Saturday, January 24, 2009

saturday's mish mash

Seems to me that I might have a few things to catch you up on, dear reader...

December seemed like an usually chilly month for my California-bred bones. Rain is the wintriest precipitation our area receives, but if there's not a wide band of weather protecting us from Arctic air, Canada sends down her chill. Once the gift knitting was finished, I started knitting up all sorts of things for sheer warmth.

Gavin loves to play outside, and his poor fingers feel like popsicles. For him, I found a perfect mitten pattern -- one that allows full coverage but a flap-like opening at the palm for quick gripping ability. I used the pattern to an extent, altering the thumb gusset and changing the decrease placement. Because he is three years old and teeny, I only knit six rounds between joining the flap and beginning the mitten decrease. They fit perfectly, and I love that he knows I knit them just for him.

Playground mittens knit in Mission Falls 1824 wool, Pistachio colorway.

Back at Christmas, Annika had swiped the pair of Toasty I had knit my mother-in-law before I could wrap them up. Of course that pair was too loose and too long, so once I finished Gavin's mittens, I cast on a pair of mini Toasty. ("Melba Toasty", I call them. Oh, I crack myself up.) She's worn them to school and while playing... The allure of Toasty continues, regardless of age.

Toasty in Malabrigo Worsted, Continental Blue colorway.

Last night, I wove in the ends of a Katie's Beret. I fell in love with Kirsten's pattern and yarn, so I shamelessly copied. The pattern is fabulous, and I can't wait to wear it, for the hat is drying now:

Not Just Katie's Beret in Indie Dyer's Supersock Select DK "Fairy Forest" colorway.

I also knit two cowls: a Luxe Neckwarmer in The Plucky Knitter Bulky Cashmere and a Purl Cashmere cowl in The Plucky Knitter Laceweight Cashmere. Neither are ones I'm exactly excited about, but if you're on Ravelry, you can check them out yourself. If nothing else, they'll keep my neck warm.

It was November when I last had socks on the needles. I could tell I needed to cast on soon... My wood dpn's were chilly in the winter air, too. First, I cast on for Herringbone Rib Socks in The Plucky Knitter Superwash Merino "Summer of Love". There's a January KAL in the Ravelry Plucky Knitters Group, but these will not cross the finish line because...

...the kids have had colds, which means that they're clingy and want to be held. A lot. And I don't really mind, even though it definitely cramps the knitting style. To combat that, I had to cast on a simply knit sock, one that doesn't require a lot of thinking and can be set down the second someone needs a ginger ale or more grapes. My go-to pattern for socks is the Adult Basic Sock #12. Sounds fancy, huh? It's an Ann Norling pattern, and the first sock pattern I paid for back when there was a LYS around here. I've made enough socks to know which elements of which patterns are best: I use the Ann Norling pattern for basics, then the Charlene Schurch garter-edge heel flap, and the Charade toe.

Basic 2x2 rib sock, sKNITches Syncopation in the signature sKNITch colorway.

Do you have a favorite sock pattern?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

a loaf a week

Remember last week, when I was sitting here considering which bread recipe to use? And remember how I then decided upon the "Homestyle White Bread with Poppy Seeds" from The Bread Bible? Well it was a good one. So good I made it again today. Because the kids and I had eaten it all. (The husband, who has food allergies, got his own loaf.)


exuberantly baking
i cut these excesses off during the first few minutes of baking.


As you can see, there are no poppy seeds. Not because I don't like seeded bread, because I really do, but because this loaf is our standard jack-of-all-trades bread. It has to be versatile: the canvas for a good ol' pb&j, the warm and thick toast of cinnamon toast, the body for a great chicken salad sandwich...

There is a serious possibility that I may make "Fresh Lemon Muffins", also from The Bread Bible, later in the week... They're even glazed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

desperate housewife

Happy New Year to you all. The last two weeks have flown by. Did you feel that, too, or am I the only one whose wish is for a few more hours in the day? Mind you, those extra hours wouldn't be spent doing ANY thing in particular... they'd be used for picking up the things that have fallen off my radar. Like reading. I hardly ever read any more. I was, up until last year, a very voracious reader. Now? Not so much.

I did spend this morning reading through my bread cookbooks, as I'm on the hunt for the perfect pain de mie recipe. Pain de mie translates literally to "bread of the mie"; like so many other words, the English language has no single-word equivalent for the fabulous word that is mie, which could be explained as the soft part, or interior of the loaf. Pain de mie is my children's favorite bread, and they've never turned down a toasted slice with a heavy slathering of butter or jam. I, on the other hand, have been disappointed in the density of my home made breads, and once I've given a recipe a few tries to sway me, I go in search for another.

The open book there is Breads from the La Brea Bakery. I adore the textbook-like qualities of this cookbook, but I've owned it for nearly 10 years and have never, ever, ever in my long legged life made anything from it. Every recipe, with the exception of the pain de mie, uses a sourdough starter. Every so often, I grab the book off the shelf and flip through it in excitement, only to remember that no, I don't have that well-fed, takes-at-least-two-weeks-to-grow starter sitting in my refrigerator yet. I suppose after I buy some red grapes -- yes, red grapes, not yeast -- I could try it this weekend...

The other two options for pain de mie on the table are the recipes from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook and The Bread Bible. (The Bread Bible is one I should either covet greedily or sell shamelessly... I can't believe the list price is nearly $200 on!) I've made the recipe in Martha's book with relative success. Again, I felt the bread was just too dense: no squishy white bread here! The pain de mie from The Bread Bible is actually called "Homestyle White Bread with Poppy Seeds" and it's been so long since I made it, I can't remember whether it was a stand-out recipe or not. As I type that, it's obvious that The Bread Bible recipe wins today.

Something that is always baking is cookies. My December issue of Real Simple has had a workout lately. I made the Raspberry Pinwheels last week. They weren't nearly as beautiful as the magazine's example... my jam had squished out of a couple of the batches during rolling, and ended up oozing out during baking as well. As a result, the jam that had seeped under the cookie cooked quickly, and gave a few cookies and extra crusty burnt flavor. Bleh. Those that made it through baking unscathed were tasty, but didn't get eaten up quickly and turned quite mushy.

This week I made the Glazed Lemon Cookies and you might know by now that I have a penchant for lemony sweets. These are delicious. So, so delicious. And when you are hankering for Lemony Snickets but do not have ricotta cheese taking up residence in your fridge, whip up the Glazed Lemon Cookies. They'll satisfy. And I'm sure they'll be eaten before they've a chance to mush.