Saturday, January 28, 2012


It’s about time I felt like I’ve been productive. I know, I do get things done, but sometimes it just feels like nothing’s getting done or there’s little to show for my time. At least, that’s how it feels to me.

Today, though, is different. Or, I should say yesterday. Looking over the things I did yesterday makes me feel that I’ve been productive. What have I been doing you ask? Well, let me show you.

Bandana cowls from the Purl Soho web site. I liked the one I made for my daughter so much that I wanted one for myself. Then, I found more Noro Silk Garden in my stash, so I made a second one. It’s a really quick knit; these two were made within a 24-hour period. Worsted weight yarn, 5.0 mm needles… yup, they knit up quickly!

While on Pinterest early yesterday, I came across a recipe for No Knead Dutch Oven Bread. Of course, I checked it out. It sounded really simple to make, so I did. To make the bread, you first mix up the yeast (only 1/4 tsp!), water, flour and salt; this sits and rises for at least 8 hours (no labour involved… doesn’t get much better, does it?). After that, the dough is turned out onto a floured board, folded on to itself a couple of times and then allowed to rest for about 15 minutes before shaping it into a loaf. The loaf is put on a clean tea towel, liberally sprinkled with flour or cornmeal (I used a combination). After rising for 1-2 hours, it’s baked in a preheated Dutch oven. When it comes out, it looks like this…

The only thing I can find wrong with this bread is that it got a little burned on the bottom. I can live with that; I just trim off the burned bits. The crust, when it came out of the oven is crisp; the bread itself is tender and chewy, like an artisan bread should be. Even this morning, it’s lovely and chewy and absolutely perfect with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I will definitely be making this again.

It would be perfect to start it before going to work in the morning, coming home and finishing it up. I can just imagine a couple slices of this bread with a bowl of homemade soup. Yum!!

One more thing inspired that feeling of production this weekend. Remember all the grapes we picked this past summer? We had turned all those grapes into juice and frozen it; some of it I had turned into a batch of grape jelly. John liked it, but decided that it really didn’t have quite the “grape-y” flavour he was looking for. According to him it was good, but tasted more like sugar than grapes (and we even used the reduced sugar Certo). He decided to remedy that and thawed all the juice, put it into a stock pot and reduced it to about half of what it had been. Yesterday, I turned four of the five liters of concentrated grape juice into this…

That’s a total of 15 jars of various sizes and, let me tell you, it’s very grape-flavoured! And it is very definitely John-approved! There is still one liter of juice that had to be re-frozen as it wasn’t enough for another batch. It will be the starter for next year’s batch.

Now, we’re eyeing the raspberries. After all, John ate all the jam and jelly I had made last time (I rarely have jam on toast; I prefer savoury to sweet). I don’t think I’ll be doing that today, though. Seeing as the berries are frozen, they’ll keep for a bit.

I think I’ll make some pasta next. I took some pesto sauce out of the freezer this week and some homemade pasta with homemade pesto sauce, along with some homemade bread would go down really well right about now. What else are you going to do when it’s snowing out?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Love Eggs!

Years ago, when I left my first marriage, my daughter told me I’d have a very simple grocery list: bread, butter and eggs. She wasn’t too far wrong. I like eggs just about any way you can make them… except pickled. I don’t like pickled eggs.

Boiled, poached, scrambled, coddled, fried, in a soufflĂ©… I like it all. One of my favourite weekend meals is a soft-boiled egg chopped up on a piece of toast that’s been liberally slathered with butter. (See? Bread, butter, eggs.) However, getting that boiled egg to just the right level of soft can be a bit of a gamble. Until now, that is.

Imagine my pleasure when I found a link to a free egg timer app. The best part is, it’s put out by the Egg Farmers of Canada! And it’s free!

There are options for boiled, scrambled, fried, and poached eggs, with directions on how to prepare each. I tried it this morning.

I like my eggs soft so I simply slid the little egg over to soft, then hit the timer button. That takes you to the following screen.

As you can see, it tells you exactly what to do and when to start the timer. The timer itself is a sand timer. If you want to, you can even “play” with the sand. Turning your iPod makes the sand move and it doesn’t affect the timer.

And when your eggs are done to perfection, a clucking chicken lets you know (if you don’t want to hear a clucking chicken, you can also set it to a bell but the chicken’s pretty darned cute!).

My eggs this morning were perfect! The whites were completely cooked and the yolks were nice and soft on the inside, perfect for chopping onto hot, buttery toast.

If this app was just an egg timer, I’d be happy. However, to make it even better, there are hundreds of recipes!

All in all, I heartily recommend this app. The fact that it’s free is just icing on the cake; they could easily charge for the app and it would still be a good deal, as far as I’m concerned.

You can download it here. In a five star rating system, I give it five stars.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Not One Stitch

That’s how much knitting I did this week… not a single stitch. I have no idea why I haven’t been inspired to knit, but there it is. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing things though.

Some of my knitting time has been taken up by Pinterest, that’s for sure. And, some of that time wasted spent did result in some inspiration to do something different.

I showed you the wrapped bracelets; well, so far I’ve made four of them. One of them, meant to be a bracelet for one of my granddaughters, has a magnetic clasp that just doesn’t feel strong enough for a bracelet so I’ve made one to replace it. All in all, I’ve made one for my daughter (part of Pay It Forward 2012), one for each of my two granddaughters and the one I’ve put around Little Monkey’s neck. (Remember Little Monkey? You can see it/him/her in this post.)

Then, yesterday, I sat down with string, beads and buttons and made these…

The necklace isn’t quite finished yet; I haven’t figured out just how to finish up the closure… perhaps one of the magnetic clasps that doesn’t work for bracelets, perhaps a loop and bead… I just don’t know yet. I’ll have to think on it for a while.

I’m having fun and feeling very “hippy”. (MacramĂ©, of course, was a very hippy kind of thing way back when I was in high school… these kids think they’ve come up with all this newfangled stuff… HA!)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ok, I Can Show You

In regards to yesterday’s post… you know I said I wasn’t going to show you pictures of what I’ve been working on? Well, today is a whole ‘nother day and I have things ready for the mail. I can show you pictures; I just can’t say what goes to whom (or is that who?).

So, without further ado… and with thanks to Pinterest for the inspiration…

The Bandana Cowl, a free pattern from the Purl Soho website. I found a couple of balls of Noro Silk Garden in my stash and decided it would be perfect for this pattern; I was right! I love this cowl; I’ll be sending it off this week, but I really don’t want to. The colours, as always, are absolutely gorgeous and the yarn is so soft and cushy. Silk Garden, after all, is 40% silk, 40% kid mohair and 10% lamb’s wool, a very nice combination. It took a little over one ball of the yarn and I worked it on a 5.0 mm circular needle. Maybe there’s still some Noro hiding in my stash.

The second inspiration also came from Pinterest. For someone who always has cold hands, I found, and repinned, these little cuties.

These are polar fleece, rice-filled hearts. All you do is heat them in the microwave for about 30 seconds; then you tuck them into your mittens or gloves. They should keep your hands warm for about an hour. I love instant gratification; I made three sets in less than an hour. Two sets are earmarked for gift giving; the third set is mine!

Then, the last thing I made yesterday, another almost instant gratification project, is this little beauty…

Again, this was inspired by Pinterest. There are numerous links to tutorials for this wrap bracelet. I made this one with waxed cotton, dental floss and pearl beads reclaimed from a too-small necklace I’d been given many years ago. The button closure is one I found in my button bag. I will certainly be making more of these, both as gifts and for myself.

Kristie commented that she’d joined Pinterest but really didn’t understand how it works. Well, firstly, you can just look at what others have pinned, checking out the various categories. If there’s something you really like and want to remember, you can repin it to a board that you can set up for yourself. You can call your boards anything you want. For instance, check out my boards. When you click on a pin, it will take you to a page with that pin; from there, you may find a link to the original webpage. In the case of the projects I’ve made, each page linked to a tutorial or pattern.

And yes, it certainly can be a time suck. In all honesty, though, for all the time I’ve spent there, I’ve found numerous recipes I’ve already tried; I’ve found new hobbies to try; I’ve found inspirations for hobbies I’ve put on hold for years. I’ve always maintained that in order to be inspired, you need to expose yourself to things that inspire you – Pinterest does that.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Little Things Mean a Lot

This has been a week of little things. Not a lot of little things, but little things, quick and easy things. Fun stuff!

I’m not sure I should show pictures yet. I’ll think on it while I’m writing.

On Facebook, there has been something called “Pay it forward 2012”. Basically, you make something for the first five people who comment on your post; they, in turn, must repost and do the same for the first five people who comment on their post… and so forth. You have all of 2012 to make something for each person; it can be as simple as a cup of coffee, as long as it’s something handmade. As soon as I saw my sister post it, I was all in! It gives me a reason to think about those who commented and to make something with each person in mind.

At this point, there are three people on my pay it forward list. It’s been a lot of fun to think about each person and try to figure out what each might appreciate. Thus far, I already have two gifts completed. Neither was a major undertaking; that’s not the purpose.

One of the more difficult parts of this endeavour has been finding inspiration. That’s where Pinterest has been of enormous help! If you’ve never checked it out, do! There’s a section there called DIY & Crafts that has some wonderful ideas; I found one idea there for one of the people on my list.

No, I think I’d best keep the pictures until each person has received their gift.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

First FO of 2012

A week into the new year and I have my first started and finished object. Or should I say objects. Gloves come in pairs.

The pattern is Treads, a free pattern I found on Ravelry. The pattern is written as tipless fingers, but I decided to turn them into full-on gloves. Hey, if you have to knit part fingers, you may as well go all the way, right?

The yarn, which is in reality far more purple than the picture shows, is Patons Classic Merino, worsted weight, 100% wool. The gloves were knit using 3.50 mm needles. All in all, they were a quick knit (four days total and I didn’t work on them every day) and they’ll be nice and toasty warm if winter ever decides to put in an appearance.

We did get a little bit of snow yesterday, but it’s already melting today. There is a 40% chance of flurries this afternoon, but I doubt they’ll happen. The sky just isn’t gray enough.

Because I’ve finished one project, I’m allowed to cast on for another one. And I did. (What? You seriously think I should be finishing some of my ufos???)

In 2008, a dear internet friend sent me two skeins of KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud that she had dyed. For some reason, she decided the colour (and the yarn) was for me. I love it! For one thing, the alpaca is SO soft. And for another thing, I happen to love the colour; Robbyn called it Pigeon’s Blood. It’s taken me this long, though, to decide just what to do with it. This weekend, things came together and I just cast on this morning, after weaving in all the tails in the gloves (there were a lot of them!)

The pattern is the Flutter Scarf, a pattern by Miriam Felton. It isn’t a free pattern; I liked it so much I decided I had to buy it. It’s been in my Ravelry library for a while now, but I’ve held off starting it. I’ve been patiently waiting for the yarn to tell me what it wanted to be and for the pattern to tell me which yarn it wanted to be made with.

Yes, my yarn and patterns talk to me. Don’t yours?

Pictures of the scarf will be posted when there’s a little more to show you. Right now, it’s all of 12 rows long, not long enough to show you much of anything but the colour.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Nothing Rhymes With Orange

Everyone knows that Christmas time is mandarin time. I love mandarins! Well, one day before Christmas, I walked over to our local green grocer (Quality Greens, if you’re interested) and discovered mini Honey Mandarins.

Mini. Tiny. Want to see some pictures? I didn’t take any but another blogger did. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

See? They’re tiny! Four or five of them will fit comfortably in your hand. And they’re just as tasty as the regular mandarins or satsumas.

So, where am I going with this, you ask? Christmas is over, mandarin season will be over before long. Well… these little oranges aren’t seedless. I decided to take a couple of the seeds and see if I couldn’t sprout them.

I carefully brought two seeds home (yes, we finished the entire box at work… so what?), wrapped in a paper towel. Once home, I moistened a paper towel (no, I drenched it!), folded it and placed it into a small Ziploc container, covered it and left it on my sideboard for a couple of weeks.

After about two weeks, I checked the seeds. One had turned an ugly gray colour, but the second seed still had it’s whitish colour and had a little white “bump” at one end. I disposed of the gray seed and left the other… until this past weekend.

Much to my surprise, this is what I saw…

To say I’m pleased would be an understatement! Now, I need to get it into a small pot and soil soon, I’m thinking. John will be heading to the college later today and I’ve asked him to bring me back some good potting soil, just enough to fill a small pot. Once the soil is room temperature, I’ll make sure it’s nice and moist and I’ll plant the seed, with some very wet paper towelling, and hope for the best.

If you’ve ever started an orange from seed and have some advice, I’d certainly appreciate it. For me, this is an adventure in gardening!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Third Time’s the Charm

After yesterday’s blog post was published, I decided there was nothing to lose by throwing the monster socks back into the washer for another round of felting. If they came out too small, they’d fit someone else. If they didn’t shrink any further, I’d lost nothing and I would have used them to make insoles (or outer soles) for my felted clogs, the ones with hole-y soles.

Well, they came out smaller than when they’d gone in to the washer and the fit is MUCH better.

If I were to make these again, I think I would: a) Use a different yarn, like Lopi or two strands of Patons Classic Wool and/or: b) Cast on fewer stitches. I would have liked them a little narrower all the way around but now, at least, they are wearable and my ankles are comfy. They’re definitely warm!

Now, on to food! Glorious food! I’ve been finding some amazing recipes these past few weeks. Let me share a few images with you…

From the left… Roasted Brussel Sprouts with grapes and pecans, finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Let me tell you, it was like a painting on a plate, colourful, and very tasty. The roasted grapes and the balsamic gave a pop of sweetness and the brussel sprouts, which can be bitter, were done to perfection!

Then, there’s the Pull-Apart bread, stuffed with a mixture of mushrooms, shallots, garlic and cheddar cheese. I ran out of the mushroom mix so some of the pieces were filled with salsa and cheddar. The bread dough is cut and rolled into circles and each circle is stuffed with whatever you want to stuff it with. It all makes for a unique-looking loaf that’s fun and tasty. We had company when it came out of the oven and everyone was impressed.

Then there’s the Savoury Brie en Croute (or Brie baked in puff pastry). In this case, I used a small wheel of St. Andre cheese, a triple cream Brie-like cheese, very rich. It is stuffed with a mushroom and onion filling before being wrapped in the puff pastry. It, too, was really yummy. We had it with crackers and, later in the evening, some sparkling wine. Talk about decadent!

If you’re interested in checking out the recipes, here are the links:

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Grapes and Pecans

Pull Apart Cheesy Herb Bread

Mushroom Stuffed Brie en Croute

Just a note on the Brussels Sprouts link – this isn’t the recipe I followed, but it is very similar. The one I used had no garlic and added 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar at the very end. The link to the recipe I used doesn’t seem to be working, so perhaps I’ll post the recipe to my food blog (link in the sidebar).

Sunday, January 01, 2012

A New Year, A New Start?

I refuse to get all pensive about the year that has passed and the year just begun. Suffice it to say, in truth it’s just another day… albeit a day that gets me an extra day off (I go back to work on Tuesday).

We did stay up to ring in 2012, staying awake by watching movies on the internet (Knowing, with Nicholas Cage, and Citizen Kane). We knew when the clock struck midnight by the sudden boom of fireworks in the neighbourhood. It went on for a while, we toasted the new year with a glass of prosecco, listened to the noise outside for a while, then went back to the movie. I went to bed at about 1:30 a.m., very unusual for me; I have no idea what time John joined me; I was up just after 7:30… not bad.

Over the past few days, very little knitting has been done. For one thing, I’ve been engrossed in a book (Daughters of Fire by Barbara Erskine); I want it finished now. Don’t get me wrong; it’s an exciting book but I always feel like I should be doing something else when I’m reading. You know… multi-tasking. Like knitting and reading. That’s hard to do with a 560 page paperback book. (That’s why I like audiobooks – I can knit and listen at the same time – much more productive!)

The knitting I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks has me frustrated. Maybe that’s why I’ve been reading. In addition to the slippers intended for me being too big, the felted socks I knitted are also big.

The length is fine but they’re so wide that I almost walk right out of them.

They felted fine, the height is fine, they’re toasty but very roomy. I just don’t feel comfortable wearing something that roomy. Knowing me, I’d probably trip right out of them. I’ll wear them for now, but it’s back to the drawing board. I may just go back to the Bev Galeskas pattern for the felted clogs or her felted boot pattern. I like the extra height because it keeps my ankles warmer. My right ankle especially gets very cold at times (I’ve sprained it badly… torn the ligaments… at least three times in the past) so I want to do whatever I can to keep my feet nice and warm. Don’t tell anyone but I’m even considering leg warmers!

Another small project I have been working on, and that has me frustrated as well, is a pair of stranded socks. I found a nice pattern on the Drops website, a pair of dk weight socks. I bought some yarn for the socks, cast on and was happily knitting away. They look great. Really!

I’m past the heel turning now and, honestly, it’s looking good. There’s just one little thing that is really bugging me. When I knit socks for myself, using fingering weight yarn on 2.25 mm needles, I cast on 64 stitches. This pattern calls for dk weight yarn, 3.5 mm needles and starts with 60 stitches. Fine. The leg is a little on the loose side but, seeing as they’re meant to be slipper/house socks, I can live with that. However, after the gusset decreases, the foot is worked on 68 stitches. Are you seeing where I’m going? 64 stitches on 2.25mm fits my foot perfectly. 68 stitches on 3.5 mm needles? Well, they’ll probably fit John better than they fit me and they’re not meant for John.

I could continue the decreases down to 64 stitches, but I’m afraid they’ll still be too roomy for me. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m seriously considering frogging that sock and designing my own. Frustrating. All I want is warm feet!

Oh well. Life could be a lot worse. Minor frustrations, easily overcome.

Now, to all of you who read this blog, I wish you a very happy 2012. Thank you for sticking with me for so long (it will be seven years in March). I’ve met some wonderful people through this blog; it’s too bad we can’t all sit around a table, face to face, sharing good conversation and perhaps a glass of wine; that would be fun!