Thursday, February 27, 2014

Limoncello and Apple Cider

Azure Standard had a lot of organic citrus available this delivery period. Being a drop point and being able to order lots of yummy food delivered to our door once a month is lovely. Even if it often ends up being the same price as finding a good sale at the grocery, this way I don't have to shop sales or load the girls up to take them shopping. Anyway, 10 lbs of lemons, 20 lbs of blood oranges, and 6 lbs of limes are going to be made into curds, marmalades, and LIMONCELLO. Q's wanted to make limoncello for years so he opened a gift on his birthday (a week before the drop) that included a large bottle of vodka, a microplane zester, and Willow's toy lemon with a note promising real ones in the near future.

The recipe we're using is the basic one from Limoncello Quest, a guy who really seems to like his limoncello. Might as well experiment based on wisdom learned through someone else's passion. It calls for 17 lemons. This makes a lot of zest (as you can see above). If you ever have cause to zest any citrus, you must invest in a microplane zester. I don't see how you could get all zest and no pith any other way that isn't extremely frustrating. It took me about 45 minutes to zest all 17 lemons, with occasional interruptions as Wil found ways to "help". 

The project also produced a quart of juice and enough left over for a little lemonade for Willow and me. I don't know what we'll do with the juice, probably freeze it for now for use when we're canning tomatoes this summer (or making summer lemonade!)

I had no idea that just adding the zest to the vodka would immediately turn it this neon yellow color. Now we just have to be patient - 45 to 60 days before we add the simple syrup and filter it then let it age at least another 45 days. Argh! At this rate, I'm going to need to plan some 4th of July limoncello cocktails.

 In other news, Q finished building our cider press on January 26. We still used to Kitchen Aid shredder attachment to grind the apples. A grinder is next season's project. It's pretty awesome owning a press though. I want to try making pear cider next season too, if we can get some inexpensive pears.

Willow loved it when we took the bucket off and were left with the pressed together disc of apple. She called it "apple pie" and patted it. I can't imagine how confused she would have been if we tried to teach her the correct name - the "cheese". She also thinks that fresh cider is fantastic. Two gallons of cider started fermenting a month ago and now we have this...
It's all ready to rack! Since it fermented a such a cool temperature in the root cellar I hope it's a really yummy batch. (Cool and slow cider fermentation helps prevent off flavors.) We always kill the yeast (we use champagne yeast for a less "beery" flavor than cider yeast) and then add some sugar. This makes it perfect for my girly palate and very dangerous. It usually ends up 6-8% (once it was more like 11%, oops!) and if it is sweet you can down way too much way too fast.
Hopefully it will be in bottles in the next week or so and then we'll have cider ready by the end of May. Perfect way to celebrate Clarity's first birthday, right? ;) 

Alas, making good alcohol takes sooo long.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

One Size Fits Most Hat Pattern

I designed this hat as a last minute Christmas gift in 2012 and it has become a family favorite. My brother, sister-in-law, husband, and mother each have one. I also wear one sometimes, when Willow (the toddler) hasn't stolen it (it's one of her favorites too) and I've sold a few. In a bulky yarn, it's a quick, easy knit and one size really does fit most people, toddler through adults. It's a slouch style on toddlers and more of a traditional stocking cap on adults. The diamond pattern is a simple variation on left and right twists, the only difference being that in each twist one stitch is knit and the other is purl (instead of both being knit st as in traditional LT and RT)

If you make this pattern, please send me a picture or link to your own blog, ravelry, or facebook post so I can see how it turned out! This pattern is for personal use only and not for resale.

If you aren't a knitter and wish to custom order a hat in the color of your choice, please contact me here or at

Also, if you follow the pattern, please leave me any feedback or corrections that will help improve the pattern for future users! Thank you!

1 skein of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky Superwash (110 yards/100g) or similar weight yarn
size 11 needles (one set double pointed and one set 16" rounds, or just the double pointed)
cable needle*
yarn needle

*Note for experienced knitters: I don't use a cable needle for this pattern since only 2 st change places, preferring to just slip both stitches off the left needle, put them back on the left needle in the correct order (careful to put the knit st to the front) and then working the stitches in pattern. (K the k and p the p)

12 st x 16 rows for 4"x4" on size 11 needles in stockinette stitch

AR (angle right) = slip next stitch (always a purl stitch) on to the cable needle and hold it to the back of the work, k1, then p1 from cable needle
AL (angle left)= slip next stitch (always a knit stitch) on to the cable needle and hold it to the front of the work, p1, then k st from cable needle

It has lots of stretch but, if for some reason you are making it for a head larger than 24" around, add another repeat of the diamond pattern by casting on an additional 8 stitches. 

If you need it longer than written (probably only necessary for a large man or someone who wants it very long over the ears), continue even in the diamond pattern to desired length, ending with Diamond Pattern Row 6. 

Cast on 72 st and join in the round.
K2p2 rib for 10 rows
Next row, set up for diamond pattern:  p2, *k1, p3* to last 2 st, k1, p1
Work Diamond Pattern (see below) for 14 rows, ending after Row 6
Next row (Row 26): *p2, k2tog, p1, ssk, p1* to end (54 st left)
Row 27: *p2, k1, p1, k1, p1* to end
Row 28: *p1, k2tog, p1, ssk* to end (36 st left)
Row 29: *p1, k1* to end
Row 30: k2tog for 18 times (18 st left)
Row 31: k2tog for 9 times (9 st left)
Cut yarn, leaving long tail and use yarn needle to thread tail through remaining stitches two times, pull tight,
Weave in ends

Diamond Pattern
Row 1: *p1, AR, p3, AL* to end
Row 2, 4, 6, 8: Knit all knit stitches and purl all purl stitches
Row 3: *p1, AL, p3, AR* to end
Row 5: *p2, AL, p1, AR, p1* to end
Row 7: *p2, AR, p1, AL, p1* to end

Easy Pantry Potato Soup

Q's in self-imposed isolation in the bedroom to keep myself, the girls, and the rest of society from further exposure to what I'm calling "the plague" (positive test for type A flu, likely H1N1 based on what has been the overwhelmingly common strain this season). I have no desire to take the girls out in the snow (it's snowed pretty much constantly all day after having several inches yesterday as well). This means that there is no spontaneous food purchasing this weekend. About 5:30p, I realized that we would expect dinner in about an hour. Thank heaven for well-stocked pantries, freezers, and simple cooking. My inability to do the whole "plan and shop for a specific meal" thing means that most of the time I don't use recipes but throw myself into it on a wing and a prayer. This one turned out particularly well so I'm sharing.

Ingredients (enough for about 3 people when served as the entree)
1 lb bacon
1 medium yellow onion
7 medium red potatoes
2 c chicken stock
salt, pepper, dried parsley
shredded cheddar cheese

Using a large pan, cook the bacon until crispy and remove to drain, leaving the fat in the pan. While the bacon is cooking, cook the whole potatoes in the microwave until tender and dice the onion.

Add the onions to the bacon fat. Continue to cook the onions in the fat as you cut the tender potatoes into medium sized chunks.

Add the potatoes to the onions and continue to cook for a few minutes then add the stock and simmer until the potatoes are soft.

If the soup in your pan is too shallow you'll have to transfer it into a deeper bowl to use the immersion blender until the mixture is fairly smooth. (I like my big, wide pan for cooking so there's plenty of bacon cooking surface area but then I have to pour it into a narrower, deeper bowl for blending. I suppose this isn't necessary if you start by using a kettle.)

Stir in salt and pepper to taste (about 2t and 1/2t for us) and about 2t of dried parsley.

Crumble the bacon and stir in those pieces.

Serve hot so the cheese shreds melt as you stir them into each serving.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Here's my second 18" doll. She's getting donated to Sprout City Farm's "2014 Sprout Down" silent auction. I think Iris is a little freckled farm girl who likes feeding her chickens and going barefoot in the dirt. Hopefully, she makes a little money for our little urban community farm. I am thrilled with how much better she turned out than Josie (my first 18"). Her head doesn't wobble even a little and her neck and shoulder seams turned out nice and smooth on the first try. 

She's stuffed with wool and has cotton interlock doll skin. Even though her hair is sewn into ponytails, I really like crocheting a cap and then individually knotting in the hair strands. I think it gives a fuller head of hair and it's impossible to get gaps of scalp visible.

All of her clothes are "upcycled" from old garments I had in my supplies stash.

 Pants from a discarded twill shirt. (I'm happy with the little hem embroidery detail from my lovely old sewing machine.)

 Sweater and shoes from a felted thrift wool sweater (and a button reclaimed from something that I assume I made into rags years ago).

 Tee shirt from some thrift store fabric

 Underwear made from an old slip.
(Love the little lace insert panel salvaged from the slip's hem edge.)

Before she got tucked away, Iris got a little tea party with Willow and Josie. Wil has a rule that each doll I make has to get a snuggle and some little girl love before "mama's doll" gets put away.

2013 Crafting Album

I've been really bad about documenting any of my crafting for the last year. I'm trying to get better about it again because I've found it useful to be able to look back sometimes. Hopefully, things are settling into a rhythm where I can update again more frequently. I've got about 4 or 5 posts in my head that I want to do. We'll see. Anyway, here's the highlights of 2013.

Bamboo newborn sweater and booties for a friend's baby shower. Both patterns (Ruby Slippers and Matinee Jacket - my favorite girl sweater pattern) are in Vintage Knits for Modern Babies by Hadley Fierlinger.

 Stone carving class at the February Regional Waldorf Teacher's Conference at Shining Mountain School in Boulder. (It's an owl.)

 A baby quilt for Clarity, my first experience with crazy quilt foundation piecing on muslin and with free motion machine quilting

 During the worrying about Clarity time I knit this headband, a knit hat, and two pairs of booties. (Which she eventually wore a couple months later)

 Baby sweater and stuffed alligator (upcycled from an old sweater) for our newest nephew, born in April.
Hopefully, I'll get the sweater pattern posted at some point.

April was the month with no projects that needed to be made so I just used up leftovers.
 Modern Baby Bonnet from the Vintage Knits book (leftovers from the baby sweater)

Vintage Pixie Hat and Matinee Jacket (sized up to a 2/3T) from, you guessed it, Vintage Knits for Modern Babies. (sport weight Lamb's Pride Superwash left from Quentin's sweater)

May through August - busy having baby

Quick knit on the drive up to Mitchell, NE and back one day with Mom and the girls to go to the Brown Sheep Fiber Festival. It has turned out to be Willow's favorite hat and I've made several more to sell with leftover bulky yarns.

I quickly made a whole bunch of things in October for the annual boutique (1st weekend of November) because Mom had been worried that she didn't have enough stuff made. Apparently, she had spent the last four months watching her dear granddaughters as a help to their mother. :)
 The ubiquitous Matinee Jacket

Upcycling wool sweaters to make dragons!

First foray into doll making. Mom started commissioning me to make these little bunting babies for the extra large quiet books she makes.

Clarity's stocking

Willow's 18" dressing doll, Josie

Willow slippers (upcycled sweater and pre-made sheepskin/suede soles)

Dad's handmade journal

Hat and cuddle doll for cousin Emmett (Wil had to model the hat.)

Cloth storage bins for Andy and Aimee (with some canned goods)

Knit shawl for Aunt Debbie (Q made the shawl pin and I'll post the pattern soon)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Clarity's 5 Month Update

Whoa, I'm how old?!

Little Miss Clarity is exactly 5 months old today and she had her big visit to get an echocardiogram and visit the pulmonary clinic at Children's Hospital. The pulmonary clinic is kind of the CDH clinic where they address all of the questions we and the pediatrician come up with that are rather unique to her condition so we've been counting down the days. Our last visit was almost exactly 2 months ago, when they said we could take her off her oxygen.

The great news is that her echo looked great with almost no indication of pulmonary hypertension, big news to confirm that she's doing great off of oxygen. To officially get off oxygen at night (although she doesn't wear it very often anyway, although she's hooked up to a pulse oximeter all night to I can administer it as needed) we're going to have an overnight room air test soon. The bring a special pulse ox that records the data all night.

They also got an xray and did a couple of blood labs just to get some more current results for her, partially to track progress and partially to have a healthy "before" snapshot in case she gets sick this winter and we need to compare her lung situation to what is normal for her. Knock on wood that we make it through winter without getting sick. She got approved through insurance for the insanely expensive RSV shots from November through March and will get her flu shots. The girls and I live in fairly quiet self-imposed exile at the house so, fingers crossed. The longer we go in her life before she gets a respiratory virus, it will be that much less likely to require hospitalization. We're praying for 2-3 winters ideally.

The big question we were bringing to her appointment was feeding. 
  • She miserably failed a gastric emptying test about a month ago and spits up A LOT. 
  • Her stomach is basically always full to capacity as we strive to get enough calories in her, even with her breastmilk fortified to 26 calories (from 20), which is really as dense as they like to get or it puts too much strain on her intestines. She has been gaining weight but only at 3-4 oz. a week and I couldn't foresee any way to get more food in her as she's been getting bigger. 
  • The gastric emptying test also showed that she's having severe reflux quite a ways up her esophagus, suggesting that her Nissen isn't really doing anything. This could be a good thing with her slow gastic emptying because she could have been in a lot more discomfort if her stomach isn't emptying into her intestines and a tight Nissen was preventing the excess food from coming up. That would have been a lot of pressure in that little tummy. 
  • Some of you also know that she apparently retched enough last week that she got a tear in her esophagus, known as a Mallory Weiss tear, resulting in a trip to urgent care because she was spitting up dried blood and had a whole bunch coming out of her g-tube as well. It hasn't happened again and they put her on Prevacid to hopefully protect her esophagus by making her stomach contents less acidic.
Before we look into a more invasive option, like replacing her g-tube with a gj-tube to deliver some food directly to her small intestines, we've decided to try continuous feeds. She had been getting 3oz. over the course of about 50 minutes (rate of 110ml/hr) every 3 hours. She's now getting 30ml/hr for 20 hours a day with 4 hours off. If that goes well for a couple days, we're going to up it to 35ml/hr; about 23.5oz/day. I need to talk to the feeding therapist to figure out an oral feeding practice schedule with no defined "mealtimes". It's a step farther away from eating like a "normal" baby but if we can keep her growing and not constantly spitting up it's a pretty great trade off.

Oh, the joys of CDH. It's a birth defect that just keeps on giving in so many varied ways. We're awfully lucky though. She's clearly smart as a whip, always looking alertly around her and soaking it all in. Her therapists are also thrilled that she's pretty much meeting her developmental milestones, especially if you consider her adjusted age (born 1 month prematurely). We are so, so thankful. Everything else along the way is small stuff.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Harvest is Done (followed by a bunch of pictures of the girls because they're awesome)

Today was the first light snow and tonight is the first forecast hard freeze so I rescued the last of the garden. It seems like a fitting time to post the final pantry pictures.
 We got a nice little onion harvest that I think will get us close to through spring. I let them cure on a grate in the garage for a couple of weeks before storing them in one of Grandma's delightful old egg baskets, which Mom was kind enough to loan.
 The pumpkins (6) and jumbo pink banana squash (3) - one of each has already been eaten. The squash pictured are each almost exactly Clarity's size right now, just over 10lbs. and about 21" long.
 I have mentioned before how much I adore our pantry, right? Here's a picture of the food wall, all ready for winter (or a zombie apocalypse). Admittedly, some of the stuff is carryover from last year (if it's a good peach year, you can lots of peaches) but it was significantly added to this season (as you can see from the previous post).
Mom was kind enough to give me some Concord grape juice from her vines and some rhubarb. Raspberries were on a really good sale at the grocery store. 5 pints of raspberry jam, 5 pints of grape jelly, and 3 pints of Rhubarb Vanilla with Earl Gray jam. (The last, once again from Food in Jars, and extremely good.)
We got 4 watermelons out of the garden and they are very good.

 Matching hats
 Willow "ironing" after she watched Mama doing it. She also loved having me iron her doll blanket and getting it back all snuggly warm.
 Tomato crushing and eating with some of the last harvest.
 Eating hazelnut butter and jelly at Children's after Clarity's gastric emptying test. (She failed; stuff for a different post once we decide what needs to be done.)
 Looking at a river in Silverthorne on the way back down from a weekend in Beaver Creek.