Friday, January 27, 2012

Knitting Plans

I’ve been thinking of the things I want to make this year and I’ve started a list. I basically want to knit 1 thing per month, which means I really need to get moving. The scarf I’m working on is only about 2/3 done and there is less than a week left in January. Some things I really want to make:

Cheshire Cat shawl (made as a scarf, not shawl) This is the January project I need to hurry up and finish
Cookie A socks either Pointelle or Marilinda I have some lovely Wollemeise that is purpley-maroon
Color Affection I can't convince myself to buy the kit because I don't LOVE the color combinations, but eventually I might cave
Boy socks
More boy socks
Fingerless Mitts out of some handspun I bought from may awesome spinner friend
Wisteria I’ve had the pattern since it came out and I will have to buy a ton of yarn, but I still really want to make it.

So that’s about half of what I want to make, but I still want to reach at least 12 for the year.What are you making this year? what do you want to make? what else should I add to my list?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I am spread too thin and I am having trouble eliminating because I love so much of what I do.

I am still in love with my scarf even after the halfway point

I hate self portraits, I need something creative to do for them

I miss flowers
I miss family

There is no true substitute for either and the fake/virtual attempts are fun, but nothing like the real thing

Despite all early indications I believe I am a morning person (relatively speaking). This will be an entire post sometime soon.

I hate tracking (which is different than documenting) stuff (food, spending, exercise, earnings) it is tedious and no matter how effective I know it is, I hate it.

I am sick of my cold. I’ve been diligent with handwashing, but I continue to go out in public so I have caught a second one this year

I need strengthen my ankles, especially the left one

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The clearing, and obtaining

I have been clearing out the rooms of my house, but I've also been thinking of a couple of things that I would find enjoyable to own.

This year I want a basket. I've been trying to find the exact thing, but it's tough to define. First, I would use it to walk out to the garden and pick lettuce, and then later in the year it would need to hold tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and all sorts of other vegetables.

For this garden basket it want a basket with a handle that I can hold in the crook of my arm and it needs to be big, but not super huge.

A couple of types that I have found that I like so far
This is a metro basket, I have one already (without the weird scrunching top, it's just open) that I currently use for yarn. It's nice, modern (maybe to modern), but it's sort of huge, plus I'm not sure the fabric is the best plan for a garden basket.

Something like this looks pretty good, but I'd have to hold it to know if it is comfortable (plus the price is pretty steep). I would probably take the fabric out.

Then there are the other things I want  use the basket for. Bread and such. oh man so many uses, but I don't want a house full of baskets I just want one that works perfectly for the garden and sufficiently for the rest of it.

I think my best bet is to start looking at thrift shops where I can try a basket out and then not pay through the nose when I find one I like.

Where do you find garden items that they don't sell at the big box garden shops?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dough, week 2 blueberries in the middle of winter

This week in the kitchen I attempted some crusty/artisan style bread, it was a GIANT failure. I did make more pizza dough, and this time I remembered the salt! I also made one of the few things that my husband requests from my repertoire of recipes: Blueberry Muffins

This recipe starts every summer when I go blueberry picking. I drag my husband along and we pick 3 gallons or so. I freeze wash and dry the berries and then lay them on a single layer on a sheet pan, then I stick the pans in the freezer. Once the berries are completely frozen they go into zip-top bags. These blueberries are so fantastic in oatmeal (more on my personal oatmeal transformation later) and they also serve perfectly in muffins.The frozen berries are not quite as perfect as fresh, but they are really close, and closer than I could find anywhere in the middle of winter. 

The wet and dry in my muffin bowl

I always use some of the dry ingredients to coat the blueberries

Waiting for the oven

Perfectly Blueberrian

The all time best blueberry muffin:

2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar (I would not cut this amount if you can avoid it)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 stick butter
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400 F
Put your favorite muffin pan on the count and spray liberally with non-stick spray.

Put the blueberries in a cereal bowl
Put the flour, sugar, b. powder, b. soda, and salt in your favorite mixing bowl. Mix with a fork, then scoop a couple tablespoons out and sprinkle on the blueberries. In another bowl mix the yogurt, egg, and vanilla. Melt the butter and add it to the yogurt mixture. Mix with a fork. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture and stir enough to fully incorporate. Toss the blueberries a bit then add them to the batter bowl. Fold together.

Use a 1/3rd measuring cup scoop the batter into the muffin pan.

Bake at 400 for 20+ minutes or until they look barely golden on top.

I suggest that you take the muffins out of the pan as soon as you can and place on a cooling rack. I sometimes just flip them out onto a cooling rack, but then you end up with little lines (you can see that on the center muffin in the picture above) on top of your perfect muffin. The other option is do a fun little twist/lift with each muffin individually. If you do it fast you won't even burn your fingers.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dough, Week 1 - Don't forget the salt

To build tradition 2 I have set aside some time for cooking. My house feels more like my home if I cook, it’s just something that I connect with. I typically get up before my husband on Saturdays, which means I can accomplish some chores before we get going for the day. I’m hoping that every other week (or so) I can make dough on the weekends. To start the new year I made Pretzels and Pizza dough. I’m also trying to find some really good recipes to add to our normal rotation.

The pizza dough I made was an amazing texture and it would have been the most perfect dough ever if I had remembered to add the salt. We typically buy dough from the store and freeze it anyways and though I won’t save any money making it myself, it’s only a few cents more and the texture is way better. Plus I will be able to add some whole wheat flour to get a few more nutrients from a nutrient light meal. I’m using a recipe from King Arthur Flour, but instead of freezing the dough after cooking I froze the dough before cooking.

Here’s the recipe I used, it made enough for three crusts
3.5 Cups All purpose flour (I use King Arthur, unbleached)
2.5 Cups semolina (I used bob’s because that’s the only kind my grocery store carried)
2 teaspoons yeast
2.5 teaspoons salt
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2.25 cups warm water

I did not have instant yeast so I actually bloomed mine in the warm water with a sprinkle of flour, it worked just fine.

Beat everything with paddle attachment for 2 minutes, switch to dough attachment and knead for 7 minutes. Let rise for 1 hour, put in fridge for 6 hours. At this point I split the dough in thirds and wrapped two hunks individually in plastic wrap, then stuck them in a freezer bag and put them in the freezer. The third chunk I left in the fridge for awhile (maybe another couple of hours) and then spread it on a greased (with crisco) pizza pan and baked it with toppings.

When setting about to use the frozen chunks, defrost them over night or during the day in the fridge. If you forget to pull them out of the freezer before dinner put the zip-top bag in a bowl of warm water, it will probably take about a half hour if you keep refreshing the water when it gets cold. The dough will be sticky, just put a tiny bit of oil on your pan, and use your hands to get it on all sides of the pan, then work with the dough. We topped our second pizza with broccoli and cheese. It was yummy (and again, would have been perfect if I remembered the salt)

The original recipe can be found here and it calls for baking the crust before freezing (or topping)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012 New Tradition #3 Creation

So the first two traditions really spurred or defined a third for me this year. In the process of clearing out and documenting I want to make. I want to knit more things from yarn I have and I want to decorate with some handmade items.

I have a friend that set about creating a flower every day and that is probably a bit more defined than I want to be, but I do want to make more. I got a whiteboard of sorts for my birthday and I put it up in my kitchen. Every day I write a note or draw a small picture. It’s something that takes almost no time, but I enjoy the short burst of creativity.

I also want to make more useable knitting items. I defined a whole list of things I want to make this year and while it borders on a goal/resolution I’m trying to be flexible enough to just focus on the tradition of creating. I want to be known as a person who creates and I think as I continue to expand some of my current traditions (knitting, sewing, etc) it will happen, and hopefully the tradition becomes a bit more permanent.

What are you making this year? Any epic shawls?

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 New Tradition #2 Clearing out to build

Now that some things outside of my house (job, etc) are not eating my soul I have noticed the how un-homey my house feels. I want my house to feel like mine, to feel like OUR house and I want it to be comfortable to live in. So this tradition includes making my house into my home. To start the tradition I’m focusing on some concrete, definable actions: Adding more real food to our pantry and less packaged/processed food and deep cleaning/de-junking

There are other ways in which I’m clearing out as well. I’m not going to spread myself thin across a bunch of different social engagements. I love being social, but once social engagements become a burden instead of an inviting activity I know I need to clear out my calendar. I’m hoping by being smarter with my social engagements I will make the effort to talk to everyone at the events and to really develop friendships through conversations.

What are you building this year? Are you ridding yourself of anything?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 New tradition #1 Documenting the *Noticed*

Last year I worked on including a moment of happy in every day. This was super successful and has now become a part of my life in a traditional way. It’s something I do most of the time without thinking or questioning, and I’m a more complete person because of it.

This year I want to add and expand it just a little. I want to document. I want to document my moment of happy, but I also want to document the things that happen in my life. I recently purchase a small journal that I have tucked into the pocket on my car door. I take 1 minute every day to write in it either right when I pull into my office, right before I head home or when I get home and have a silent moment in my garage. Some days I write about what I eat, some days I write about what I did, some days it is just general notes or thoughts from the day and some days it’s what made me happy. This is the sort of documentation I want. Generic, not exciting, not worth sharing, but it brings a focus to a day that can be otherwise quite chaotic and disjointed. Then there are the pictures. I want pictures, I want to stop and take all the pictures I didn’t take during my commute this year and I want to edit them. A daily photo-journal is not my thing so I’m going to be semi-concrete about the whole thing and see how it plays out.

3 photos per week, one of which must be a self portrait of some kind and one photo must be blogged per week.

My desk turtle reminding me to wear my glasses

Any ideas for photos you want to take this year or think I should take? What are some of your favorite self-portraits?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Crafty Wrap-up 2011

Before I start explaining how the new traditions for the year I should finish up the craftiness of 2011.

This year I was determined to not stress myself out by making Christmas gifts. I knew that the shawl would not be finished until at least November and getting things done and shipped is nerve wracking. Of course then all anyone wanted was homemade stuff so I made a couple of exceptions

1) My little sister is off to college in a cold place and requested handkerchiefs. She is a genuinely environment conscious person and seems to attempt a lot of the little things that I never think about, like replacing the everyday Kleenex with a better choice. So I bought some cute flannel and cut out 10x10 squares

then, turned the edge and blanket stitched it with some bright yarn I had left over from socks.

2) Back in October my older sister asked me nicely if I could possibly make my Nephew and Brother in law matching hats. I knew immediately what to do and then I decided that my sister needed one too. I was going to make hers more girly and not exactly the same, but every hat I tried was a disaster. As I ran out of time I realized that she could have the same hat too. So, a family of hats!

I have no idea why my sister looks like a monster, but maybe it fits her personality? (j/k I love her)

3) That same sister also has a birthday near Christmas. This time, I wasn’t making her anything at all. Then I started a cowl for myself using some yarn I had bought on my first business trip (to Indianapolis). It was so soft, gorgeous and I had the perfect buttons! I was going to love it. Then I was at a knitting group where a mother with a young child was mentioning how much better a cowl was than a scarf. It stays in place, no one tugs one end and strangles you, it doesn’t get somehow wedged awkwardly when you get in and out of a car. Since she has a young child (a cute little ginger-headed 1 year old) I thought my sister could use it. It doesn’t match the hat, but I hope she will wear it just the same.

That's me looking scaryville before sending it off to her

So that’s how I started making 0 gifts for Christmas and ended up making 5! This year one of my traditions will definitely be crafty-focused that way I may be able to give ALL handmade gifts that people genuinely love and hopefully I can do so without losing my cool.