Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dead Sexy Dessert (and a Spunky Club July spoiler)

Thank you everyone for your congratulations! (And the comments on the song made me blush. Thanks guys, you're too kind. It's been far too long since I brought my voice out into the Public Space.) I realized, after posting the slide-show, that some of the pictures were obscured by the photo titles. To rectify this, I've posted the original picture files on my Flickr account in their own set, located here. (Especially for people like my mom, who would appreciate seeing The Whole Thing.)

Our anniversary day was busy, but ended well. While Greg was at work on Monday, I worked on getting the slide-show together and recording the song for it (recording the vocals with no children around to make noises took some planning!). Somehow, I also managed to throw together a Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, feed the children dinner (boxed macaroni and cheese, because I needed a little break), put them to bed, and tidied the kitchen. Then, in the time it took Greg to park the car and walk up the stairs, I changed from Mommy Uniform to Date Night Clothing. I was like Superman. Or Supermom. Whatever.

Dinner was take-out from the local Asian Bistro, and it was nice to be able to decompress at last after a busy day, and, "date". And then, my friends, there was dessert.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta and Strawberries
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Balsamic-Black-Pepper Glazed Strawberries

Dudes: this dessert is dead sexy, and stupid-easy. If you can wrap your brain around making whipped cream, you're home free on this baby.

Here's what's involved: heat cream and sugar. Add vanilla. Add softened gelatin. Pour into wineglasses (or ramekins if you plan to unmold them). Chill at least 2 hours. That's it. (I used David Lebovitz' recipe, found here.)

For the strawberries, I simply cut them, drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar, ground a few twists of black pepper over it, and sprinkled on sugar to taste. After being gently stirred together, it was ready to top and serve.

This dessert begs for variation and playing around with flavors. I could imagine this with blueberries doused in maple syrup, blackberries with a bit of brown sugar, peaches with caramelized honey (cook honey over medium heat until it caramelizes, cool slightly, toss with fruit), etc.

But that's enough about romance and food. Let's talk fiber, shall we?

I've got a bunch of New Stuff to show you. First off, I have neglected to show off a very cool gift that my friend Laura sent a month or two ago (oh dear, how did it take me so long?!)

Gift from Laura (LauraPacha)

Super cute sewing patterns, and a gorgeous silk hankie for spinning!

I've been wanting to play around with hankies for a while now, and the colors in this little stack are just totally perfect.

Silk hankie -- Gift from Laura (LauraPacha)

Thank you Laura! (I was going to link to you in Ravelry, but can't seem to find you now. Help!)

Next up: Amy (Spunky Eclectic) King's new book!!

Spin Control -- a must have book for every spinner

I haven't managed to find the time to properly review it, and I still don't have time today, but suffice to say: if you spin, you need this book. It's fun, it's informative, it's interesting, and it's well written and photographed. Full-color pictures, great instructive angles, great book. Buy it.

Also in the spin-struction category is this DVD:

Sit and Spin DVD

I haven't actually viewed it yet, but I am excited about learning new techniques that will improve my skill as a spinner, overall.

But seriously, what good is an instructional video and book, if there's no new wool to play with? My thoughts exactly. (BE WARNED! The CLUB SPOILER for Spunky Club is approaching:)

Spunky stuff!

OK, I'm going to be totally silly here, but I love it that Amy just wrote "Faith" on it. No last name, not my Ravelry screen name, just "Faith". Gotta love shopping somewhere that I'm known on a first name basis. I know, I know, it was probably just done to organize the packages from the frenzy after the recent update, but I can still be thrilled by it. (Amy, you're awesome, and I don't know if you even meant to, but you totally made my day.) :)

New Spunky Stash, unwrapped:

Spunky Update stash enhancement

(Hey Tiffany, I used your gift certificate!! Thank you!!!)

If you click through to Flickr, you can hover over it for notes. There's several wool blends in there, which I figured would be easiest with learning new techniques, etc.

Oh wait -- you haven't seen enough? You want more pictures, you say? OK, how about some close-ups?

Spunky Update July '09

Spunky Club July, Merino-Tencel blend, "Beach Day":

Spunky Club July '09: Merino/Bamboo "Beach Day"

I've been wanting a shawl pin for a while now, but for whatever reason have just never gotten one until now. It's a Yellow Dog shawl pin in Maple wood, and it's perfectly smooth, lightweight, and elegant, without being at all fussy.

Yellow Dog Shawl Pin

(You can find more at Spunky Eclectic here)

I'm currently working on my Swap For Scraps wool; I'm excited to see how the colors all play out, and I'll tell you all about the process in my next post.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

8th Anniversary

(Edited to fix video -- I reloaded it into my YouTube account instead, so it should work now.)

Eight years ago yesterday, I married my best friend. Today, I love him more than ever. Thank you, Greg, for always keeping up the chase, continuing to "date" me, and loving me through and with everything in our lives together.

The day he left from R&R to go back to Iraq, he sent me a text message, directing me to this video: This Is The First Day Of My Life. This song and video became a precious emotional link across the miles, and I've recorded my own cover version (please excuse the clunky piano) to back this slideshow of the last 8 years.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mashem delight!

The Southern Cross Fibre Club (April '09) is done! (For those of you who are on the Rav. board, please forgive me for essentially cross posting to my blog -- I'm tired!)

Specs: 2-ply, bulky, 110 grams, 100 yards, colorway "Turkish Delight".

Southern Cross Fibre Club, April '09, Masham "Turkish Delight"

I spun this short backward draw, smoothing with my forward hand whenever it looked like it was going to be too fuzzy – was attempting for my usual long-draw, but couldn’t seem to remember to hold my hands far enough apart for the crazy long staple of this new-to-me wool.

Southern Cross Fibre Club, April '09, Masham "Turkish Delight"

It was a bit of a challenge wool for me, but I adore the colors and am pleased with the outcome. It is always a satisfactory feeling when I’m able to produce a squishy yarn out of a coarser fiber.

Southern Cross Fibre Club, April '09, Masham "Turkish Delight"

This past week has been a little bit of a rough one with Greg working late every night, and the children reacting to his absence. He had a long weekend though, so on Friday morning, he "snuck" out with Sparky, Max and Daisy. This is what I found on the bathroom mirror.

My husband took the pirates out this morning

This little fellow very sweetly took a nap, and I got at least half of a morning to myself. A luxury I treasured!!

Happy little man

Thursday, July 23, 2009

To my dearest Max

Dear Max,

Last month, on June 8th, you turned 4-years-old. We were on vacation, and with all of the business that's followed, I haven't gotten the chance to write this until just now.

You, my dear fellow, are the most hilarious, fierce, darling, aggressive, daring, and charming person I know.


Now it's true that your Uncle Joel has much the same disposition, but, as I am his sister (and therefore was only required to babysit him, not parent him), but am your mommy, the challenges and joys of knowing you happen to be of a much greater magnitude. Raising someone of your caliber requires much more grit and determination than anything I thought I had.


It is interesting to me that, of the four of you children, it is you who immediately mirrors my feelings in your actions. If I am peaceful and happy, you are (broadly speaking) a cheerful, contented guy. If, however, I am in the least bit stressed, put upon, busy or otherwise engaged, you immediately point this out. By flipping out over the toy you can't find. Or the person who bumped you. Or the fact that I can't watch for every second the 89 repeats you have planned in your Jump Over This Line On The Tile Floor game. Or whatever.

Max NOT wanting to go on the train

In the four short years that I have known you, I've learned a very important lesson: when you are the most challenging, it is at that precise moment that I need to hold you in my arms. Tenderness and love is often what you need, even at your most aggressive moments. Nothing that I had planned for the day is more important than you.

Max with Puppy Love

When you grow out of this stage, I will dearly miss the fierce hugs you give, and the kisses you smash my face with. I will miss the way you creep under my elbow to cuddle close when I'm reading to you, even when you've said (wailed, even) that you don't want us to read that book. I will miss the way that your face lights up when you come into my room in the morning and find me awake. Your smile brightens my day, and those gorgeous blue eyes have a way of melting my heart again and again.

When I look at you now, I no longer see a baby or a toddler.

Multidirectional Scarf


Funny boys

I see a little boy. I see a little guy who's growing up at a breakneck speed, and even through the struggles of raising you, I'd do anything to slow time just a bit, to enjoy your innocent, brilliant boyhood for just a moment longer.

Max thought it might be a good idea to eat some flour

When you ask me (again and again and again) to watch you jump off the bottom step, I try to remind myself that it's important to pay attention, because someday it will be the last time. Someday you'll be independent and grown, and won't need me to watch anymore. The fact that you'll want me to watch you jump that one last time breaks my heart...because I realize that I can never know when that last moment is. When you hold my hand for the last time in your sweet, childish need for security, I won't realize how precious the moment is, because I won't know it's the last time. That's the tricky thing about growing up. You can count the first times of anything, but it's harder to know the lasts.

I am trying my best to appreciate every moment with you, I choose to cherish this time when I am Your World; I know soon you'll be grown up, that someday all I'll have of your boyhood are these pictures and the memories.

Max sliding

You are so precious to me. I love you, and love that you have a passionate personality. You often make me laugh, and you've certainly made me cry. When you are happy, your joy is infectious. I love your wild, carefree, random humor.

Sparky and Max wanted to show Daddy their block building

Max, when it comes down to it, no matter how much of a challenge you can be sometimes, I am proud that I have the privilege of being your mommy. I'm so glad that you're part of our family. I love you like crazy.


Love you forever,

Silk Laceweight and a spoiler for July Southern Cross Fibre Club

Please note that this post contains a spoiler for the July edition of Southern Cross Fibre Club.

Yesterday I finished up the laceweight two-ply silk I've been working on for the past...month? Two months? My brain is a fog, and I don't care to check the archives, but suffice to say, it's been a while. I had purchased this from Susan's Kitchen a while ago. Normally I don't go for oranges, but these colors just jumped out at me and I felt that I needed it. Plus, it's pure silk. I need no other reason. Anyway.

Two bobbins of silk singles

Plied laceweight silk

Steam setting:
Steam-setting my silk yarn
I put it in a colander over a simmering pot of water (water level not high enough to touch yarn), and let it steam for 10 or 15 minutes, turning occasionally with tongues.

I whacked the damp skein gently a few times after it had cooled just a bit, then twisted it 2 or three times during the course of it's drying time to align the silk fibers. All of these steps contributed to the luster coming up beautifully in the finished skein.

Here, you can see it glowing in the morning light:
100% silk, 592 yds laceweight 2-ply

Specs: 1.9 oz, colorway "Alexandrea", 592 yds, 2-ply, laceweight. Source -- Susan's Kitchen.

100% silk, 592 yds laceweight 2-ply
(Euro 50 cent coin is similar in size to the US quarter.)

100% silk, 592 yds laceweight 2-ply

I had intended for this to be an Icarus shawl, although that was an exceptionally optimistic plan, seeing as it needs at least 875 yards, and I had only purchased 2 oz. of the silk. I'll have to look for another shawl that is similarly simple in pattern that will show off this yarn to the fullest (it's gently self-striping), but not use more than the 592 yards that I have.

As soon as the wheel was free, I quickly picked up a bump of Masham wool I've had sitting out on my desk since it arrived from the Southern Cross Fibre club in April. I've been curious about trying out this longwool for the first time, and, although it was a challenge (mostly because I could not seem to make myself hold my hands far apart enough), I spun up most of it last night:
Club fibre: April '09 "Turkish Delight" from Southern Cross Fibre

I brought my wheel into the bathroom this morning while the children were playing in the bath, and finished up the 100 grams. I've pulled out my jumbo-plying head and plan to finish up this skein tonight. Nothing like a quick and chunky project after an endless one!

Also yesterday, I managed to get my Cricket loom warped (I know! I was so productive! It makes me sick too.)
New scarf project on my Cricket loom

I've had this scarf idea for my mom in my head for quite a while, so it was a relief to finally get it on the loom. Warping is the time consuming part that I always seem to put off. The actual weaving of this should be crazy fast, considering the bulky-ish range of yarn weights I'm using.
New scarf project on my Cricket loom

Now, at last, for the spoiler. My friends, if you are part of the Southern Cross Fibre Club and do not wish to be spoiled, please look away. Consider yourself warned.

Yesterday afternoon, this arrived at my door.
July Club: Shetland "Enchanted" from Southern Cross Fibre
Corriedale "Enchanted".

Have I ever loved a colorway as much as this? I have no words.
July Club: Shetland "Enchanted" from Southern Cross Fibre

Monday, July 20, 2009

A very sock summer

ravAfter my sweater binge over the past year, the sock bug has suddenly bitten once again.

Socks on and off the needles

Sweet-Tart Socks in Online cotton-stretch sock yarn. (I have no idea what that smear is in the photo - I must have slipped when it was in edit mode. Whoops! No time to change it at the moment though.)
Sweet Tart Socks

They are almost exactly matched.

Sweet Tart Socks

Somehow at the end, although I have exactly the same number of rows, I must have changed my tension enough to account for this little blip:
Sweet Tart Socks

Ah well. They're comfy, and I'm sure that my mom will love them.
Sweet Tart Socks

For more project details, check out the Ravelry page here.

Do you ever look at your knitting and think: I am working the most beautiful piece of fabric I have ever seen in my life?
Noro socks in progress

Or feel bad for all of the other poor sods, because they can't have the privilege of knitting on the same gorgeous project as you?

Noro socks in progress
As I knit, I keep stopping to admire the graduated stripes, the wild color changes, and the sock forming under my hands.

I think the word might be "obsession". And dudes: I've got it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

More stuffed animals...

This week, I completed two stuffed animals for Sparky and Max. They've been wanting these for a while (they picked the patterns out from the book Alke lent to me), and were excited to have them finished. Sparky's favorite color is green, so the underside of his dog is a bright, vintage lime green, and Max's favorite color is red, so his owl has a red belly. Unfortunately though, the dog stands up, but the owl is not designed that way, seems I'll have to make Max a dog too. And I might as well make Daisy and Billy dogs as well, just to get it out of the way. ~sigh~ So much for varying things up. (As we all know, this is nothing in life more important than Things Being Fair. When your stuffed animal falls down but your brother's stands up, that's just simply means that your mother has discriminated against you. Obviously.)

The dog:

Dog for Sparky

Same pattern as the one I made for Heather's daughter, but this time I blew up the pattern to 200%.

Dog for Sparky

The ill fated (but still very cute!) owl:

Owl for Max

Owl for Max

Not related in any way, but I took my knitting out to a semi-formal event the other night:
Knitting through the formal (boring) portion of the event
I knew that there would be a super-boring formal part of the night, so I came prepared. Dude, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Greg's battalion hosted this event as a "welcome back" of sorts for all of those who deployed, as well as a "farewell" to the large number of us who will be PCSing (moving on to the next post) in the upcoming months.

Greg and me

It was kind of fun to get all dressed up, and certainly strange to leave the children behind with a babysitter, and not have to worry about them during our time out.

Greg's band played for the last time (everyone in the band is moving to separate posts. so this was their final performance):
Hottest guy in the band

My dear Jillian:
Jillian and me

She did not bring her knitting. :)


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