Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm having a Cyber Monday sale on my pattern Hestia!  It is 20% off today, Monday November 29 and Tuesday November 30 with the coupon code "cybersale"

That's all the news I've got now--I haven't been knitting much due to a minor hand injury, and I'm way behind on my photography due to never being home during the daylight!  I hope to make up for that this week.  At least the knitting.  Unless I do some early morning photo shoots I may  not have time to photograph things until Sunday. 

I hope everyone celebrating Thanksgiving had a warm, delicious, love-filled holiday.  I know I did!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Look Who's Blocking...


My High Line Shawl!  I admit to wearing this a few times before blocking.


In fact, I put it on immediately after I cast off the final stitch and wore it while I added fringe!  It is so cozy, and I cannot wait for it to dry so I can wear it again! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Importance of a Name

Juliet may have said That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 2.2), but I have to say that in the case of knitting patterns, I do not agree.

 A name is your first impression.  It may draw you in or repel you.  It may intrigue you or disgust you.  Ok, disgust may be taking it a bit far, but I admit to being one of those knitters who may be inclined to buy a pattern simply if I like its name or the story behind it.  Silly, I know, but I find myself driven to satisfy the same kind of knitter/customer that I myself embody, so while I was completely in love with my new plaid shawl pattern, it felt incomplete without a name.


Being that the showcase of this shawl is the plaid, I knew I could either go the prep route or the punk route for my name inspiration.  I threw around a few ideas, but nothing really stuck out as a winner or sang to me in any way.  A knitting friend from Angelfire Studios gave me some advice, and I started googling, listening to lots of The Clash, The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, and reading up on the stories behind the songs.  Still, it was my lovely sister Sarah who led me to Sheena is a Punk Rocker

Well the kids are all hopped up and ready to go
They're ready to go now
They've got their surfboards
And they're going to the discotheque a go go
But she just couldn't stay
She had to break away
Well New York City really has it all
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Sheena is a punk rocker
Sheena is a punk rocker
Sheena is a punk rocker now
Sheena is a punk rocker

The lyrics really spoke to  me.  Simple as they are, they embody what punk rock meant to me, especially in high school.  It's the perfect escape--just like knitting a great shawl.  And couldn't you totally see Sheena rocking this one?

The pattern is now with some wonderful test knitters, and I hope to have it ready for release in approximately 3 weeks.  I knit this sample in two colors of Malabrigo Sock, Black and Indiecita, and a size US 5 needle.  More details are on my ravelry project page, and more information will be available upon the pattern's release.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Finally Featherweight


I've been wanting to knit Hannah Fettig's Featherweight Cardigan pretty much ever since the patten was released.  I knew that this would be just the perfect little cardigan to throw on over anything and class up almost any outfit.  I couldn't knit such a staple wardrobe piece in just any yarn, now could I?  Perhaps this is why it took me a year and a half to choose the best possible yarn for the project.  I changed my  mind a few times, as I am apt to do, and finally decided that it was just not the time for me to knit Featherweight.  Then one day in September I suddenly had a craving for a yellow/orange sweater.  Instead of buying one like a normal person, I set out to find the best yellow-orange yarn for my skin tone and knit a sweater.  After settling on Madelinetosh tosh lace in Warm Maize, I instantly knew that the yarn needed to become a Featherweight Cardigan. 

Pattern:  Featherweight Cardigan
Yarn:  Madelinetosh tosh lace in Warm Maize
Needles:  US 5
Modifications:  I lengthened the body by about 4 inches but knit everything else according to the pattern--even the rolled stockinette collar that so many have modified.

I think the most amazing thing about this pattern is that I managed to knit it from one single skein of yarn!  Sure, that yarn happens to have 950 yards per skein, but I still expected to dip into the second one.  


At first I foolishly tried to photograph this sweater by myself, and as you can see from the above shots, that didn't work out very well.  Luckily I managed to catch my mom one day when we were both available during the waning daylight hours for proper outdoor photos.  No more dreaded mirror shots!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Hestia

After I wrote the pattern for Hestia and knit my original sample in tosh sock, I decided to test out another yarn, Malabrigo Sock.  I intended to use my sister Sarah as a model for this pattern, so I knit a smaller size than the one I would want for myself.  However, Sarah went to Ireland in August and hasn't come home yet.  I decided to put on the sweater I knit for her, and even though it's kind of too small, I still enjoyed wearing it.  If I lose a few more pounds, this sweater will permanently become mine.  Sorry, Sarah!

Pattern:  Hestia by Jacquelyn Ridzy (me!)
Yarn:  Malabrigo Sock in Impressionist Sky
Needles:  US 6

While Malabrigo Sock does create a very soft, light fabric, I think I prefer a slightly thicker yarn like tosh sock for this pattern.

If you have knit this pattern, I'd love to feature you on my blog!  Email me photos and tell me about the yarn you used.  I'll feature you in a special blog post!

Monday, November 8, 2010

New Pattern: Hestia

The idea for this design was born nearly a year ago when my LYS Angelfire Studios received its first shipment of Madelinetosh tosh sock.  I was completely taken by the colorway Turquoise (shown above) and I knew I had to make it into a cozy flyaway cardigan to show off the tonal variegation of the yarn, keep me warm but not boiling, and add another gorgeous layer that will work with almost any outfit.  I couldn't find a pattern for what I wanted, so I set off to write my own.  After a lot of ripping, reknitting, testing, and perfecting, I have a garment and pattern that I am proud to share.

 Hestia can be worn so many different ways:  open, belted, pinned, tied...your imagination is the limit.  I've worn mine so many times since I finished knitting it nearly 3 months ago.  It has quickly become my favorite cardigan.

Hestia is for sale on

Materials: 3 (4, 4, 4, 5) skeins of Madelinetosh tosh sock or 1100 (1250, 1380, 1500, 1700) yards of fingering weight yarn
US 6 40” or longer circular needle or size needed to obtain gauge

US 5 circular needle or double pointed needles or needles one or two sizes smaller than those needed to obtain gauge
US 6 double pointed needles
2 stitch markers (at least one should be removable)

Gauge: 5 stitches and 7 rows per inch in blocked stockinette stitch using larger needles
Sizes: XS (S, M, L, XL) with a measurement of 12 (13, 14, 15, 16) inch back width (between armhole seams).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Clover Shawl

It's not often that a knitter receives hand knit gifts herself.  I guess people assume, well, she can make it herself!  Although I do make myself plenty of beautiful knits, it still tickles me to receive a gorgeous item that I didn't have to make.  It's sort of like cooking.  Sure, you may love it, and you may enjoy knowing exactly what you're eating, and you may take pleasure in serving yourself and your loved ones.  But isn't it delightful to sit down and indulge in a meal that someone else lovingly prepared just for you?

J, E, Jacqui in Clover Shawl, AM, and AC at a friend's wedding

In the above picture, I'm wearing the The Clovers, a shawl knit for me by Tricia, sfcorgi on ravelry.  I suppose this shawl was more of a prize than a gift.  I won it in Tricia's auction to raise money for the susan G. Komen 3 Day Walk for breast cancer that she did this fall.  I am so happy that I was able to contribute to this cause.  Hopefully someday there will be a cure for this disease that touches so many of us, but until then early detection is our best defense.  In fact, that is the key that saved two of my online knitting buddies, Katie and Stephanie.  This past year the two of them, both in their late 20s and early 30s (the same ages as the women pictured above), beat breast cancer that they discovered early on by doing self exams.  Tricia's Susan G. Komen 3 Day fundraising page is here.  If you would like to contribute, donations can be made until November 1.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

As much as I enjoyed this book, I just did not understand it.  I am slightly embarassed to admit this.  I'm an intelligent young woman.  I majored in English, and it was always my best subject.  There is very little that has left me scratching my head.

This book started off intriguing and wonderful.  People often say that food is "made with love," but what if you could really taste the emotions that were coursing through the chef's psyche as he or she prepared your food?  Nine year old Rose develops this mystical skill on her birthday.  Instead of tasting fresh lemon and chocolate in the birthday cake her mother bakes her, she tastes insecurity and desperation.  

As teenagers or adults we realize that our parents are flawed.  Imagine discovering their true feelings, imperfections, and secret affairs when you are an innocent child.  These complex plot points are augmented by author Aimee Bender's lyrical prose.  I could actually taste the foods and emotions along with young Rose.  However, the plot veered more from magical realism to weirdness, for lack of a more technical term.  Rose's older brother has mystical secrets of his own, which completely tear the already detached family apart.  I trusted the trajectory of the story and expected some sort of explanation or insight to wash over me, but I just did not understand the ending.  Bender obviously tried to compare Rose's extraordinary taste to her brother's strange detachment, but I just couldn't wrap my brain around the analogy.  If you've read this book and you have a more salient idea about the meaning of this, can you clue me in?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

For me pumpkin pie is completely hit or miss.  I've had some that was not so good and some that was great.  Given my recent obsession with roasting pumpkins, it is only natural that I'd attempt to make my own pie, even though I've never done it before.  I started off by roasting two small sugar pumpkins (why make one pie when you can make two?) and pureeing the flesh in a food processor.  I modified this recipe from Spiced Pumpkin Pie from to create this healthy, delicious desert.  I didn't know pumpkin pie could be this good...I am never using canned pumpkin again.  The quantities I've given are for two pies, so just half them for one pie.  Most of the substitutions I made were purely due to availability (I ran out of pumpkin pie spice and I forgot to buy brown sugar) except for the milk--I am lactose intolerant, and the almond milk worked well.

Spiced Pumpkin Pie
makes 2
 4 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup egg substitute
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
12 fluid ounces of almond milk
2 9 inch unbaked pie crusts

1.  Preheat oven to 35o degrees Fahrenheit.  
2.  In a medium bowl mix together the pumpkin, egg subsitute, sugar, molasses, spices, and almond milk.
3.  Pour half of the pumpkin pie mixture into each of the pie crusts.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 80 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

The five spice powder gives it an interesting complexity.  If you use evaporated milk like the original recipe calls for, you may want to double the amount because it is so much thicker than almond milk.  Try the recipe and let me know what you think!

Sneak Peak and Good Wishes

Happy 20th Birthday on the 20th, Sarah!  I hope this day is just perfect!  I know you'll like the colors in the knitting photo below, and for now that's all you're getting!

I haven't been doing much knitting lately.  Actually, I guess I should say that I haven't finished many knitting projects recently.  I've been working on so many different things, knitting and otherwise, that I just haven't been able to focus and dedicate myself to getting anything done. 

The photo on the right is a sneak peek of a project that is almost finished.  I have so many "almost finished" items lying around, and I plan to finish and share them soon!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review: One Day

Even at quite a young age, I loved When Harry Met Sally.  I loved the idea that two people can dance in and out of each others' lives as acquaintances, friends, lovers, and enemies, and maybe, just maybe, end up together.  The easiest way to describe One Day by David Nicholls is to say that it's  a British version of the Nora Ephron modern classic that spans 20 years yet only looks at one day per year of these two star-crossed friends' lives.  But that would be doing this novel a disservice.  One Day is not only a story of two friends, but also the story of how each individual overcomes personal demons and comes into his or her own.  Sometimes the arc of their lives intersect, sometimes they do not.

Emma and Dexter meet on the day of the college graduation in 1988.  They both feel an attraction towards each other, but their lives are quickly moving in two very different directions, so they choose to remain friends instead of embarking on a surely doomed relationship.  Emma, a distinguished scholar, ends up working in a tacky Mexican restaurant for years instead of unleashing the political literary guru inside her.  Is she stuck in this dead-end job because of the recession as she proclaims, or is Emma herself lacking in talent or determination?  Dexter, a mediocre student, launches on a world tour only to fall into a lucrative yet short lived career as a television personality upon his return to England.  Will he remain an overnight sensation or will his hardpartying and womanizing ways be his downfall?  This is only the beginning of each of their lives.  Peppered with nostalgic pop culture references, Emma and Dexter experience 20 years of personal growth, failure, career changes, and life changing events, all while remaining a part of each others' lives.  While a bit archetypal and predictable at times, I found both Em and Dex's journeys to be entertaining, and their interactions so very real. 

Verdict:  One might think that 20 years of will-they or won't-they would get boring, but Nicholls' storytelling device of revealing only the events of July 15 of each year kept me turning pages, often in frustration over a missed encounter or the rabid desire to read more about Em and Dex's sexually frustrating trip to Greece.  Don't expect a stuffy literary masterpiece when you pick up this novel, but do expect to be completely absorbed and invested in the events and outcome of this lifelong friendship.  And if that's not enough to convince you to read, a film version starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess is slated to be released in 2011.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ruffle My Feathers

I finally got around to photographing this beautiful shawl that I knit when our summer days were just turning into fall.  Ruffle My Feathers by Caryl Pierre is a fun, fast knit.  I just love the squishy garter stitch, the practical shape, and the girly ruffles that adorn the border.  I definitely need to make another one of these.  Although this shawl would make the perfect gift, I know I'd have a hard time giving it away.  I only blocked the shawl lightly, and now that I look at the above photo I think that it might benefit from a slightly harder blocking to make the ruffles cascade a bit more smoothly.  The merino/cashmere/nylon blend of this yarn is so so soft, I think that would show it off a bit more.

I love how the shawl sits squarely on your shoulders.  I wore this all day last Thursday at work, where I ran around setting up and hosting library programs for 7 hours straight.  No need to adjust my shawl at all.  It kept me warm in our cold program room, but not so hot that I needed to strip off layers as I lugged a huge, unwieldly flip chart, podium, and karaoke machine into the room and then back out (don't ask).

Part of my photography delay (I finished the shawl a full month ago) was due to wardrobe issues.  I absolutely love the color of the yarn I chose for this shawl.  Brown and pink is one of my favorite color combos, and this pattern highlights a slightly variegated yarn beautifully.  However, most of my clothes are blue, green, and black.  All of the pink and most of the brown I have is much warmer than the tones in this yarn.  This outfit was a serendipitious find in my closet.  I was searching for a warmish skirt to wear with my new brown boots, and Eureka!  This outfit matches my shawl perfectly too!  I have since located another brown shirt that I can wear with my Ruffle.  What other colors can I wear with this?

Project Specs for Knitters:
Pattern:  Ruffle My Feathers by Caryl Pierre of Caryl Style (karako17 on ravelry)
Yarn:  Lotus Yarns Chakra in colorway Jayne Mansfield
Needles:  US 7

Caryl is having a 15% off sale on all of her patterns purchased through ravelry this month with the coupon code "stockpile."  It's a great time to buy patterns to knit for holiday gifts!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bottoms Up, Charlie Brown!

Ok, I've gotta stop with the "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" references that no one outside of my own head will understand.  Last week I read a ravelry post about making your own pumpkin infused vodka.  Given my recent obsession with sugar pumpkins and the fact that I have enjoyed many a home-infused fruity vodka in my time, a fire was lit under me in no time.  I had to make my own pumpkin vodka.  Luckily I also had the perfect pumpkin-loving vodka-swilling partner in crime, so we set out to mix up our concoction last Friday night.  Want to spice up your Halloween or Thanksgiving with your own version of the Great Pumpkin Martini (geez, there I go again...)?  Here's what we did:

Pumpkin Vodka
1 Qt. Mason Jar (any jar that seals will work--food safe seal not necessary.  We're not canning here, people.  Besides, doesn't alcohol kill germs?)  
2.5 C triple distilled vodka
.75 C vanilla triple distilled vodka
2 cinnamon sticks
2 split vanilla bean pods or a dash or two of vanilla extract
1 sugar pumpkin, no larger than 3 lbs
cheesecloth or coffee filter for straining

1.  Cut your pumpkin in half and scoop out the guts.  Check out Elana's Pantry for a fabulous hand-holding photo tutorial on how to do this.   This time I had four hands rather than two to hack open the pumpkin, but that didn't make it much easier.
2.  Roast the pumpkin in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, just long enough to get the raw taste out. 
3.  After the pumpkin cools, cut it into wedges.  Stuff the wedges in your mason jar along with the cinnamon and vanilla.  You may not be able to fit the whole pumpkin in just yet. 
4.  Add the vodka.  As the ingredients settle add more pumpkin if you still have some left over.  Add more vodka in the previously stated proportions as desired.  Fill that jar up!
5.  Seal the jar and store in a cool dark place (we have ours in the fridge) for 2-4 weeks.  The more natural your ingredients (aka vanilla bean pods instead of extract) the longer it will take for the flavors to seep out and flavor the liquor.
6.  Move the jar around daily to make sure all of the vodka touches the pumpkin.
7.  Strain the liquid through your cheesecloth or coffee filter.
8.  Mix up a pumpkin pie martini and enjoy!

I'm not linking a Pumpkin Pie martini recipe because I can't find one I like.  Who needs heavy cream in their liquor?  Yuck, not me!  I'll get back to you after I've personally sampled and crafted the perfect drink.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's the Great Pumpkin!

Despite my mother's warning, I was determined to cook a whole pumpkin for...well, for something.  After a little recipe searching and asking some ravelry peeps for advice, I decided on a Caribbean Pumpkin Black Bean Soup.  Now I can't find the recipe I liked best so I am going to make up my own, and of course I'll share it with you all!  But before we get to that, let me tell you a little bit about how I turned a whole fresh pumpkin into about 2.5 cups of fresh puree. 

Thanks to Elana's Pantry, I was confident about conquering and chopping up my little (actually a little too big) sugar pumpkin.  After all, I just have to cut it in half, clean out the seeds and pulp, and roast each half in a pan filled with a quarter inch of water.  No biggie.  I've peeled awkwardly shaped raw butternut squashs with a giant knife and gingerly shaved the prickly skin off of countless slippery pineapples with the same giant knife.  Well, maybe my giant knife wasn't quite sharp enough, because cutting a pumpkin in half, even a small one, is hard!  I'd rank it up there somewhere with giving yourself a bikini wax (awkward and painful) and giving a screaming cat a flea bath (simply put, hell in a bathtub).  My knife actually got stuck in the top of the pumpkin like a scene from a horror movie!  Too bad I didn't get a picture of that...when I finally separated the pumpkin halves I let out an audible sigh of relief.

Cleaning out the pumpkin was no biggie.  Of course I saved my seeds for roasting.  Squeezing the slimey pulp through my fingers used to be (ok, still is) my favorite part of carving Jack-O-Lanterns.  I managed to refrain from doing that today, but  mostly because I didn't want to get any slime on my nice sweater.  Mental note:  get an apron.  After 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven, I had this:

Pumpkin seeds gently flavored with my favorite Pampered Chef Sweet and Smoky Barbeque Rub, and a beautiful roasted pumpkin! 

Close up of my delicious roast pumpkin flesh
And the soup my pumpkin became:

Caribbean Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

3 cups of pumpkin puree or roasted pumpkin (to be blended later)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 sweet onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons minced ginger
1 15 oz can of light coconut milk
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and well rinsed
salt and black pepper to taste

1.  Heat oil in soup pot.  Add onions, carrots, and cumin.  Saute until slightly softened.  Add pumpkin, ginger, coconut milk, 1 can of tomatoes (if  you will not be using an immersion blender add both cans of tomatoes now), chili powder, and vegetable broth.  Heat through.  Use immersion blender to blend the soup until it is about 80% liquified.  Blending is optional, but recommended if you are using whole roasted pumpkin.  Add black beans and second can of tomatoes (if not already added).  Bring to a boil and season to taste. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Foster and Family Services Foundation Walk and Raffle

Thank you to all the donors!  Winners have been contacted via ravelry message.

I have always been inspired by families who foster and/or adopt children.  If you know me, you know that I love children, and I am fascinated by family and social dynamics.  Having grown up in a fairly normal and loving family, I wasn't exposed to negative or unstable families until I was fortunate enough to work with some of the amazing library-going kids at my last job.  The thought of children growing up without at least one parent around to supervise, love, or support them is almost incomprehensible to me, but I know it happens.  Some children and families need help, help that may come in the form of placing the kids with another caregiver who is better equipped to do the actual parenting.  So whether it is the Tuohy family of The Blind Side, a member of my knitting group, or my friend Jenn's mom and dad, foster and adoptive familes are my rockstars.  I know that one day, when I am ready to start a family, fostered and adopted children will be a part of it.  But for now, the best thing I can provide is monetary support.  That is one reason why I am thrilled to be doing the Walk for Children in Foster Care for the Foster and Family Services Foundation this Saturday.  To help raise money for this worthy cause, I am hosting a raffle here on my blog.  You can make donations on my fundraising page here.  Each $5 donation will give you one raffle entry.  For example, if you donate $20 you will have your name entered 4 times.  No donation is too small; every little bit helps!

Here are the prizes:

1.  An item handmade by me!  Any non-knitters entering will be entered in a drawing to win a hand-knit accessory set of your choice.  I'd suggest a hat, cowl, and fingerless mittens, but I'll knit any 3 accessories of your choice!  The winner and I can talk about colors and patterns so you get something completely custom.   If you don't want handknits we can talk about something else, like baked goods. 

2.  Two skeins of Madelinetosh Sport in new color Lumiere!  This 100% superwash merino wool yarn is soft and springy with amazing stitch definition.  It is currently only available on Madelinetosh's etsy site. 

2.  One skein of Three Irish Girls Westerly Sea Sock in the colorway Giselle.  This yarn is 70% superwash merino wool and 30% seacell, a fiber made from seaweed!  This is an exclusive club colorway.

3.  2 skeins of Spud and Chloe Fine in the colorway Sassafrass.  This yarn is 70% superwash merino wool and 30% silk.  It is both beautiful and durable.

4.  One skein of Have You Any Wool Simplicity Sock in colorway Famous for Nothing. This yarn is 100% superwash merino wool.

5.  One skein of Three Irish Girls Roslea Organic Merino in colorway Titania.  This 100% organic yarn is not superwash.  It is perfect for soakers or any item that will showcase its gorgeous colors.  I know two skeins are pictured here, but only one is up for grabs.  Sorry!

If you are able to donate, thank you so much, and good luck!  The walk is this Sunday, September 25.  I will accept donations and raffle entries until 8 a.m. eastern time on Sunday morning, and winners will be announced here on my blog on Monday September 26.  If you donate, comment on this post so I know to look for your entry.  Be sure to provide your email address or ravelry name so I have a way to contact you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

All Things Orange

An Autumn Bounty of Orange
Fall officially begins this week, and I have been feeling the pull of the changing season.  My usual color palate tends toward the cool tones of blues, greens, and teals.  Intentionally or not, almost everythng I knit, wear, and carry falls within those parameters.  However, lately I've been craving warm, rich tones of orange, and this little collection I've recently built up shows it.  [Clockwise, from far left] I have on display here Madelinetosh Merino Light in Terra, orange and white lilies from my dear friend Leah's bridal shower, a sugar pumpkin, Farmhouse Yarns Bonnie's Bamboo in Terracotta, Madelinetosh Lace in Warm Maize, and Lotus Yarns Chakra in Lena.  Those are all ravelry links.  Sorry, non-ravelers!

I've been noticing and admiring my once-detested color, orange, more and more lately but last week I suddenly decided that I needed a yellow-orange cardigan and I needed it now.  Instead of going out to the Lim$ited like most normal people, I endeavored to knit the sweater myself.  I picked out the perfect yarn (Tosh Lace in Warm Maize) and cast on pretty much immediately for the Featherweight Cardigan.  I plan on lengthening it at least 2 or 3 inches and employing short rows to make the collar shawl-collar-ish.  Yes, I do still have my second Malabrigo Sock version of Hestia on the needles, and done. Why I thought it would be a great idea to cast on another lightweight mostly stockinette sweater, I don't know.  But I do know that I'm a happy knitter and pretty soon I'll be a happy sweater wearer.

As for the rest of the orange goodies in my above photo, I have plans to make some delicious sweaters, accessories, and dishes.  The TML is destined to become a Hamamelis Shawl, and the Bonnie's Bamboo is set aside for Lonicera, both patterns by Through The Loops.  I love nearly everything Kirsten Kapur does, but I am especially excited for these two as I've been searching for the perfect yarn for Hamamelis for a while, and I had the good fortune to try on the sample for Lonicera while it was temporarily living at Angelfire Studios.  Good gravy, was that simple sweater sexy on me!  I was somewhat shocked that the same sweater that fits tall and skinny Sofie so well looked like it was made for the me (substantially shorter and curvier), but I guess that's the beauty of this design.  The drapey fronts lend it to many different style options, and the bamboo draped over my curves just perfectly.  I've worked with Bonnie's Bamboo before, so I know it is just a dream to knit with and I can barely wait to cast on.

The only other item pictured that I currently have a plan for is that adorable sugar pumpkin.  When I proudly told my mother that I had bought a pumpkin exclusively for cooking, not for carving, she was not impressed.  She asked me what I planned on doing with it.  When I told her I intend to cook it somehow she gave me a sideways look and said "I did that once when your father and I were first married.  I never did it again."  I'm sure plenty of women say that about one task or another, but I am unfazed.  I'm going to roast that baby and turn it into something delicious--probably Caribbean Pumpkin Black Bean Soup.  Look for a blog post about that later this week! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: The Irresistible Henry House

Every now and then I encounter a book that makes me long for discussion.  The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald is one of those books.  I am always intrigued by social and cultural history and the science of attatchment and relationships, which are some of the themes of this novel. 

Henry House begins his life in 1946 as a "practice baby" in the "practice house," the central element in fictional Wilton College's home economics program.  A group of students, young women of course, actually take turns mothering him under the strict watch of home economics expert Martha Gaines, who subscribes to the pre-Spock philosophy that babies need to be trained, not cuddled and loved.  Nevertheless, Martha's empty life is inexplicably brightened by the charming Henry and soap-opera worthy circumstances help her convince the college president to allow her to adopt him instead of returning him to the orphanage at age 2 to be adopted by a young couple.

The constant doting of so many young women and the smothering love of Martha shape Henry into a boy and young man who knows his power over women and uses it to his advantage.  Due to the unusual circumstances of his adoption, Martha doesn't tell him the whole truth.  When Henry's biological mother shows up and spills the beans to the once-happy 9 year old, he quickly spirals into a place of isolation, mistrust, and self-unawareness.  Henry trusts neither the adults in his life nor the girls so desparate to be his partner in crime.  He grows into a "disturbed" teenager and eventually runs away from his boarding school to become an animator for Disney in California and later for the Beatles Yellow Submarine movie in London.  His playboy life comes full circle when he meets and falls in love with another grown "practice baby" during the turbulent 1960s.  This relationship, however, is not what it seems.  I know it seems that I may have given away a lot of spoilers in the past two paragraphs, but trust me, this novel is so rich with characters and detail, the bare bones I revealed here are nothing compared to what you'll find between the covers.

Verdict:  I think the author's assertion that lack of loving attachment in baby and childhood leads to a maladjusted adult incapable of forming loving attachments may be a bit too extreme and elementary, but I was still entralled by the way these tragic characters' lives played out.  Anyone who is interested in family and romantic relationships, the social history of the mid-20th century, or bildungsroman will enjoy this book.  The theme and tone also reminded me of John Irving at his best.  Henry is somewhat of an anti-Garp (of The World According to Garp).  Now that I think about it, I think these two novels would spurn a fascinating compare/contrast analysis!  Something to think about...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting Started

The summer I turned 21, my mother convinced me to learn how to knit.  Being home from college during winter and summer breaks was an interesting time.  It was the first time since my young childhood that I had no school obligations.  I was a busy student.  I was involved in many extracurricular activities.  I was dedicated to my schoolwork.  College breaks in between semesters were a strange and wonderful time.  I usually just watched lots of TV, having exhausted my brain from reading as an English major.  However, my sometime during a sophomore year break I discovered Harry Potter.  I devoured the first 5 books in 2 or 3 weeks and waited impatiently for the last two, to be released in 2005 and 2007, respectively.  While I was waiting for those Harry Potter books in the summer of 2004, my mother excitedly showed me her knitting.  I didn't know she knew how to knit.  I knew her mother knitted, but she passed away nearly fifteen years ago.  Why didn't I know my mother was a knitter?  She was skilled with a sewing machine.  As a child I had a closet full of handmade dresses and Halloween costumes that are far more beautiful and high quality than what is sold in stores today.  But knitting?  This was a skill my mother never demonstrated. 

I was always a crafty kid, but puberty and college prep caused me to cast my beads and embroidery floss aside.  Now, with my mother's encourgement I decided that it was as good a time as ever to get crafty again.  Inspired by the book Celebrity Scarves we signed up for a class at our local Michael's.  I made a long garter stitch scarf comprised of several different textures and weights of blue acrylic yarn.  I thought it was glamorous and fashion forward at the time.  I think I have since given this beauty away to charity, but if I can find it buried somewhere in my closet today I'll post a picture.  I'm pretty sure there was ribbon fringe...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Coming Soon: Actual Knitting Content!

From my recent blog posts, one might assume that I have been reading more than knitting lately.  This is actually not quite true.  I have simply been lazy about photography, and I hate to post about knitting without some pretty pictures. 

However, next week is Knit and Crochet Blog Week, as proclaimed by Eskimimi Knits.  This is a good way to give myself a kick in the pants and post about my blog's title subject:  knits.  Keep your eyes peeled for daily (ha!) posts, and if you are a fellow blogging crafter, join in!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: The 13th Hour

I've been on a bit of a thriller kick lately, so when I read a review of The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch that mentioned TIME TRAVEL in addition to suspense, I knew it was a good choice for my next read. 

Although it is a little known fact about me, I have a recent obsession with time travel.  Maybe it was Lost that piqued my interest, but either way I've totally geeked out for the past year or so by reading and watching all alternate reality/time travel paraphenalia that has crossed my path.

This thriller is basically told in reverse.  Main character Nick Quinn is accused of murdering his beloved wife, Julia.  A strange man gives him a mysterious watch that enables him to travel back in time, two hours at a time, to try and not only clear his name, but save his wife's life.  Of course, there was also a catastrophic plane crash in this sleepy New York state town on this fateful day.  As Nick travels back through time he begins to see how his actions can change the future for the better and for the worse.  Will he be able to save his wife and maybe even stop the plane crash?  Or will he cause Julia to die an even more terrifying, grusome death?

Watch out for some cheesy descriptive prose, obvious foreshadowing, and don't expect any elaborate character development.  Do pick up this book if you want to get lost in a world of time travel, betrayal, grand theft, and of course murder.  Overall, a fun read.  I found it fun to predict Nick's next move.  I would recommend it for a rainy day mental escape or a trip to the beach. 

This story has been optioned by New Line Cinema, so look for a movie version in 2011!  I'm seeing Nick's character as Will Smith.  I wonder if he or someone similar will be cast!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Book Review: Shutter Island

I had been counting down til this movie's release, as I love Martin Scorcese and Leonardo DiCaprio.  Like many other things in my life, seeing this movie fell by the wayside as I got busy with work and other pursuits coughMalabrigoMarchcoughcough.  I was pretty excited when one of my book clubs choose Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane as April's book.  I didn't even realize it had been a book originally.  I've heard that the book and movie are very similar, but if you've only seen the movie you should still definitely pick up the book. One of my friends who had enjoyed both said that there is one scene in particular in the book that is more vivid and creepier and worth reading all 300+ pages to experience it.

The library's copies were all out and reserved, so I wasn't sure if I would get the book in time.  I intended to buy my own copy, but I got busy and didn't get a chance.  My library copy arrived the day before book club, which left me 26 hours to read the book while still working all day and doing all other little pesky daily life tasks like sleeping and eating.  Well, I tore through this book in 3 hours, despite knitting while I read!  Like Lehane's other bestsellers turned blockbusters (he wrote Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and the recently optioned The Given Day), Shutter Island kept me frantically turning pages and left me surprised at the end. 
The story begins in Cold War era America as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels arrives at Ashecliff, a mental institution for the criminally insane secluded on a Boston Harbor Island, Shutter Island to investigate a mysterious missing patient.  A hurricane keeps him and his partner, Marshal Chuck Aule detained on the island and puts their lives at risk when the electricy goes out and the institution's electic locks fail.  The two Marshals explore the island and begin to uncover a Nazi-esque human experimentation conspiracy--or do they?  Daniels is running for his life in his pursuit to leave the island lest his brain become fodder for LSD and lobotomy experimentation.
I predicted a twist at the end, but my pieced together clues weren't even close to the "truth."  I loved that the ending was a little open to interpretation, because I don't want to let go of my theory!  Either way, I think there is an underlying, subtle commentary on the standard procedure and overmedication rampant in American mental healthcare today.  If you've read the book, I'd love to hear what you thought.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Stitch and Sip at the Ale 'N' Wich

This past Thursday, my Stitch and Sip group explored a new watering hole, The Ale and Wich at 246 Hamilton Street in New Brunswick. Some group members said that as they arrived they thought, "Hmm...this isn't like where we normally meet..." but I think we all had a great time. The Ale and Wich is the quintessential pub. With a wide selection of craft beer, TVs playing everything from Iron Man competitions to Spaceballs, darts, pool, foozeball, a digital jukebox, and non-pretentious bartenders, this is pretty close to my dream bar. One note of caution I will give to anyone planning a visit: don't come hungry. Although one might believe that the "Wich" part of the bar's moniker stands for "sandwich," no food is served here. However when I asked about food, the bartender handed over a huge stack of takeout menus. We ordered Chinese, but considering that it was a Thursday evening in a Rutgers neighborhood, it took about an hour for our Chinese to arrive.

Chinese food aside, we had a fabulous time. Most of us didn't have work or school the following day, so we, (well, ok, I) stayed out a bit later and drank a bit more. There was a nice selection of seasonal brews (seriously, how could you have Sam Boston Lager but not Sam Seasonal, like some bars do??), and a new one that I enjoyed was Otter Creek Seasonal Ale. No matter what the season, I love a good blueberry beer, and luckily the A and W has Seadog Wheat Blueberry, which smelled and tasted just like blueberry muffins! I know that's not what most people look for in a beer, but blueberry beer takes me back to my college days at the BU Pub. Oh, how I love that Wachusett Blueberry! I also tried the new Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and Firefly Lemon Tea Vodka. If you are a fan of Nantucket Nectars Half and Half or Arizona Arnold Plamer, you will love this stuff! I think it will be one of my summer party beverage staples.

If you are looking for a very casual place to sample some creative brews, definitely stop by the Ale and Wich.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

When I saw The Magicians on the shelf at Borders a few months ago, I was drawn to the mysterious gray, gold, and green tones on the cover. We've all heard about judging books by their covers, but after reading the reviews on the back cover that indicated that this story pays homage to the works of J.K. Rowling, and C.S. Lewis my initial attraction was justified. Imagine Harry Potter's mental state in book 5, lost, alone, and persecuted. Imagine that that Harry goes to a magical university in upstate New York, meets equally misguided young magicians, and grapples with his place in the world, both magical and not. Harry Potter this book is not--the tone is much darker and the author's voice mirrors that of the young pro(ant?)agonists.
Grossman explores the value of relationships, growth, and forgiveness by following the development of Quentin, our main character, and his fellow magical prodigy Eve. However, Quentin's personal quest for happiness and self-fulfillment overcomes their relationship. I could see the archetypal highly intelligent yet selfish 20-something who doesn't know what he wants in Quentin.
In a nutshell, this story is Harry Potter meets the Chronicles of Narnia meets Reality Bites. Although my omnipresent desire for a picture perfect ending wasn't fulfilled, I would still highly recommend The Magicians to anyone who has ever gotten lost in a fantasy story or felt lost in the real world.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sinful Chocolate Truffles

Last night my wrists needed a break from knitting, so I decided to use the Ghiradelli chocolate I've been hoarding since February to make truffles. I intended to make these for Valentine's Day, but as I was single this year and suffering from from a wicked wisdom tooth infection that week, I wasn't feeling especially motivated to cook, bake, or eat much of anything. Now my mouth is healed and in need of chocolate, and it seemed like the perfect time to get cookin'

I haven't made truffles in about 3 years, and I can't recall where I found my last recipe, so a little googling led me to a
Joy of Baking article where I learned that truffles were intended to look like actual truffle mushrooms in the dirt. That's not especially appetizing, but it made me feel better about the organic, non-uniform shape of my truffles. Even when I use a melon baller to shape them they come out looking slightly misshapen.
This time I made three different flavors, almond, mint, and raspberry. Yum!

Here is what I did, adapted from a Ghiradelli and Food Network recipe:
Ghiradelli Sinful Chocolate Truffles
1/3 C Milk
7 Tbsp Butter
1 C Semi-Sweet Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips
1C Bittersweet Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips
1 tsp mint extract (optional)
2 Tbsp Chambord (optional)
1/4 C Raw Almonds (optional)
1/3 C Dark Chocolate cocoa powder

1. Combine milk and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir often and heat to boiling.
2. Toast raw almonds in a dry pan over high heat. Pay close attention, as they can burn very quickly. You will know they are done as soon as you can smell them. I find that toasting nuts really brings out the flavor.
3. Pulverize toasted almonds in a food processor (I used my little Magic Bullet). Set them aside.
4. Pour boiling milk mixture over chocolate chips in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine and melt chocolate. You may need to microwave the mixture for a very short period of time to get all the lumps out.
5. At this point I divided the chocolate mixture into three different bowls and flavored each separately. The above measurements for mint extract, Chambord, and the almonds are approximate. I didn't actually measure anything; I flavored each mixture to taste. Be sure to reserve some almonds for coating the truffles.
6. Set your chocolate mixtures aside to harden. About thirty minutes in the refrigerator did the trick for me.
7. Dip a melon baller in a glass of warm water and scoop out balls of each chocolate mixture. Drop the balls into a small bowl or lipped plate of coating. I coated the almond mixture in the finely chopped almonds and the mint and raspberry mixtures in dark chocolate cocoa powder. You may wish to clean your tools in between flavors. This is the messiest yet most fun part of the process.
8. I store the truffles in a wax paper-coated container in the refridgerator. That is, if there are any leftovers.

If I use this recipe again, I think I will use cream instead of a mixture of butter and milk. These candies tasted great to everyone else, but I would do something differently next time. I dislike buttery chocolate, and I tasted the butter especially in the almond truffles. I don't usually keep cream or even half and half in the house, but I suppose it would be worth buying for this recipe. Actually, maybe next time I will try using silken tofu and exclusively dark chocolate to make vegan truffles. I bet my friend Marietta has a great recipe for raw vegan chocolate truffles. Now that should be tasty!