Green Hat, Greens, and Spring Flowers

I have so many things I could blog about, but really time to do one (maybe two) post(s) a week, that I can’t decide what to blog about first, and then I don’t blog about anything. So, I’m throwing themed posts out the window, and I blog what I blog–it’s how Popeye would blog (I loved Popeye when I was a kid; I have no idea why).

Anyway, for Christmas Valentine’s Day I knit M a hat.
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That’s the Jacques Cousteau pattern knit in Knitpicks Gloss DK because all manly men like 30% silk fiber in their hats. Doesn’t M look like he’s ready to head out to sea?
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I like the decrease pattern on this hat, which almost made it worth the 8 inches of 3×2 ribbing. I changed the decreases to those of ker2’s on Ravelry. They worked well.
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My raised bed for greens did really well this winter! At the very left is mache, which I would not grow again. It was supposed to be nutty tasting. It tasted like leaves and didn’t grow that well. From right to left: arugula, oakleaf and salad bowl leaf lettuce, romaine, watercress (did not do well) and the mache. I am definitely growing the arugula, oakleaf and romaine again next year.
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And we have had a small harvest of broccoli rabe. It’s OK, but next year I think I’ll go with snow peas and sugar snap peas. The Felco harvesting shears are fantastic. My parents gave them to me for my birthday (Thanks, Mom and Dad!), and I love them for cutting flowers and the lettuces and such.

And speaking of flowers, it’s spring here in Northern California! February is a very good reason for living in California, unless of course you are a native Californian, and then February is still winter because the calendar says so, and high temperatures are often only in the 50s. But the flowers are starting to bloom, and that means Spring!
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Not our daffodils, but I plan to put some in this coming autumn. Tulips don’t do well here (they need weeks of cold) but daffodils are fine.
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Flowering quince in a neighbor’s yard. I may have to look into this.Beautiful flowers–plant, not so much.
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Calendula from my own backyard. I have these in a pot, but I may move some of them around, although I hear they will “naturalize.” That may or may not be a good thing. M kind of likes a tidy garden.

All New WIPs and a Plan

First, WordPress offered an update to my theme, so M had me install it, and then I couldn’t find the yarn picture, so I put in the pretty photo of blooming Ceanothus¬†you see above, as it is one of my favorite native California plants. It’s called California lilac, but it isn’t related to real lilacs at all; the flowers are just blue and purple. We put a small shrub of Ceanothus in our yard. It’s about 10 inches tall and wide. It’ll be a while until I get blooms like the photo.

In knitting news, after months of mostly monogamous knitting, I finished the Manaan cowl (still waiting to be blocked and photographed), and then I went a little berserk casting on. Back in November, Kym, of Stepping Away from the Edge, showed off her progress on her Tinder cardigan, and I was smitten. Jared Flood designed Tinder, and I’ve knit a couple of his other patterns with great enjoyment and success, so I took a look at it on Ravelry. When I saw it had a stand-up collar (my hair is very short, so my neck is bare), I knew I had to knit it. Much as I want to do some knitting with Shelter, Jared’s yarn and the yarn the pattern calls for, I want even more to use up some of my stash. So I cast on in some midnight blue Cascade 220 heather, after getting gauge, and I’m almost done with the back.
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Part of my plan, to keep the WIPs from getting out of hand, is to have this sweater, at least the knitting of the five main pieces, done by the end of April. That sounds like a long time, but I seldom have time to get more than three large projects done a year, so 4 months is about right.

Another part of my plan is to knit quite a few hats this year for myself, my brother Thomas and M. I thought I had 1-2 skeins of Lamb’s Pride Bulky left over in raspberry from knitting a vest. So I thought I’d knit a hat. I have 8 skeins left. More than a hat. A chill in the room, a determination to use up some yarn that has been sitting around for ages, and the opportunity to start right in without a swatch, had me casting on for a Unique Melody wrap by Rose Beck.
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It’s knit on the bias, and I stopped expanding the candle flame motif at four. Now I can knit until I have a little over one skein left and then decrease back down to a point. It’s an easy knit, the single ply yarn works well in the candle flame pattern, and it will be snuggly. We’ll see how long it gets, but I should at least be able to wrap it around my shoulders and pin it in front.

Then, when going out, I put on a loden green Geiger (Austrian boiled wool) jacket my mom had given me. Her mom had given it to her years ago, and my mom didn’t really wear it. It appears new. For our winter climate here, it is the perfect weight for a sunny, winter day. And I happened to have some very old, beautiful, but hard to knit with, multi-colored, single-ply, thick-and-thin yarn (basically all the characteristics of yarn that attract a newbie knitter but drive an experienced knitter crazy). The green in the yarn was a good match with the jacket, being just a shade lighter “on the paint chip.” I cast on a feather and fan scarf using the recipe by Jo Sharp in Scarf Style for Misty Garden. It’s going to be a keeper because I refuse to rip this yarn ever again. I have 300 yd, and then I’m done. And I shall never buy a multi-colored, thick-and-thin, single-ply yarn again. You can quote me on that.
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Finally, I cast on a failure. I love the Pinctada cowl by Angela Button of stringkitty, but it absolutely does not work in this Wagtail 100% mohair yarn (the green is part of a provisional cast-on).
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The yarn has NO bounce or elasticity–not surprising being mohair. It’s so soft and pretty-shiny even-but hell to knit with. But I’m determined I’ll find a way to use it. I have an idea, but that will be another post.
So there you have it. Three new WIPs to become FOs, and one to be ripped. But I do plan to knit at least three large projects this year, AND to use up some of my smaller amounts of stashed yarn, especially knitting hats.

Stay tuned and happy knitting.

Before and After with Steps

When M and I bought our home this summer, there was a nook off one side of the kitchen (the kitchen is in the center of the house and open on three sides).
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The area on the left would really only hold a small bistro table and two chairs, and since the kitchen has a bar-eating area and there is a dining room, we thought more cabinets and counter space would be the way to go. On the right we have the glass-fronted cabinets full of all our barware, and I do mean full.
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When we moved in, we used some super cheap cabinets and counter I had in my craft room at the old place to provide more storage in the nook. Even the periodic table of wine grapes on the wall, which we love, couldn’t make this temporary solution look good. So, we hired a cabinet maker, and he designed and built us some lovely cabinets. Follow the installation progress below:
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This is one of the two guys who did the installation. I thought M knew his name, but he doesn’t. But he was a very nice guy, and he and his partner did a great job.
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All set up in the morning sunshine (the Gaggia espresso machine is a must in this house). There is even bread rising in the bowl on the counter. And I love the butcher block counter top.
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I really like these open shelves to keep dry goods accessible but up off the counter. It’s also nice to display the tea sets.
We’re very happy all round with this project! And there is even still some room in the cabinets.

The End of 2012 Knitting

The last few months of 2012 were difficult on many levels that I won’t go into here. Things are still in a state of flux, but there is reason to think that better times are coming, but keep your fingers crossed for me for a bit, at least while you aren’t knitting or spinning. The last knitting project of the year was a resounding success, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but I did also have two flops.

I had started a blue cowl in the round on two circs to go with my new red coat. I thought the needles were the same size; I had checked them on my needle gauge. But they were two different sizes, so things weren’t turning out very well. Also turned out that I don’t have two circs of the right size. Frog.

Then I finished my vodka lemonade cardigan in the star sapphire BFL sport. I tried it on several times while knitting it top-down. All seemed to be going well. I even had a washed swatch for stitch and row gauge, and that looked good. Well, the finished sweater fits terribly; the sweater blocked oppositely to the swatch, growing rather than tightening up in gauge.

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I haven’t woven in the ends because I think I may rip the whole thing some day and knit a different pattern. I’ve knit top-down before with success, but here, nothing lay or hung right.

But I did have success knitting my brother a hat for Christmas!
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Mom is wearing the shawl-collared cowl I knit for her last year, which I never photographed or blogged about, and Thomas is wearing his new hat. The pattern is The Natural by Homero Luna. It’s a free pattern on Ravelry. I knit it out of some Wool of the Andes. I did one extra repeat because I tried it on M, and it wouldn’t have fit M as a beanie as written. Apparently, it would have fit Thomas, because the extra repeat adds a bit of slouch for him, which he likes.
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There was a lot of snow in Wisconsin over the holidays!
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He even wears the hat in public. Here Thomas is making sure Mom buys the right kind of OJ.
2013 is looking better on the knitting front so far.
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I’m 90% done with a Manaan cowl in some Vintage Madelinetosh. The color is fathom, and it is a great semi-solid mix of royal and navy. Let’s hope it behaves!

Birthday Treats

Saturday, November 10, was my birthday. I had a great day! M and I went on an excursion so I could buy this red wool coat. I love the red, however, almost none of my hand knitted accessories coordinated, as my other jackets are all in the fuchsia-plum color family. So I cast-on some Impressionist Sky Malabrigo sock yarn to knit the Cherry Lane Cowl. They also had the coat in black, and then all my current accessories would have worked, but what would be the fun in that?
red coat and blue yarn
One of the birthday presents M gave me is two skeins of Elsa Wool woolen spun fingering weight. It’s 100% Cormo wool (a first for me). For these two skeins the sheep lived in Montana (some of her sheep live in Colorado). It is the natural white wool color, and I think it will make a smashing wrap. M said he had a great shopping experience with Elsa; she seemed like a “very nice lady.”
Elsawool woolen spun fingering
Attached to the yarn is a copper shawl pin given to me by my friend Elsie. Elsie knows I have a copper bracelet I love to wear, and I think the maple leaf is so delicate and pretty. She bought it at Sterling Simplicity on Etsy. Luckily I have other shawls the copper will look good with, so I don’t have to wait until I get this yarn knit up to use it.

On our shopping expedition to buy the coat, while I was driving, M spied what looked like a place that sells pots for plantings. On the way back, we managed to exit the interstate at the right exit to get there without trouble, and the number of pots was huge! Standing in the middle of the place, looking one way there was this:
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And then turning 180 degrees, there was this:
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Not to mention what was in the other two directions. There had to be 2-3 acres of pots. We picked out one in a gorgeous green glaze with a hexagonal opening. The photo with me shows the pot’s color best, but I look like a vampire about to burst into flames in the sunlight. With M you can see it’s a pretty sizable pot. We didn’t realize that until we got home. Although it was mid-size there, it’s the biggest pot we have, and we thought it would be smaller than several of our containers. Ooops! But it will work out fine.
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I think this photo illustrates why ladies at the Clinique counters I’ve visited over the years always say, “You are very pale.” And then they tell me I can’t wear any interesting colors of make-up without looking like a clown. *sigh*
Anyway, M made his famous French onion soup for my birthday dinner followed by hot fudge sundaes with home made hot fudge sauce and Spanish peanuts. Much tastier than the peanut buster parfait. It was a great day, and I got yarn!

Process

Knitters often talk about being either a process knitter or a product knitter, and I think most knitters are a mixture of the two. The only true process knitter I ever witnessed was when I was on a church council. One member knit a garter stitch scarf in a multi-colored yarn every meeting. When she got to the end of the ball of yarn, she would rip the scarf, winding the yarn back into a ball, and then she’d cast on and do the same scarf over.

I have to enjoy the process to enjoy the product, and each type of project has points where I really feel I’ve made progress. In knitting a top-down sweater, getting past the division of the sleeves from the body always boosts my mood. There are so many dang stitches on the needle before that point, and it seems like I’ve been knitting forever what must be a very small part of the sweater. But here knitting Vodka Lemonade, since the collar is already done, I’d guess the sleeve-body division is a good third of the knitting. Excuse the wonky “styling” of the collar. Becoming a photo stylist should not become a career goal of mine.
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Next point is getting to start the lace motif that runs up the front edges and down the center back. I still have a little over 3 inches of mostly stockinette to get to that point, so I think my Netflix streaming queue is going to come in handy.
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I’ve already started to think about what sweater I want to knit next. This is not an easy task. I really want to use the purple Venezia worsted (70% wool/30% silk) because I’ve had it a long time. But I can’t decide on a pattern (plus Vodka Lemonade is rather purply). Perhaps the Windsor cardi by Amy Christoffers? It calls for dk, but at 20 spi, so I think the Venezia might work (the spi the yarn label suggests).

I really want to knit up the pink (Quince and Co. Lark in Rosa Rugosa), which was a Christmas gift last year from my parents, but the pattern I’m leaning toward, Vignette by Amy Herzog has perhaps a little too much stockinette (the entire back) to follow a mostly stockinette sweater.

Knitting up the green (Wool of the Andes in Fern) would provide a color missing in my wardrobe. But I can’t decide between Acer cardi by Amy Christoffers or Crane Creek by Sandi Rosner (I already have both patterns).

Decisions! Decisions!

When I was getting out those three yarns to photograph, I found this:
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That’s Blue Moon Fiber Arts BFL sport in Thraven. It’s really pretty (but I’ve had it the shortest amount of time, so I feel like I would be cheating the older yarn to knit it next). I think it might work for Pomme de Pin cardi by Amy Christoffers (I think it’s safe to say I’m due to knit a cardigan by Amy Christoffers in the very near future).

Please feel free to throw in your two cents about my anguished process!

Projects, Part 1

Home ownership and a knitting hobby means there can be a lot of projects in progress. M and I are having a blast making the yard and gardens “ours.” And I’ll get to one of those projects in just a minute. First though, a little knitting. I had the perfect WIP to work on with sore elbows, a scarf in a scrumptious yarn (55/45 silk/cashmere!) that has a rather boring to knit (but oh, so pretty outcome) eight row repeat. Every repeat completed would be a good time to take a break, and the lace pattern on relatively large needles kept tension in my hands to a minimum.

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The pattern is Aria Delicato by Anne Hanson of Knitspot. She knit a 48-inch scarf using 275 yd of fine fingering yarn. I have 400 yd of fine fingering yarn (from Neighborhood Fibers, which I think has closed its doors at least as an online retailer), so my scarf is going to be longer. I have a cream colored “twin-set” cardigan (minus the twin), that I think these greens will look fab with. I’ve had this OTN for quite a while, but now it is getting a lot of attention.

Both M and I wanted to be able to plant some veggies in our new yard, but it was really landscaped, so we had to figure out where we could fit some raised beds in. I found a corner, that especially in summer will get enough sun, but I think even in the winter we will be able to grow some cold weather veggies. At least we are going to find out! Here in California, fall and winter are the perfect time to grow salad greens and broccoli and cauliflower, so I bought some seeds:
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Those shrubs you see in the middle of the photo–
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those shrubs are gone. And now M is very happy to be making sawdust on the back patio (redwood sawdust, no less):
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Before he can assemble the beds, M needs to deal with the drip sprinkler system, which I find incredibly mysterious, as there are billions of possible parts to splice in and link together. But I hope soon I can show you some baby greens in the garden and a green scarf round my neck!

Granola

I had to travel for work, and some how that trip made my elbows sore again. I think it was dragging all my luggage through 3 flights each way across the continent and through customs (Sacramento to Quebec City and back). Anyway, here is a cooking post of granola M and I really like. At the end, you can see the sweater that I’ve started that is waiting for my elbows to feel better again.

I like to eat granola for breakfast. Not the granola you buy in the cereal aisle, but the “gourmet” kind that often comes in bulk food departments. But it’s pretty expensive, so I found a recipe for making my own in the April 2012 issue of Cooks Illustrated magazine. M and I subscribe to America’s Test Kitchen on line, who are the same group who puts out Cooks Illustrated, and I’ve found that their recipes always work, and M and I often like them (sometimes we like a spicier or richer version than the testers like). So when I saw that an issue of the magazine had a home made chunky granola recipe, I had to give it a go.
Following their directions, I didn’t get chunky granola the first time, but I wasn’t very surprised. I have often found living in the arid Central Valley of California, that recipes developed in much more humid climates (New England in this case) need a bit of a liquid boost out here. I ended up increasing the sugars and oil by 50% while holding the dry ingredients constant, and that worked so well, that M now eats this granola every morning for breakfast with some vanilla yogurt. I eat it with almond milk.

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. nuts (I use almonds–they are local here), coarsely chopped
  • 5 C old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 C maple syrup (original recipe, very good) or honey (a lot less expensive–nuke it 20-30 sec to “thin” it)
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t cinnamon (optional)
  • 3/4 C canola oil

Directions:

Heat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, honey or maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon (optional), whisking until they well combined. Add the oil and whisk until the oil is stably incorporated (you are making an emulsion). Add the almonds and oats and fold with a large spatula until the oats are uniformly well-coated (don’t skimp on this step). Pour into a parchment-lined half-sheet pan and spread evenly. Use a heavy weight (I use a tool to pound meat) to press the the granola into a tight sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 min, rotating the pan 180 degrees half way through the baking. Cool in pan on wire wrack until completely cool. Break in to chunks and store air tight at room temperature. Note: If you want any dried fruit in your granola, add it after baking when breaking up the cooled granola.

If you get the magazine, you can see their amounts (or do the math and decrease the sugars and oil by 50%) and their many creative variations.

M took some photos of me yesterday making a batch:
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Folding the dry into the wet ingredients.
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Pressing the mixture together in the baking pan.
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Out of the oven!
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After cooling, I always find a corner missing. M says it must be a mouse. The one time this did not happen was the day M was not at home while I made the granola. Hmmm….

And here is a glimpse of the sweater I have on the needles. It’s Vodka Lemonade by Thea Coleman. It’s a lovely pattern, and I am not using yarn with the amount of stitch definition she recommends, but I think the difference between the seed stitch and stockinette will work out fine here. The yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts BFL Sport in Star Sapphire. I love BFL wool with a deep and abiding passion.
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New Digs or Why I haven’t been blogging

M and I bought a house. We moved to a neighboring city (about 7 miles from our old rental) to a lovely neighborhood. This has kept us rather busy for the past couple of months, but we are finally beginning to settle in. We had a month to pack, and we donated and got rid of what seemed like mountains of things, but when it came time to move, man, we had a lot of stuff. 13 years of marriage and 12 years in one residence can do that. But here are some before and after pics from the new house.

Family Room before
Can you find Harriet, my mannequin head in all the mess?
Family Room after
Dining room before
Dining Room after
Library before
Library after

M has a lawn to mow for the first time that doesn’t belong to his parents or their neighbors. He seems to really like the mower, and today he got an edger.
M mowing the lawn

But some things never change:
Boulevardier
Boulevardier cocktail. A negroni made with bourbon instead of gin. Delicious, and it looks so pretty on the hearth.

 

Some sweater knitting

I have been able to do some sweater knitting without my elbow bothering me! My elbow still bothers me somewhat, but other than hurting if I try to pick up something weighing more than 12-15 pounds, the ache seems to be random and transient. So, I have been knitting Leaflet by Cecily Glowik MacDonald from Knitty First Fall 2011. My parents gave me the Quince and Co. Osprey yarn in Cypress for Christmas (Osprey is the yarn specified in the pattern and totally wonderful).
Cypress Leaflet: WIP
I really love this rich green, and since I feel obliged to knit leaf motifs in an actual, possible leaf color, for me Cypress was a good choice. I only have around 14 rows left in the body, and then a bunch of ribbing around the edges. Ms. MacDonald knit her Leaflet in a brilliant autumn orange, but people ask me if I am feeling well if I wear orange near my face, so I went with the green.
However, a little orange on my feet never did any harm; I can get my foot up to my face, but I don’t do that in public unless it is at a yoga class, and then I am barefoot. I started the Rubus suberectus sock from Hunter Hammersen’s new book, The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet. It has some beautiful patterns both for socks and accessories each inspired by an antique botanical print, hence the Latin genus and species names for the patterns.
Rubus suberectus sock: cuff
I love the coral color of this yarn, which I can’t find the ball band for right this second, but I do know that it was dyed with a natural dye and the fiber is a merino/bamboo blend. For added stretch, I knit the top part of the cuff (to the 2nd welt) on larger needles, which I think will look much better when my leg is actually in the sock.
My poor other sock WIPs have been languishing, but it is several months until wool sock wearing weather, so I do not share their upset.
To close, I have to show you this photo I took of a sunset a couple of weeks ago. I was expecting all the clouds to turn brilliant reds and golds, but that was not to be. But I like the mood of what did happen.
Sunset with clouds
I started to expect Sauron or Voldemort to come flying out of the sunset with their evil minions in tow. Luckily, the sky just got dark, and I went in where M had prepared a delicious dinner.