all together in a bowl:

Curry Powder
(from The Curry Book by Nancie McDermott)
You can vary any of these proportions, omit a few, or add any of the following: fennel seeds, start anise, ground nutmeg, mace, dried curry leaves, brown or black mustard seeds. You can substitute ground spices, but keep in mind that they burn quickly and need to be toasted separately from any whole ones you may be using (which will take longer to darken)

1/4 cup coriander seeds
2 T cumin seeds
1 T white or black peppercorns
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 cinnamon sticks, approx 3 inches long each
1 T ground turmeric
2 tsp whole cardamom (about 3 or 4 pods) or ground
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1 dried red chili pepper, stemmed a broken in pieces (or 2 tsp crushed red pepper, or 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper)

Preheat oven to 300 deg F.

In pie tin (I used a large jelly-roll pan), combine coriander, cumin, peppercorns and fenugreek. Wrap cinnamon sticks in a kitchen towel (preferably a smooth one rather than one with a nap, like terrycloth) and bash them with a rolling pin or the side of an unopened can. Add crushed cinnamon to pan of spices and put in oven.

Toast spices for 15 minutes, stirring once, until they darken a little and release their flavors. Remove from the oven and spread out on a plate to cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, combine turmeric, cardamom, cloves, ginger and chili pepper or cayenne. When the toasted spices have cooled, combine with untoasted spices and grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder (I have a coffee grinder that I use only for spices), or a mortar and pestle. Pour all into an airtight jar (I taped a piece of paper into a funnel), and store away from heat and light. For maximum freshness and flavor, use within 3 months.

Fragrant, fresh curry powder, all ground up and ready to use.

Have a great Easter, everyone!

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Friday, March 21, 2008

FO: Five (Three) Fruits Sweater for Daisy

I’ve finally finished up Daisy's sweater!

Details shots:

My little model refused to stay still for even a moment, so here are the action shots (mildly blurry)


Pattern: Five Fruits by Amanda Kerr from MagKnits
Yarn: my Handspun from Spunky Club (December) superwash Corriedale, Party Dress colorway
Needle: KnitPicks Options Circular size 5 (al magic loop techinque)
Modifications: I modified it with a seed stitch cuff, and did a 3-needle bind-off on the hem instead of sewing it down.

It fits my little Daisy well, and will be perfect for her to wear through the Spring.

Curry powder recipe will be coming soon!  Also, I just finished up spinning a pound of fiber which is hanging to dry in the shower, and I wrote up the pattern for the children's little striped hats, which I'll be posting as well.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes

About a month ago I came across a recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes on one of my favorite cooking blogs, Culinary In The Country.  The recipe calls for buttermilk, and a different take on buttercream frosting, so I had to try it.

I made them the first time at last month's Spinning Friday at my house, and they were a hit with everyone.  Unfortunately though, I didn't have quite enough red food coloring in the pantry so they were a tiny bit dull, and I left the frosting in the refrigerator overnight, making it almost impossible to pipe out gracefully.  When I let it soften out in the counter for a little while, it went grainy on me, although the flavor was still good.

Still though, Dina and I taught Alex to spin for the first time, so I still called the day a success.

I brought the left-overs to one of my German neighbors afterwards, and they loved it so much that they requested it for the one daughter's 14th birthday, which was this Sunday.

I am terrible at decorating cakes, but this time I gave myself a leg up on the whole affair by making the frosting the day of the event so that it would be as smooth and soft as possible.

My two assistants help taste test the batter before the addition of the food coloring.

(Nope, it's not sanitary, but we're baking with kids here.  They have no such concerns.)

All went off without a hitch.  This time I had enough food coloring.

Yes, it takes two entire 1oz bottles.  These aren't playing around with the "Red" aspect -- it actually turns your tongue that color too when you eat it.

Cake just about to go into the oven.

While the finished cake looked just a bit boring, it wasn't all messy and overdone like my decorating skills usually dictate.

Personally I liked the texture of the cupcakes a bit better, but the difference was slight, and it seemed that the guests at the party liked all of it equally.

Sparky carefully sprinkled each cupcake with sugar, and I was very proud of his steady little hand.  He's clocked a lot of time in the kitchen in his 4 years, and he always tells me how much he loves cooking.  Look at how concentrated his face is here.

His is very proud to show you his completed cupcakes:

The crumb of the cupcake is moist (thanks to buttermilk), and light (cake flour), with a mild chocolate/vanilla flavor.  The frosting is buttercream, but instead of being sickly sweet like most (buttercreams usually depend on powdered sugar to thicken them), these are pleasantly sweet with notes of vanilla, and is thickened with a cooked milk and flour mixture.  I know, it sounds like a total bomb, but the paste gives it a silky mouthfeel -- just be sure to press saran wrap onto the surface of it as it cools, just like you would with pudding, so that a skin doesn't form. 

I like these a lot, although in my opinion, as far as frosting goes, nothing can ever top a good cream cheese recipe.

(Recipe from Culinary In The Country)

For the cupcakes

2 1/2 cups cake flour
3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
2 ounces liquid red food coloring
3 tablespoons lukewarm water
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 recipe Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

To make the cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Mix in vanilla, red coloring and water until well combined. Add flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour - mixing just until combined.

In a small bowl, combine vinegar and baking soda. Quickly pour into the batter and stir just until combined. Evenly divide the batter between the wells of 24 muffin tin lined with paper cups.

Bake until the center springs back when lightly pressed in the center, about 18 to 25 minutes. Remove and let cool 5 minutes before carefully turning the cupcakes out to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Makes 24 cupcakes.  (For me it made 24 cupcakes plus a loaf pan, or one large 11x13" pyrex dish and 12 cupcakes -- I fill my muffin tins about 1/2 full to give them room to rise.)

Buttercream Frosting

1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a medium saucepan, add milk, flour and salt - whisk until flour has dissolved. Place over medium heat, whisking, and cook until thickened and beginning to bubble. Reduce heat and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and scoop into a bowl - cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until it has cooled down.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl - add the cooled milk mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, beating on low until smooth.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Finished things

It's about time I showed you something.  I finished my Button Me Up sweater.  This happened sometime before Christmas.  Whoops!  Better late than never.

Pattern:  Button Me Up Pullover by Laura Chau
Needles: KnitPicks circular, magic loop style
Yarn: Handspun Bulky Wool

I love the neck detail.


(Buttons found at my LYS.)

You might notice a slight difference in color in a band around the midsection.

This is because after I had completed the sweater I noticed two things: the sweater was a little too short for me, and ribbing looks terrible stretched over my belly.  I cut one stitch over the offending rib section and separated the bottom from the rest of the sweater.  I then ripped down until I had only two inches of rib (instead of the intended 4), and knit back up until I ran out of yarn.  I rejoined with the ball that I had finished knitting with at the top of the sweater. 

This was the same colorway and dyelot, but it was just slightly different.  It also appears that all of the stitches bias in the opposite direction, and I'm not sure if that's because I knit back down or what happened (at this date I can't remember exactly which way I knit when I was fixing the problem).  Anyway, I added several inches in this manner, and then kitchnered the entire thing back together. 

It shows a little, but not enough to make a real difference.  No one has stopped me on the street for rude questioning or anything, and I'm rather pleased with the sweater overall.  I wear it pretty much non-stop.  In fact, you may have noticed it in some pictures that have been taken since Christmas.

Christmas morning:

Cooking Christmas dinner:

Ice cream in Luxembourg:

Sharing Gelato in Trier:

Hanging out in Switzerland:

Shopping in Venice:

Yes, this sweater has been everywhere. I need another! I'm almost done with the back of Central Park Hoodie, but, of course, no pictures.

I do, however, have a shot of the completed had/mitten sets that I knit for the children on our trip down to Italy:

Pattern: My own for the hats, mittens were based on Mittens 101 from
Needles: KnitPicks circular, magic loop style (generally the only way that I knit in the round
Yarn: KnitPicks Swish Superwash

These have all been put through very heavy use already, and I'm glad that I took the time to work them up. It really didn't take that much time -- I just kept putting it off for other projects.

Something that I haven't blogged about at all -- I'm knitting the Hemlock Ring Blanket, and am almost done with it already! This was my "in Italy" knit.

I'm on the row that Jared of Brooklyn Tweed highlighted as his last repeat, but I want to go a bit further to try and use up as much yarn as possible.

I've been busy at my wheel too:

8 oz Pie For Everyone Spunky Eclectic club.

Dark BFL, to be plied with the Pie For Everyone.

The finished yarn will be knit into a cardi (for me!)

Also, I'm very nearly done with the Five (Three) Fruits Party Dress Sweater for Daisy.

All that I need to do is to sew on the buttons.

I think that I'm all caught up now on knitting and spinning progress.  Next, I have a Red Velvet Cupcake recipe to share, and also one for curry powder!

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Italy Part 9: Venice

On the last day of our Italy trip, we spent the day in Venice.

The city is built on 110 little islands in a salt water lagoon. Travel is restricted entirely to boating or walking -- no cars are allowed in the city at all. Venice is known as the largest urban car free area in Europe.

We parked near the dock, and took the traghetti (waterbus) in.

Once inside the city, the water is full of Gondolas giving high-priced rides to tourists, as well as Venitians boating about doing their every day errands. (For example, if you dig a hole, you then have to boat the dirt out somewhere. So strange.)

We, of course, had to eat seafood while we were there. I ate my favorite food -- raw oysters. Everything we had, unfortunately, was incredibly overpriced, because we were not able to get beyond the very touristy area during our short visit. (Although the seafood was very fresh and good. The vegetables Not so much.)

The bread of Venice, as well as the olive oil, is remarkably bad (the bread pale and spongy and the oil smelling...well, just not good), and was especially a let down after what we had become accustomed to in Florence. From what I hear, their Jewish bread (from the Jewish ghetto or district) is delicious, but it always sells out at the bakeries by lunch-time, so at dinner there's almost no chance of it. Oh well.

The architecture was very beautiful, and we definitely want to go back to explore more. The top two pictures below are of San Marco square.

Unfortunately, the whole place is over run by pigeons, and this is totally played up, complete with little stands selling cones of pigeon food to feed to the hoards of birds (we contributed to the problem with two dropped ice cream cones).

The shopping is extensive, strongly featuring beautiful, artistically handmade Murano glass in countless shop windows.

The entire city feels magical. It was a lot of fun just to walk around and take in the sites. It did get pretty cold as night fell, and we did not manage to get beyond the touristy bits, but we took with us some lovely memories.

One funny fact: as we were looking around for a place to eat dinner, I noticed a heart and cupid on one of the menus in a restaurant window. I turned to Greg: "Hey, what day is today?"
"Ummm...February 14th."
(joking) "Wow! So you took me to Venice for Valentine's day!"
"That's today?!"
Neither of us had any idea until that moment. Whoops! What hopeless romantics we are. :)


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