Sunday, November 28, 2010

DIY Holiday Weekend

What a luxury to have a 4 day weekend! Paul and I spent Thanksgiving visiting our families, with a stop at his relatives in the morning and the afternoon with my relatives.

Other than that, we left the time open to do things on a whim. We made good food. (This salad dressing is great!) We worked on projects around the house. I realized that I had not watched a movie since June, so I watched 2 movies. I read an entire book.

Of course, I knit. I started knitting socks for my dad's Christmas gift, blocked a gift for an upcoming baby shower and sorted through my button tins to find buttons for a few recently finished projects. One of those projects was the Rosamund Cardigan. It will get its own full post as soon as I sew on the buttons. For now, let me just remark upon that bleeding! I soaked and rinsed it multiple times and it just seemed like more dye was coming out with each washing. I hope it doesn't stain the clothes I wear it with!

Photo by Sally

And, last but not least, I had time to try out some new places with friends. Jill, Missy and I spent Black Friday hunkered down in a cozy coffee shop, knitting and talking. It was a great way to spend the day, made significant by the knowledge that while others were participating in a buying frenzy, we were spending quality tine together, creating things stitch by stitch. The next day I got to meet up with Sally at a newish cupcake bakery, where we ate some sweets and got caught up. Since I changed jobs, Sally and I haven't been able to have our weekly lunch date, which meant we had a lot to catch up on.

In just a few days, I have managed to turn my sleep schedule upside down. I know I will pay the price tomorrow morning but it was so worth it. And, on that note, good night!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Massive Fall Catch Up Post

As life sometimes goes, I haven't had the extra time and energy for blogging lately. I can't make up for lost time, but I did want to do a quick recap of some of my fall experiences.

After 3 intensive months of training, I have moved from my training work location to my permanent placement. For the past 3 months I have seen this beautiful morning view of the Minneapolis skyline while walking from the bus stop to work. The shiny round building in the right side of the photo was where I was working during training. My new location has a nice view, too and I even have an office with a huge window. After having worked in basements and/or interior rooms for the past few years, having a window feels absolutely decadent!

Now that Paul and I are both working again, we can indulge in dinner out from time to time. We recently ate at Town Talk Diner. The sign was the most impressive part as I found the food to be overpriced and the service to be mediocre. Luckily we were using a groupon or else I would have been way more displeased. I do love the sign, though.

Fall also brought the last round of harvesting from our garden. One night after work, as dusk was setting in, I unearthed the carrots and beets. I was in a rush, so I only ended up snapping a blurry picture of the harvest atop the covered up A/C unit. After the root veggies were out, we were left with collards, kale and brussels sprouts from the garden up until we got the big, wet snowstorm last weekend. At this point, the garden is at rest until next year. As much as I enjoyed the garden, I am very ready for the dormant phase. My knitting time definitely suffered because of the gardening!

With fall comes strong cravings for baked goods and crappy lighting to photograph them. I baked the pumpkin biscuits with orange honey butter that I mentioned in my pumpkin post. It was a good thing that I made a double batch of the biscuits to go along with the single batch of orange honey butter, because a little of this delicious butter goes a long way. I even had some leftover to pop in the freezer for later. The biscuits ended up being in the shape of a snowflake as I realized I only own 2 cookie cutters. One of them is a snowflake and the other is bone-shaped and meant for cooking dog treats. Luckily, the Crafternooners didn't mind eating snowflakes in the fall.

Last weekend, on the evening of the big snowstorm, Meg and Cyrus hosted us for a potluck dinner. I hadn't made a tart before, but wanted to give it a try with this recipe. I modified it to use the raspberries I had on hand in the freezer instead of the blueberries that the recipe calls for. It was a very tart tart with all of the lemon zest and juice. This was definitely not a quick and easy dessert, but I think it was worth it.

We also brought along a Pomegranate salad that I made based off of this recipe. I hadn't originally been assigned a salad but we had lost a portion of the dinner party guests due to the bad weather, so I was happy to step up. Luckily I had all of the ingredients on hand except for subbing mixed greens in place of spinach, which I like better anyways. This was my first experience cutting open a pomegranate. The way it is structured is pretty fascinating while making it very tedious to dissect.

Meg and Cyrus made quiche with gruyere and mushrooms and roasted potatoes with sage. It was a delicious dinner and a great thing to be able to spend more time with them before they head out for their year in Argentina.

There has been a little bit of home improvement work going on around here lately, too. My dad stopped by and when I asked him for advice on our sticky door it turned into a full on repair session. Paul and I had gotten used to having to kick it open. We forget that it works how it is supposed to now so sometimes we accidentally slam it open!

Before the ground got really hard, Tchazo discovered the joy of digging. We have been really fortunate that it has taken him nearly 9 years to make this discovery. Our yard is now paying the price where he has chosen a few of his favorite digging spots. He is a bit sneaky with his digging so I rarely see him doing it, which would mean I could correct the behavior. Instead he does it stealthily and my only proof that he is the culprit is that sometimes I catch him "red-pawed". I noticed signs of digging earlier in the season but had been blaming it on squirrels. Now I know, it was Tchazo's work!

In order to balance work being really busy, getting back to my gym routine after a break during my job transition and the hustle and bustle of fall, Paul and I have been careful to carve out some time for slowing down. The dogs appreciate the weekend mornings where we don't have to rush around and we can take time to let them up on the bed for a family snuggle session.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thrummed Mittens - Older and Wiser

Once upon a time, I made thrummed mittens (ravelry link). I had seen mittens with thrums made of wool, but knew that my skin has a hard time with wool. For those not familiar, the Yarn Harlot has a great FAQ about thrums. When I found some really nice cotton roving for sale at Rhinebeck, I thought I would give it a try. It turns out that cotton makes for imperfect thrums. It does not felt like wool, which I knew going into it. It also pulls out pretty easily as it doesn't stick well to the yarn it is knit with. Also, wearing these took some getting used to. I was tempted to play with the inside bits while wearing them, which would have caused the thrums to fall apart.

Despite their flaws, the cotton lined mittens worked fine for me. The yarn is a merino, alpaca and silk blend, so these mittens are mighty toasty. Now here is where the real problem came into play with these cotton thrums. After using them for a while, I noticed that the thrums had started to look nasty, dirty, gross. I knew that if I washed the mittens I would surely end up with a falling apart mess.

I decided the best course of action was to remove the thrums, wash the mittens and just wear them as they are. Luckily for me, when I knit these I didn't know that you can knit into the back loop of the stitch when inserting the thrums to secure them. Not having twisted stitches made pulling out the thrums possible and prevented the thrumless mittens from having sporadic twisted stitches. Washing and blocking them after pulling the thrums out helped even out the gaps where the thrums were. Hooray!

Now that I am older and wiser and my skin seems to have gotten a little more tolerant of merino wool, I have started a new pair of thrummed mittens using wool yarn and merino wool roving. I learned my lesson about light colored mittens and am making these in darker colors. Plus, when these need to be washed, it won't be a big deal.

This project is moving along rather slowly because it doesn't make for very good on-the-go knitting. It is quite a set-up I have what with the actual knitting being sort of bulky and needed to incorporate the prepped thrums and the roving waiting to be prepped.

I am enjoying seeing how the colors from the roving are coming out, though. And, I know I will end up with toasty warm mittens. All of these warm woolens are happening right on time, as we woke up this morning to a big, wet snow storm.

The photos above were all taken on the bench in the front of this photo. What a difference a few days makes in this transitional time of year!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crafternoon (spell check does not approve)

The Crafternoon gatherings may not be happening with the regularity that they used to, but they are still going strong. Today's group was a full one including people who've been absent from the past few gatherings. The afternoon was full of people catching up and the showing and telling of projects. At one point, Paul tried to come and chat, but realized he had very little chance of being heard amongst all of the conversations. Thanks for a fun and crafty afternoon, ladies!

Friday, November 5, 2010


Although we still have a long, long list of home improvements and quite a few places where furniture is lacking, we have been making progress on making our home ours. I am really happy to have gotten rid of the unpleasant dusty purple and saturated red color combo we inherited from the former owner. Thanks to Paul and his efforts, we now have half of the main floor walls and ceilings painted.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Raspberry Preserves

I did end up making raspberry preserves with the plethora of raspberries that I picked in my dad's patch. I searched for some low sugar recipes after learning this summer how jellies and jams oftentimes have more sugar than fruit in them. That just felt obscene and I vowed to seek out alternative methods and recipes. I ended up modified this recipe from the Boston Globe who modified it from Afton Cotton.

1 1/2cups granulated sugar
1package (1.75 ounces) powdered pectin
6cups (a little more than 1 quart) raspberries, rinsed, picked over, and drained
1/2cup brown sugar
6tablespoons lemon juice
1teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Have on hand 5 half-pint canning jars. Sterilize them in boiling water. Sterilize the lids and rings, ladle, and any other equipment that will touch the jam. You will also need a canner and a jar lifter. Fill the pot with water and bring it to a boil.

2. In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar with the pectin. Stir well.

3. In a large saucepan, combine raspberries, remaining 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Let stand for 10 minutes or until the juices flow.

4. Add vanilla. Stir gently and bring the mixture to a boil slowly over medium heat.

5. Stir in the pectin mixture. Turn the heat to high and boil vigorously for a few minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, you can test to see if it has reached 200 or so degrees F. (This recipe originally said it had to reach 220, but I didn't get it that hot and it jelled just fine.)

6. Pour mixture into hot, sterilized jars, wiping down jar rims with a damp paper towel. Place lids onto jars and screw on bands, and place the jars in the canner, making sure the jars are covered by 1 to 2 inches of water.

7. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Process the jars for 15 minutes.

8. With the jar lifter, lift the jars from the pot. Place them on a clean kitchen towel and listen for the sound of success: POP! Let stand for 12 to 24 hours or until completely cool.

9. Test the seal by pressing down the center of the lid with your finger; it should not move. If it didn't seal, you'll just have to eat that one right away.

The resulting preserves are both tart and sweet. I like them much better than the really sugary jams.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Little of What He Likes

Paul is a season ticket holder to the Timberwolves. He had been a fan for a long time and even cares about them when they lose and nobody wants to buy tickets to their games. He watched them on TV whenever possible when we lived in Boston. He reads websites about the draft and the players. So, when he asked if I wanted to go to one of the pre-season games with him, I agreed to go. If you know me, you know that I have no interest in professional sports whatsoever. None. However, I was interested in going with him to experience a bit of what engages him so much. I guess it was like that one time he went yarn shopping with me.

I enjoyed spending the evening with him and having a new experience, but I am grateful that he has friends that want to go to the 40 or 50 games that make up a season. I am also grateful that Paul and I have the kind of relationship where we can support each other in pursuing our separate interests without necessarily having to participate in the them. We think that suits us just fine.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mary and Ronnie and a Beer-Can Chicken

The next weekend after Beth's visit, Paul and I had Ronnie and Mary over for dinner. Paul had long ago promised to have them over for Beer Can Chicken as a thank you for giving us an extra lawn mower they inherited with their house. Since the window is quickly closing for grilling weather, we were lucky to find a night that worked for everyone.

This was the same day that Missy and I spent in Northfield, so Paul was the one who created the menu and did all of the cooking. He made us a delicious meal with side dishes of rosemary roasted potatoes, his special version of collard greens, maple glazed carrots, and fresh-baked peasant bread.

Our co-op has chickens that they swear are worth the price difference so we splurged on one for this dinner. The meat-eaters said it did not disappoint and Paul agreed that the co-op was speaking the truth.

I, however, was happy eating the sides and tried my best to keep my mouth shut about them eating a chicken who had a can of beer stuffed up its rear end.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Beth in Minnie

Oh, goodness! I have gotten so neglectful when it comes to posting the fun stuff that has been going on over the last month. Luckily, Beth wrote up a great summary of her visit here a few weekends ago. It was so much fun to spend time with her, the Wagner family and Joey. Here are links to her posts (part 1 and part 2) about her time here. You might recognize these photos, too. I didn't take any of my own, so I borrowed hers.

Dinner was potluck style, which this group of friends does REALLY well. There were so many delicious things to chose from.

Thanks for a great visit, Beth!

P.S. I wrote this post a few days in advance of it going live and in the meantime, Jerri posted some great photos and tidbits about the visit on her blog. So, now I can add links to her posts, too. They can be found: here, here and here. I really have to get over to that quaking bog. It sounds excellent!
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