Sunday, February 27, 2011

Twizzle Cardi

Hey! It has been far too long since I have posted about knitting, but that does not mean I haven't been knitting. It just means I haven't been taking pictures of the knitting. Well, let me correct that. It was mighty cold outside this weekend, so we had to take the pictures inside.

This is my version of the Rosamund's Cardigan. I finished the knitting long ago, but took a while to pick out the buttons and settle on the closures I wanted to use. Well, it is all done, blocked and has even been worn out of the house twice. It was definitely time to get this one documented. Ravelry project page: here.

The yarn was purchased at last year's Yarnover. That means it lingered in my stash less than a year before becoming a sweater! That feels nice. The yarn is Mountain Colors Twizzle, which is a silk and merino blend. It was delightful to knit with and only pooled a little bit.

My knitting group at Borealis helped select these buttons. They are made of shell and were from my random tin of buttons. I hope the rough edges of the shells don't fray the yarn too much!

I found the reversible cable to be beautiful and the bonus was that it was interesting to see how it takes shape during the knitting. (Psst....the trick to making it reversible is to use ribbing.) Cables are already thick, but when you add in the density of a ribbed cable, it becomes even more dense. The only thing I am not happy about with this sweater is how thick the fabric becomes when you overlap the two cable sections. It is a bit bulgy, especially on the bust section.

The pattern was written to show the reverse stockinette side as the right side but I preferred the stockinette side with this yarn. It was a simple thing to reverse, which I did while accounting for a slightly larger gauge and a slightly longer waist section than called for.

I also deviated from the pattern when it came to closures. The pattern said to use hooks and eyes to close the sweater below the buttons. I thought those would get snagged and/or come undone too easily, so I opted for snaps instead. My sewing in of the snaps was quite messy, but they seem to get the job done quite effectively.

This short sleeved, layering sweater seems to be a favorite of mine right now, as I am working on a Goodale and have a Lilas Cardigan in queue.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Day in PJs

Just when I started talking about how it was warming up...and we get another snow storm. Estimates are that we got 13 inches of snow throughout the day yesterday. And, it is still snowing. For the first time in the 2 years I have worked at my job, we are opening late due to the snow!

Yesterday, pretty much right when the snow started to fall fast and heavy, Paul and I made the decision to change our plans so that we could spend the day at home in our pajamas. I had done the grocery shopping on Saturday, so we had no need to go anywhere. We started the day off with a delicious breakfast cooked by Paul.

Then, after he cleaned up the kitchen, I took my turn. I have learned that if I want to eat well during the work week, I need to invest time and energy during the weekend planning, shopping and prepping grab and go options. Breakfasts this week will consist of steel cut oats with candied ginger and an assortment of fruit: frozen peaches, blackberries and raspberries as well as one with fresh bananas.

I also tried my hand at homemade granola. I followed this recipe, except for that I subbed in pistachios since I didn't have hazelnuts on hand and I used maple syrup as the sweetener. I liked the subtle cocoa and salt flavor, but learned that I did not need to roast the nuts. They ended up tasting a bit charred and dry. I will give this recipe another go in the future, perhaps using hazelnuts as it calls for.

After all of this cooking, I cleaned the kitchen and took a break to knit and watch streaming Netflix. I am currently obsessed with Grey's Anatomy and am working on a Goodale sweater that will have been knit entirely while watching back episodes of the show.

Eventually it was time to mess the kitchen up again. This time Paul and I worked together. We made black bean and sweet potato burritos with brown rice. The recipe, from Moosewood's Low-Fat Favorites cookbook, makes a huge amount of filling. We had enough to eat them for dinner, for leftovers this week and to freeze a few for later.

It felt really good to nourish ourselves on a cold and stormy day while also stocking up for later. It also felt really good to wear my pajamas all day! But, now, it is time to get back to reality and shovel our way out of the house. I have to be to work by 12.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Joy of Running Free

The warmth and the light is slowly beginning to return to our part of the earth. It is quite possible that no one is happier about that than Tchazo. The winter in Minnesota is cruel to dogs who have short fur, tender feet and boundless energy.

We recently ponied up for an off-leash permit so that Tchazo can visit all of the Minneapolis dog parks and run free. Tchazo and I spent some quality time at the park over the weekend. The picture on the off-leash sign is true; Tchazo really does fly when he gets there.

The intensity of the car trip to the dog park and the first few minutes there are pretty incredible. For those of you that know him in real life, you know that he can get pretty amped up. The drive to the dog park is the ultimate in Tchazo excitement. I hate it. I have to focus on keeping calm the whole drive while Tchazo paces and whines and cries and yelps and barks all while enclosed in the same small car as I am. We've tried many techniques to help make the car ride more peaceful, but there is just no stopping it. He knows what is coming and he is SO SO SO SOOOO EXCITED! BARK! YELP! EEEEEEE!!!!

And then we get there. He is unleashed into the large open space and he flies! Around and around, this way and that way he goes.

It is nice for us humans to get out in the fresh air, too. Especially when the sky is blue and the snow is starting to melt.
After he gets over the initial release of running like a mad dog, he will generally start to interact with some of the other dogs. Playing keep away with sticks is always a favorite.

And so is finding a stick that weighs the same as you and carrying it around.

There is also the fun part where you shred the stick. Sometimes this leads to a bloody mouth, but that seems to matter very little to him.

Eventually he starts to hold still for a few seconds and set the stick down for a breather.

Paul and I have made it a goal to take him to the park at least once a week because that place is heaven on earth for him. If only we could get a soundproof compartment in the car for him.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dumplings, My Darling

Not only is today Valentine's Day, it is also my mom's birthday! Happy Birthday, Mom!

Since my mom generally keeps a pretty solid calendar of social plans, we had to get together in advance of her birthday to celebrate. Our plan was for her to teach me how to make her mother's dumplings and to eat the sauerkraut that Paul and I started fermenting in October.

My mom's mom was born in Germany and my mom's dad was born in Austria, so we come by our love of dumplings honestly. I have fond memories of going to visit my grandparents and having dumplings and sauerkraut for at least one of the meals every time we visited. Oftentimes it was the meal we ate when we first arrived. The very distinct smell of that kraut welcomed us as we came through the door. That smell will forever remind me of her house.

My Grandma isn't able to make dumplings anymore and my Grandpa passed away a while ago, so it was time I learned to make this meal for myself.

Not only did we have the batch of sauerkraut that Paul and I made, we also had a jar from my Uncle Bill. I'll give you the full summary of the sauerkraut in a later post, but I just wanted to mention here that we started off the evening with a sauerkraut sampler platter. We ate it cold. That is how much we like sauerkraut.

After our tasting platter, we set to work in the kitchen. This happened on a weeknight so I had taken care of the prep work the night before, including cooking and mashing the potatoes. My mom remembers that they would often eat dumplings the night after a meal with mashed potatoes as a way of eating the leftover potatoes, so starting with potatoes I made the day before was perfectly fitting.

There was a lot of squishing and mixing and adding of more flour. The "recipe" we follow is of the kind where you add an ingredient until it looks and feels right. It is inexact, but always consists of mashed potatoes (about 2 cups, including a bit of milk), flour (about 3 cups, added gradually) and salt (about 1 teaspoon). One thing I learned during my lesson is that you do not knead the ingredients, you squish them.

After you finally get the right texture (generally when it sticks together but is not too wet), you form the dumplings by shaping and rolling them into balls.

We are accustomed to baseball sized dumplings, but Paul felt that they needed to be smaller. We compromised on a medium sized dumpling and made a few with a higher flour content to see if that influenced the texture (it didn't).

Paul was our photographer for the evening and we were also watched over by these guys. Keeping them out of the kitchen is a losing battle. They really want to be where the action is and, more importantly, where something tasty may fall within their reach. No sooner than you finish telling them to "Get out!", they are back underfoot.

Dumplings are not pretty and boiling them doesn't make them any prettier. They are bland and slightly brainy looking, but so hearty and filling! You know they are done when they float in the boiling water (normally about 20-30 minutes).

We made some gravy, roasted some root vegetables, warmed up some sauerkraut and Paul made polish sausages to round out the meal. Oh, and Leinenkugel's beer, too!

I had warned them to leave room for dessert, since we were celebrating a birthday. For dessert, I made an Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake from Rustic Desserts.

Word to the wise, do not make this cake in a springform pan. I still have caramel stuck to the bottom of my oven from that little mishap. The cake was tasty, but I am not sure I will be making it again. It was a lot of work and the texture was a little wonky. The top was mushy from the caramel and the bottom was a little dry from the denseness of the cake. We ate it with vanilla ice cream, which helped to even out the dry parts. The flavors were certainly delicious but the overall cake wasn't what I had hoped it would be.

Back to the dumplings and the birthday girl...I really enjoyed learning a dish that has such family history and am grateful to have learned it from my mom. As I have said before, moving back to Minnesota has created opportunities to learn from my family and to celebrate holidays and birthdays with them. I consider myself fortunate to have a mom who is both a parent and a friend to me.

I hope you have a lovely birthday, Mom!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Underwater Basketweaving

This week Missy and I started our basketweaving class through Minneapolis Community Education. As it turns out, the underwater basketweaving idiom is nearly true, as your supplies DO spend a ton of time in water to keep them pliable.

Our goal in this class is to complete a woven market basket. We started with rolls of flat wood/reeds and went from there.

The steps we covered in our first class were:
  1. weave the base of the basket
  2. lock the base with a woven border
  3. pin edges to start the side shaping

I look forward to seeing how this odd looking thing morphs into a real basket. That will be completed in our second class, but I have to wait 2 long weeks for it!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who stole our degrees?

After the windchill is factored in, the "real feel" temperature is currently -15 degrees F. That is cold.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Art Sled Rally!

A winter variety of the Minnesota mosquito

The Powderhorn neighborhood of Minneapolis really knows how to do it up right when it comes to community art events. They are home to the May Day Parade, the Empty Bowls fundraiser, the Powderhorn Arts Fair and, for the 4th year running, the Art Sled Rally! I think that exclamation point is required, but I would have put it there anyway.

You might want to click this photo to make it bigger. The guy's face is so happy!
I think that is his kid in the castle.

Thanks to Jerri, Paul and I found out about the rally this year and had a great time with Jerri, Mark, Zoe and a slew of other friends we bumped into at this fun outdoor party.

I was especially glad to have found out about the rally because I was feeling a hole in the heart of my Minnesota winter where the Art Shanties used to reside. We've really enjoyed our past visits to the shanties (art shanty posts here, here and here) and look forward to future years of the project. It was great to find out about another creative and playful winter event. The turnout to this outdoor event in the dead of winter made me feel quite proud of my fellow Minnesotans.

The event was 3 hours long, so there were many sleds we didn't get to see. The range of materials, concepts and effectiveness was thoroughly amusing. I also appreciated that safety did NOT come first. This sled emitted fire out of the back of it!

The part of the hill that we were on was not too steep, but just past us, it was became really steep. The sleds went down that section fast and furiously. Very few sleds made it down the hill without a crash and/or partial destruction. In fact, we watched a Canadian goose sled get decapitated. The head was knocked clean off in a collision with a hay bale.

Snow plows do not make for effective sleds! Luckily there were lots of volunteers along the hill to help people get moving, back on course or to alert onlookers to the impending danger of a sled about to crash into the barriers.

The London Bridge was quite a spectacle and, from what I saw, did not fall down! It did need a good bit of help to stay on the straight and narrow. All of the sleds had people in them and some of the people were hard to spot. In this sled, the towers on either side of the bridge house skiers...brave, brave skiers!

After the sleds made their journey down the hill, they were displayed in a viewing area for all to behold. Unfortunately, our feet became blocks of ice before all of the sleds went down the hill, so we headed to a coffee shop for a hot beverage. This photographer has posted a huge assortment of pictures if you'd like to see more of the sleds.
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