Caffeinated and Craf-TAY

Hi hi hi. It’s been a while. As usual. My b. I’ve been putting my time to good use visiting Ann Arbor and wasting my time at home scouring Pinterest for ideas for the house I’ll be renting this August with some other newbie grad students like me.

The Pinterest thing has gotten so bad that, today, I decided I’m not allowed to pin any more crafts until I actually make some that are already pinned. Add iced coffee and wearing my pajamas until 4 in the afternoon and BAM! Craft time.

My friend Kathrine, who used to drink tea with me on a regular basis when we shared a flat in London, originally told me about this idea. Teacup candles are a fusion of two of my favorite things, so I started gathering stuff to make them a little while ago. This morning the caffeine decided the candles would be a good craft to knock off my list. A few weeks ago I thrifted a 3 white teacups, grabbed some broken crayons from the teacher I worked for this past year, and some old, mangy looking candles from home. I hot glued twine around each teacup to give ’em some more character, since they weren’t vintage-y cute with fancy gold leafing and intricate flowers, which turned out pretty well [the over all color scheme for my room will be pastels – blue, green, and teal – with more neutral tones like twine and burlap to balance it out].

The tutorial I kind-of followed called for wax flakes and special dye and candle scent. In no world would I spend money on things like that when I can get them fo’ free. I just chunked the old candles from home [one was scented already] and added a few bits of crayon for color.

please feel free to laugh at my makeshift, janky double-boiler. it worked, and that’s all that matters!

The crayon went a lot farther than I thought it’d go, so before committing to a color without testing what it looks like as a solid, I put a little white wax on the end of my paint stir and dipped and dried it repeatedly until I got an idea of the color I wanted.

I won’t insult you and tell you every step of the process, but here’s a comparison of the hot wax to finished product:

The skylight reflected in the hot wax. Accidentally awesome.

The finished product.

Me like. The idea of making the decorations for my bedroom appeals so much more to me than buying things that look nice but have no personal touch.

One craft down, at least 4 more to go.

Return of the Pumpkin

I mean, pumpkin is, after all, kind of like a Jedi of baking. Its Force pulls everybody in for a bite of cozy goodness and its seeds, roasted, are the lightsabers that ward off unsavory snacks.

Sorry, I’m done making lame food/Star Wars metaphors now. The point is, I still have pumpkin puree that I froze last fall, and I made somethin’ scrumptious. A friend pinned this pumpkin cheesecake recipe and I drooled just looking at it. You may be shaking your head at first glance – recipe from a website called “SkinnyTaste”?!

This recipe totally destroyed my skepticism about a “healthier” version of cheesecake. The vanilla greek yogurt made for a great thick yet fluffy cheesecakey texture, and I’ve never been able to tell the difference between full fat cream cheese and Neufchatel (1/3 less fat) stuff. My momma’s kitchen wisdom tells me that reduced fat stuff usually tastes just the same while completely fat free is almost always gross.

The only changes I made to this recipe were to the pumpkin butter to swirl in. I love pumpkin butter. It’s so smooth and creamy and cozy [I need to diversify my food adjectives…]. The combination of nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon will always make me want to hunker down at home for the day, no matter the season.

I made just a cup worth of the pumpkin butter, instead of the 3 and some odd cups the recipe makes, so I only used 1 cinnamon stick and took it out after 10 minutes, which was plenty. If you’re outta cinnamon sticks, I think you could just put an extra dash of ground cinnamon in and call it good. Although it might be quicker to just buy pumpkin pie filling to swirl into the cheesecakes, I think the homemade goodness of the pumpkin butter would win. It’s a little smoother, thinner, and maybe not quite as sweet.

I’m callin’ this one a tri-yum-ph. Three little cheesecakes mysteriously disappeared right after I made these, and I was the only person around…hmm. I wonder whodunnit.

p.s. Here’s a little update on the mystery knit. A few hints: cotton yarn, cast on 306 sts. Any guesses yet?

Laziness

Well, only in terms of posting. Sorry to have fallen off the face of the earth for a little while. In the past month, I’ve kept busy deciding to go to Indiana University for grad school [WOOHOO!], workin’ two jobs, turning 23, and finishing up a buncha knitting projects for loved ones [hats, slippers, socks, etc.] and experiencing the absolute magic of felting wool projects. I’ll get to those eventually. :]

Just wanted to shoot a quick post about the most recent project I’ve started:


Yes, that is me wearing my big girl pants and swatching before I start a project. And yes, those beautiful needles are Addi Clicks (borrowed, of course).

500 points to Gryffindor if you can guess what it’s going to be!

More food and coziness soon, I promise.

Dr. Strange(g)love(s) or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Knit the Glittens

Sorry about the title, but I couldn’t resist. Last summer I got the idea into my head that it’d be really cool to knit something other than a hat. Then I discovered Knitty. Then I asked my brother if he’d want some glittens. But these weren’t just any glittens. They were non-bulky glittens, made with sock yarn. Ben, my brother, feels like most glittens look dopey with their worsted weight yarn that inhibits dexterity, even if it does keep ya fingas warm.

I really can’t say that I disagree. I’ve got a pair like the aforementioned, and not only are they so loosely knit that my hands still get cold, and they’re way too stinking huge and more cumbersome than they’re worth. So along came the pattern for Broad Street Mittens from Knitty. At this point I’d only been knitting for 6 months and totally disregarded the “spicy” difficulty level because, damnit, these mittens were perfect for Ben. Perfect.So I made my dandy way to the craft store and got some sock yarn that was a wool/bamboo blend that felt so smooth and squishy in my hands. I realize that I keep describing yarn as squishy. I’m sorry – my knitting vocab isn’t huge and if it’s squishy, I’m sold.

The first hurdle of the project was gauge. This was the first project I’d ever even bothered to mess with gauge.  I think I tried the size needles the pattern called for and thought that the fabric was too loose to keep your hands super warm. I wanted these glittens to be dense. Make way for smaller needles and gauge conversion [ugh].

Two months later and I still hadn’t finished a glitten. Granted, there was still a long way to go before winter. Honestly…I was freaked out about converting gauge and devoting a lot of time to a project that could go horribly wrong. I mean, fingers?!? Me? Knit fingers? On teeny little pointy needles?! Again, the pattern won over my doubts because of it’s fit for exactly what my brother wanted.

So I converted the gauge, with the help of a well seasoned knitter, and started the ribbing for the cuff. Great. Boring 2×2 ribbing. I can totally handle this. Bring on the glittens.

Next were the increases to start the body of the palm. Can do. Or so I thought. After I knit about half the palm of the glitten, thumb gusset included, the stupid thing was really loose. So much for that gauge conversion making everything magical and easy and, oh, you know, CORRECT. With knitting mentors nowhere in sight, I decided to just figure it out for myself, which brings us to October. I went to NYC for a few days to hang out with my brother, and thought it’d be a great opportunity to try them on him as I knit. It was the only way I was going to figure out sizing. Unfortunately for me, I had to try a few times to get the number just right. Or close to it.

”]There’s an increase in the palm for the thumb, which forgave any guesstimating of the palm increase from the ribbing on the wrist. The increase, or gusset, seemed to me like it would go on and on forever. Annnnd now I have to wait until Thanksgiving to see my brother again to check how the palm fits before I start knitting the fingers.  Lucky, lucky me. The palm fit really well and the fabric was turning out to be dense, yet elastic. Onward, ho.

I was really excited to see how the fingers would turn out. Fingers are so cool. They weren’t as hard as I’d anticipated, and they knit up very quickly. At Thanksgiving, I tried the partially complete glove on my brother’s hand, squealing with glee. FINALLY, something came out right. I think a little of the glee was contagious – my brother was pretty excited, too.

The thumb was a little different – a closed thumb would defeat the entire dexterity purpose of the glittens, right? So I grew some cajones and decided to go rogue from the pattern, making a half thumb with a flap on top. My brother quickly decided that this was going to be transformative of the way he gives thumbs ups – definitive only when the thumb flap has been pulled back. I mean, I guess it’d also be pretty functional for using his iPhone.

Ok, so all the fingers are finished, and all I have left to knit is the mitten shell. I had to try for a while on this, too. It’s amazing how delicate the shape is for what would seem like a simple cap for a glitten. I had to knit and re-knit until I had enough rows knit evenly in the round before I started the decrease. It was so long ago and so frustrating that I can’t even remember exactly how many rows I ended up knitting.

One glitten down. I started the other, happily presuming that it’s be a breeze since I had 1 down. Boy was I wrong – I knit the entire palm before realizing I followed the wrong adjustments, making the palm HUGE. Frogged the whole stinkin’ thing and started over. Needless to say, I was relieved when this whole project was over. That’s not to say I’m unhappy with the way the glittens turned out, I’m proud about knitting an intricate project that’s custom fit for my brother – who’s even happier with them than I am. It was just an exhausting project.

Overall, I learned:

  • Converting gauge isn’t always accurate.
  • Seemingly intricate processes, like knitting fingers or a thumb gusset, aren’t as hard as they look. I’m continually surprised at how the combination of patience and simple techniques can create something that I’d never dreamed I’d be able to produce.
  • Patience, patience, patience. If it doesn’t come out right the first time, rip it out and do it again until it looks and fits the way I want it to. There’s no point finishing a project that is ill-fitting, and why waste all the time you already invested to begin it?
  • Hand knit gifts carry a lot of oomph. My brother says he smiles every time he puts the glittens on. That’s what makes a project’s trial and error worth it.

Verdict? Misadventure, but a big learning experience.

Soup a L’Orange

If I could quit my jobs and just make people things all the time, I’d be one happy camper. I visited Wooster a few weekends ago [I almost said, “to see Noah and my sister,” but that’s a gross understatement – it was great to see everyone!]. Before I came, my sister, who’s been having a weird time sorting out how she deals with lactose and soy, asked if I could make some squash soup to bring to her. UH. YES. I’d been meaning to make pumpkin soup of some sort, and there was a soup I made a while back that I wanted to try to replicate, if only I could remember what I used…

The soup I’d made in the past was an amalgamation of a recipe-surfing session. I looked at recipes for carrot/orange/ginger soup, and ended up making something along those lines that was warm and bright, with a little kick from the ginger. I found some of the recipes I looked at again, but alas, I couldn’t remember all the details I changed. Leslie’s [my sister] soup was going to be a guessing game.

If the soup needed to be lactose and soy free, so I figured it might as well be vegan, too.  The key ingredients I used were carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, orange, and ginger. The bright colors and creamy warmth were perfect to combat the dreariness of a windy February day.

So here it is, my very own pumpkin-carrot-orange-ginger soup.

Disregard the amounts of ingredients here - I made a double batch when I took the pictures.

  • 1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree [canned or frozen, shouldn’t matter]
  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed [I chose these for their sweetness and thickness instead of Idahos]
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 lbs carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 orange [juice and zest]
  • approx 2 ins grated ginger
  • 18 oz vegetable broth
  • 2 1/2 c. water
  • 1-2 c. almond milk [vanilla]
  • 1 rounded tsp. corandier
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic [approx 6 cloves]
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

I just really love orange zest.

In large pot, heat olive oil and add onion, carrots, garlic, and spices. Sautee until onions are translucent, about 3-4 mins. Add pumpkin, sweet potatoes, juice and zest of orange, grated ginger, vegetable broth, and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about half an hour or until sweet potatoes are soft and easily pierced by a fork.

Transfer soup to food processor in small batches and puree. After soup is entirely pureed, put back in pot, add almond milk, and simmer for 5 mins. Enjoy! If you’ve got ’em [I didn’t], croutons make a great sidekick to this soup. Because clearly, sidekicking for salads would suck balls.

Please, lemme know how it turns out, should you decide to make it! All feedback is welcome🙂

Sweet Spiralin’ Leg Warmers

So I may not have any project updates from recent stuff yet, but these were a fun project I knit for a friend’s sister for a Christmas gift. My friend did most of the work in terms of the pattern search, after I exposed her to the wonderful world of Ravelry.

If you haven’t heard of it, Ravelry is basically a huge online database of knit and crochet patterns. I started using it to keep my projects organized and keep notes on them, but it’s a great way to explore the larger knitting community. I feel like searching for patterns on Ravelry is like shopping for shoes on Zappos – there are a million different kinds and the site lets you tailor your search and be [k]nit picky and search in terms of knit versus crochet, yarn weight, needle size, free versus available for purchase patterns, and category of the knitted goodie you want to make. Even better? If you like a pattern and want to see how it came out for knitters other than the designer, you can see the pictures they uploaded and comments they made about the pattern before you commit to starting the project. What more could you want?! Oh, you know, each pattern is rated overall out of 5 stars and then rated for difficulty. This place is a dream.

[This is awkward, but…I don’t really have any Ravelry friends yet, I stick to groups, so, uh…please be my friend if you’re a fellow Raveler? See the new little button on the right of my blog page? Click away🙂 ]

Back to the legwarmers, yes? My friend, Julie, told me that her sister likes bright colors and needs the legwarmers to keep cozy, as she works at a ski resort. Because of these being a super functional gift, I figured the best route for yarn would be washable wool. I went to my local little yarn shop and bought some bright orange Cascade 220, which, from my understanding, is a pretty popular worsted weight washable wool, not to mention SOFT.

The problem with non-washable wool is that it can be scratchy on the skin and when you wash it, it’ll felt. Not the case with the yarn I bought. It felt so good in my hands as I knit it – it was soft and smooth. The most reassuring part was knowing that when I finished them, they were finished. No worry necessary about shrinking in the wash or becoming a felted train wreck later.

The pattern Julie picked was a Purl Bee pattern [just about everything they do is swoon-worthy]. In terms of heeding the directions in the pattern, I only followed the pattern for its spiral rib. I actually swatched beforehand to make sure they wouldn’t come out too small or too big, but I felt like knitting the whole leg warmer on the same size needles would be weird, unless Julie’s sister’s legs from the knee down are of freaky uniform circumference. My solution for this was to knit the ankle on needles 4 sizes smaller than the bulk of the legwarmers [size 3 dpns], and then gradually increase needle size until the gauge the pattern called for [size 5 dpns, then size 7 dpns]. My last sizing issue was with the part of your leg just above your calf but below your knee. It’s smaller circumference than your calf, and droopy legwarmers would probably look pretty sad, even if they are bright orange. So I hopped back over to my smallest size needles and knit the last inch on those.

One last thing before I get to the actual pattern. The original called for the legwarmers to be really tall, but I thought that could either of two ways: ridiculously high above the boot or ridiculously bulky when scrunched down to the height of the boot. I made ’em 17-18 ins tall instead of the 30 the pattern called for.

Now that I look at it, these look a little on the short side. It's because my tall sister is the model - she was blessed with mile-long legs.

Here’s my tweaks to the original pattern:

  • Knit the first 18 rounds on size 3 dpns [or needles 4 sizes smaller than the size you need to obtain the pattern’s gauge].
  • Knit 6 rounds on size 5 dpns  [or needles 2 sizes smaller than needles used for pattern gauge]
  • Knit on size 7 dpns until leg warmers are about 1 inch shorter than desired length, ending on a round that’s the end of one of the rib rotations – each is 3 rounds]
  • Switch back to smallest size dpns [size 3, in my case] and knit 6 rounds [2 portions of the spiral rib rotation]
  • Cast off as pattern indicates.

When these were finished, the spiral pattern totally jazzed up what would otherwise be straight, boring rib, and the rib contributed to the bounce and squish of the things. It was really hard to give them away. Just to squish them in my hands was heaven.

Verdict? Triumph.

I’ve never, ever worn legwarmers, but now that I knit, I’m considering the idea. Anybody have a sweet pattern for ’em? Or thoughts on how to make the ones I made even better?

Acceptance!

Not related to anything food or knit, but I’m jumping-up-and-down-excited about this morning. I’ve been accepted into the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s masters program for speech-language pathology!!! Still waiting to hear from the other programs to which I applied, but this is great news for now!

Happy Saturday🙂