Monday, December 20, 2010

Space Invaders Knit Hat Pattern

It's my birthday! I'm 32 and I'm giving all those geeky internet knitters a little present. :)

Materials: Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece – Black Forest (about 2 oz.),

Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece - Perry's Primrose, Blue Paradise, Lime Light, and Buttercream (about .25 oz. each) OR Cotton Ball (about 1 oz.)

16” circular size 4 needles

16” circular size 6 needles

set of 5 - 7” double pointed size 6 needles

Gauge: 6 stitches x 6 rows per inch on size 6 needles

Size: S (20”), M (22”), L (24”) - instructions given as S (M, L)


1) Using size 4 rounds, cast on 120 (132, 144) stitches in black, join in the round.

2) Knit 6 rows in k2, p2 rib

3) Next Round, K all stitches, evenly decreasing 3 (2, 1) stitches across the row – left with 117 (130, 143) stitches. Change to size 6 circular needles

4) Next round, start the pattern chart – 9 (10, 11) repeats.

5) Follow the chart through the purple, blue, and green invaders, stopping after the last green row.

6) Next round (black only)-

Small – k58, k2tog, k57 – 116 stitches left

Medium – k63, k2tog, k63, k2tog – 128 stitches left

Large – k46, k2tog, k45, k2tog, k46, k2tog – 140 stitches left

7) Next round, k3 (2, 0), *ssk, place marker, k2tog, k25 (28, 31)*, repeat * to * three more times.

8) There are now 4 panels contained between markers. Decreases slant away from each marker.

9) Next round, start the first row of the yellow invader chart centered on each panel. Decrease one stitch at each end of each panel, continuing to slant the decreases toward the center invader. (It is helpful to carry the yarn by catching it behind the stitch before the decreases and the stitch after the decreases to prevent show-through.)

10) Continue in this manner, following the chart and decreasing a total of 8 stitches every row. Change to size 6 double pointed needles when necessary.

11) When the invader chart ends, continue in plain black until there are 12 (8, 12) stitches remaining. For size small and large, complete one final row – for each panel, k2tog, slip stitch back to left needle, slip remaining stitch over, 1 stitch remaining on each of 4 needles.

12) All sizes, cut yarn, leaving a 6” tail. Thread yarn through remaining stitches and pull tight. Weave in all ends.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snow Day!

That patch of bare driveway was left after my poor husband had to go in to work today. One of the perks of being a teacher - snow days! Technically, today is more of an ice day. The valley floor got less than 1/2" but it had been so rainy and it is so cold now that the roads can be rather treacherous. The high today is supposed to be 32. It's currently 27. Getting snow this early in the year is rare for Eugene; I wonder if it's a portent of things to come.

Now we just have one school day before the Thanksgiving holiday. I'm so excited about my day at home to get ready for company on Thursday!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mushroom Tasting

We went to the annual Mushroom Festival at Mount Pisgah and my enthusiasm got the best of us. We ended up with three different kinds of mushrooms. (In addition to our weekly CSA ration, which is still almost all chanterelles with a few hedgehogs thrown in.)

Lobster Mushrooms

Lion's Mane Mushrooms

Buttercap Mushrooms

For dinner the night after the festival we had a "tasting". I sauteed each type separately in butter with a little bit of salt and garlic powder.

The lion's mane did not live up to its reputation (although I may have just not cooked it long enough). The little tentacle things provided a neat texture though. (I realize calling them tentacles detracts from their allure).

The buttercaps were a surprise treat. They were rich and delicious, rather...buttery? :) I can't seem to find mentions of them anywhere online (including Rain Forest Mushroom Company, who we purchased them from).

We'd heard so many crazy tales that place lobster mushrooms as one of the great delicacies of the natural world that I doubted they could possibly be true. Turns out, they were. Buttery, rich, meaty, tender, flavorful...I don't think I have enough adjectives for them. Eat these mushrooms every chance you get. :)

Our final order, out of the mushrooms we've experimented with are...
4)Lion's Mane

We got more chanterelles in our veggie box when we went and harvested our turkey today so it's a good thing we're mushroom fans. I'll have to post pictures when the turkey is cooked. We helped the farmer process 15 turkeys and we bought the second largest one, a beautiful 24 pound, biodynamically raised bird. Mmmmm...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hello World!

Wow! We've been busy. The last few weekends have all been completely full with commitments and we've had little time to relax long enough for me to have the energy to post. I'm hoping to get the "Great Mushroom Taste Test" and "My First Metalsmithing/Glassblowing Experiment" up this weekend.

Jenna at Cold Antler Farm posted a link to Victorian Farm on Youtube a few days ago. I really loved this show although it's a little sad to see how Victorian times were the start of modern farm practices that have evolved into the unhealthy industrial system of today. Warning, if you start watching it might be difficult to stop. :)

Q posted a couple of pictures of the bedside tables we are making. We need to sand everything down, finish making the drawers, glue them together and finish them with oil. So close and yet so far away. I was hoping by Thanksgiving. Christmas is probably more realistic.

We got our yearly leaf delivery so we've got most of the beds tucked in for the winter. We still have a couple yards of leaves left in the driveway though. Maybe onto the strawberry bed?

The measly squash harvest, collected before I ripped out the vines and covered the bed with leaves. This cool, wet summer really did in almost all of our crops. The celery stalks are small but still do the job so I've left the plants out there. I left the yellow squash and zucchini since they both still have fruit that might get a little bigger if the weather holds. Although this is unlikely...snow is forecast on the valley floor for Sunday night!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Broken Cookies!

I got assigned to make 120 cookies for the school's Halloween festival. The 7th grade teacher (a baker in a former life) was responsible for finding the recipe and then each of the three middle school classes were assigned 120 cookies for a total of 360. It's a great recipe and they end up soft and almost cake-like. I don't know where it came from but here it is...

Glazed Pumpkin Cookies (makes 30 large cookies)

Mix together in a bowl and set aside:
  • 5 c. flour
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. ground allspice
  • 1/4 t. ground cloves
  • 1 t. salt
Cream together with a mixer until fluffy:
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
Mix in:
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 2 t. vanilla
Add the flour mixture and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Measure out 1/4 cups of dough onto a greased cookie sheet and gently shape and flatten with damp hands to make 1/2" thick disks. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes, rotate pans, bake 8 minutes more. Remove from oven and cool.

When the cookies are cool, drizzle glaze (see below) over them and allow it to set.

2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. melted butter
3 T. milk
1/2 t. vanilla

I started the cookies at school on Friday and gave my class some as a Halloween treat. I brought the rest home to add to what I was making Saturday morning. When I unpacked them I was irritated to learn that I had packed some up while they were still slightly warm and they had fused together. I had to make an additional batch, but what to do with pieces from about 8 large broken cookies?

And so Pumpkin Spice Tiramisu was born!

We used this recipe and replaced the ladyfingers with cookie pieces. The only other change was sprinkling the top with cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg instead of cocoa powder. We had dinner guests last night and it was delicious then. It was even more delicious this afternoon after the flavors had more time to blend.

Now it began feeling like some nonsense children's story. In using up the broken cookies (and solving what to serve for dessert at our dinner party) we had created 6 egg whites that currently had no use. Back to the internet and...

Meringue ghosts
finished up the baking triathlon!
One of my students at the party I took them to pointed out that my devil meringue...
doubled as a Dracula meringue..
Although he looks a bit like Cthulhu in this picture.

I should have whipped the meringue even more because the first few had good body but then they got a little droopy. The eyes were some Halloween bat shaped sprinkles from the bulk foods section of the grocery store. There was enough meringue left over after making the pan of ghosts that I spread the rest out flat and made a pavlova-like crust. Add some vanilla yogurt and defrost some strawberries and it's a pretty good treat in and of itself. (Not as cute as the ghosts though.)

Pixie Hat Pattern

Thank you to my hot chocolate, oatmeal, and flour jars for being models. I don't have any toddler or child heads around here for modeling. The friend I gave one to says her toddler is adorable in it. :)

The Pixie Hat
Caron Simply Soft doubled on size 13 needles to get 3 st/inch.
Sizes: baby/toddler - 16" (small child - 18")
Color changes happen at the beginnings of rows according to the knitter's preferences.
Cast on 48 (54) stitches and join in the round.
Work 3 rounds of garter stitch.

Work 12 (15) rounds of stockinette stitch.

Next row: K 10 (11), k2tog, k 24 (28), ssk, k 10 (11)
Repeat this decrease row 11 (12) times (the middle set of knit stitches decreases by 2 every row) until there are 2 (4) stitches left between the decreases.

Remaining rows -
K 8 (10), k2tog, k2tog, ssk, ssk, k 8 (10)
K 6 (8), k2tog, k2tog, ssk, ssk, k 6 (8)
(For 18" only - K 6, k2tog, k2tog, ssk, ssk, k 6)
Both sizes:
K 4, ssk, ssk, k2tog, k2tog, k 4
K 2, ssk, ssk, k2tog, k2tog, k 2
ssk, ssk, k2tog, k2tog

Cut yarn and pull through all remaining stitches.
Weave in ends.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Food Flexibility and Latest Projects

This is tonight's dinner...
It was originally going to be biscuits topped with ham, eggs and melted cheddar cheese. We've been slowly working our way through a ham we cooked after buying it from Biancalana at the market last Saturday.

While I was putting together the biscuits, I decided to cube the paneer I made earlier this week, fry it, and take it as part of my lunch tomorrow.

For anyone who has never made paneer before, it is an Indian "cheese". If you're a cheese nerd it's not a "real" cheese because the curdling is caused by an acid rather than by enzymatic action. Basically, you heat the milk to boiling, stir in enough lemon juice to make it curdle, drain the whey from the curds, rinse, and press until solid. I've tended to press out too much liquid before I formed it into a patty and it's been a little crumbly the two times I've made it. This last time, I added lemon juice a little at a time to see exactly how much it took and formed it while there was still a fair amount of liquid left. It turned out beautifully creamy and uniform with a smooth texture. It's never melted before as I fried it for saag paneer. This time, when I looked over at the pan, it was turning into a gooey melted mess. New plan...

Cheese sauce!

I made a roux with flour and butter, whisked in milk, cooked until thickened into a white sauce and then stirred in the cheese bits that had been partially melted and then rechopped apart. I knew the resulting sauce would be super bland so I started salting it. I also added some dried parsley, pepper, and garlic powder. By that time it was palatable but was missing a certain zing so I threw in a few tablespoons of white wine. That did it. It became rather good.

And that's the story of how we had "eggs benedict" for dinner...with ham instead of Canadian bacon, biscuits instead of English muffins, and cheese sauce instead of Hollandaise. Q says that that's about on par for my usual substitution habits. ;)

Over the weekend we went to the inaugural Fill Your Pantry Market and stocked up on pinto beans, red and white wheat, rolled oats, honey, squash, potatoes, and onions. It was successful beyond their wildest dreams, they ran out of a bunch of items and the lines were absurdly long. They said they'll work out some of the kinks before next year. It was great getting to buy direct from the farmer and pay slightly less than retail.

Here are our purchases along with those we picked up for friends.

Here's the first batch of flour ground from our new wheat. We got a new Kitchen Aid Grain Mill attachment on sale a few months ago and so far (based on its first trial today) I like it better than the old Magic Mill grinder we'd gotten from Q's mom. It's way less dusty, quieter, and seems to do the job just as well.

I've been super busy but have been failing at getting pictures of the projects. In the last two weeks, I/We've...

1. knit and designed three hats as gifts for friends
  • a Mario Mushroom beanie (knit replacement for a crocheted one that was left at an airport and perhaps a new design for the shop as well)
  • a chunky brown hat inspired by this hat as a friend's birthday gift (looked at the picture and then recreated the look in a much bigger gauge - 3 st/in?)
  • a funky toddler "pixie" hat, which I'll hopefully be debuting the pattern for in a couple of days
2. Got about 4" of the Hawthorn Sweater completed. I'm adapting the pattern to make a cardigan using some dark brown sock yarn I bought several years ago because I needed a brown cardigan. (I still need the sweater...I can just feel that this is the year!)

3. Made progress on the bedside tables we're making at the University Craft Center wood shop. We have class on Tuesday nights but have gone in a little between classes since we're adding a shelf and a drawer to the basic table that was the purpose of the class.
Here are the scraps, enough to do something else cool. They're black walnut so they will match the cedar chest we were given this summer. So far we've got the aprons and legs milled, the legs have mortises cut, and the tops and shelves are almost milled and glued up. Hopefully, I'll be able to do a full post on the completed projects around Thanksgiving.

4. Started the next laundry room upgrade (really Q's project that I'll just benefit from)
We got this table top at Bring that matches the '50s feel of the cabinets I inherited from my grandmother's house. Q has now stacked the washer and dryer. He's going to cut the table top down and make it into a counter. There's going to be a huge laundry sink set into it, the litter boxes will live below and the trimmed edge will hopefully be repurposed as a backsplash to give the whole thing a finished look. Sooooo excited... :)

5. Made cold cream (seems more like body butter to me) and lipstick with my class as part of Organic Chemistry. We're going to make them each a tube of peppermint lip balm tomorrow. Considering how super cheap ingredients (mineral oil, beeswax, paraffin) can be transformed into body products, I'm pretty sure I'll never buy lotion or lip balm ever again. It's also made me want to finally dive in and make soap. (Although that's a whole other layer of complexity.) I'll do a proper post on the lotion and balms as soon as I get pictures taken.

I'll try to get better at posting more regularly again. It's not that I don't have things to say (as if I ever run out of things to say). :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mushroom Madness

We joined a Mushroom CSA this year! The forager happens to be a parent at the school so we get delivery straight to my box at school each week for 10 weeks. Yay! I love mushrooms.

It's created a delightful challenge though - using 1 - 2 pounds of fantastic mushrooms each week. For the first three weeks we have gotten golden chanterelles (like the ones pictured above). Can you believe the size of them?

Week 1 - sauteed mushrooms/onion/garlic/olive oil mixed with pasta

Week 2 - zucchini pancakes with mushroom gravy (remarkably like a hippie version of egg foo yung) (Note: I didn't actually follow the gravy recipe. The most important difference being that I didn't put in summer savory and used Better Than Bouillion rather than defrosting stock)

Week 3 - Surprise Biscuits (my name) or Biscuit Pasties (Q's name)
This recipe was my own brain storm tonight and used only about 1/2 lb. of this week's 2 pounds so we'll probably have sauteed mushrooms mixed into tomorrow night's pesto.

3 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 T sugar
1 1/2 T baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
3/4 c shortening
1 c milk

1/2 c. diced onion
1/2 lb. diced mushrooms (we used chanterelles)
5 strips of bacon, cut into pieces (ours was thick sliced from a local farm so probably about 8 slices normal commercial bacon)
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix all of the biscuit dry ingredients together, cut in the shortening and mix in the milk to form dough. Set aside.

Sautee the onion in olive oil until it starts to soften. Add the mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid is gone. Put aside in a bowl. Cook the bacon in the pan, drain, and add to the mushroom/onion mixture. Scramble the eggs and add to the rest of the filling.

Divide the biscuit dough into six parts. Shape each part into a deep bowl in your hands, add filling, then close the top so it looks like an extra large round biscuit.

Place the biscuits on a pan and bake for about 10 minutes or until done.

Sorry I don't have pictures. I was in a hurry when they came out of the oven and by the time we were back home they had all been eaten in the car. Q informed me that they need to get added to "The List" - tried and true recipes that need to be made over and over again.

Monday, October 11, 2010

International Commerce

In a weird turn of events, the last several hats I've sold on Etsy have been to foreign countries - Japan, Canada, Australia, Israel, and Norway. It's funny to picture the Space Invaders keeping heads warm in all those corners of the world. Q wants me to get a world map and put pins in it for where I've shipped to. At this rate it's sounding like a better and better idea. :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Scandinavian Inspired Hat Design

When we were in Colorado this summer, Mom pulled this sweater out one day...
She had made it in the seventies (note the orange/brown color scheme) for one of my aunts. When my parents had visited Scandinavia (Norway?) they purchased a sweater for my dad and mom charted the sweater on the flight home. Several aunts and a couple of cousins all received these sweaters.

Mom had brought it out to show me her knitting at my age but I asked to take it home and have been wearing it. If I want to keep wearing it, I'm going to have to knit myself a new one though. Every time I pick it up I have to tie another knot in yarn that was broken by an apparent moth infestation. It lives in the cedar chest now so it hopefully won't get any worse.

I've rather fallen in love with the decorative patterns and had a couple of skeins of "Truffle" Cotton Fleece from Brown Sheep. I combined it with some "Wild Sage" and got a modern color scheme to combine with a traditional pattern.

The hat's construction is the same pattern as my Space Invaders and four repeats fit exactly to create a 22" medium hat. Hopefully, some people will want to buy them on Etsy because I really enjoy knitting the pattern.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Squirrel Sweater

Let me start by saying that I know this sweater is totally silly. That said, I'm going to simply refer to it as "whimsical" and enjoy it anyway.

I've had this sweater on the needles since last winter. I'd finished it but had kept the brown running behind everything, which had made yoke lose its stretch. After ripping out the entire yoke, I used bobbins of brown, carried only the oatmeal and worked the yoke back and forth (joining as I went). I think my squirrel chart ended up working out well. I'm wondering if I should have incorporated some of the brown in the lower part (like a row of small acorns above the rib?) but I do like it overall. Opinions?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Slanting Gretel Tee

I have written previously about this pattern and I finally used some super soft baby suri alpaca/wool blend yarn that I'd gotten on clearance to knit it up. It's possibly the softest yarn I've ever touched. Yay for using from the stash!

I changed the sleeves from caps to being short sleeves. It was wonderfully easy to modify the sleeve length. I stopped because I ran out of yarn. I'm always cold, wearing a sweater over a sweater seems like a less than ideal option, and I don't wear long sleeved t-shirts so using it as a second layer doesn't fit my style.

My gauge swatch was somehow misleading and it turned out larger than I'd wanted. The one in the magazine was modeled with some slight negative ease. I estimate that I've to about 2" of positive ease in the final creation.

The pattern has lots of potential in my opinion. It's well written and easy to follow although the specific instructions look more complicated than the goal they're trying to achieve. It's not the pattern creators fault though. There's no good way to just verbalize what is being accomplished in a way that would allow knitters of all abilities to follow the pattern.

My favorite parts - I love the neckline and the cables. (Note: if you knit this, make sure you cast the neck off a little tightly or it will look puckery.)

What I would change - I want to knit it again and add a couple of inches to the bottom and take a couple of inches from the circumference, maybe even putting in some gentle waist shaping as I work the back. That said, I think it would work better even if it was just a size smaller. Its current dimensions manage to work together to be extremely unflattering on my body type - I can manage to look chubby and short waisted on my own without additional help from my clothes. :)

Q, thanks for taking the pictures!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Good Fall Eating

On Sunday, we got into the kitchen and tried to use up some of the veggies that have been accumulating. We had our favorite quiche recipe for breakfast, complete with homegrown onion, tomatoes, and shredded zucchini.

The chicken stock also got started. We cooked two chickens last Sunday to follow this plan for the week's meals and I had saved the carcasses. (We didn't follow the roast chicken recipe but did make the picadillo, curry in a hurry, and sesame noodles - all delicious and easy.)

This stock is notable because it's the first stock where the vegetables are entirely from our garden - celery, carrot, and onion. We just need to raise some meat chickens so we'll have totally homegrown stock. :)
We had also been given a few Jonagold apples that weren't getting any younger. Here's last night's dessert experiment. I made caramel then stirred in apples and oatmeal and baked the whole thing for about 30 minutes. It is evil good. The portion I brought to school also got the stamp of approval from all of the 8th graders and it made delicious breakfast this morning too!

And we bought "Frankenpumpkin" (Q's title) at the Spencer Creek Grange Harvest Festival this weekend so pie making has now made it onto the "to-do" list.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Newest Family Member

After we got back from Colorado we put in an adoption application for one of the kittens we had fostered for 2 months over the summer. Marbles is now part of the family. While we had him, he developed a limp which was eventually identified as femoral head necrosis. Greenhill Humane decided to operate because he is such a delightful cat. He still limps but it doesn't seem to slow him down.

The only side effect seems to be that he is pretty willing to be in whatever position he happens to land in or get put in. This includes being snuggled like a teddy bear.

Clearly, he is not easily upset and has a huge purr.

He also loves being between us. The picture was taken from above; my red shirt and black pants are on the left, Q's brown shirt and jeans are on the right.

Digit and Isabel are adjusting quite well to a spunky new kitten. He's kept well-groomed by the fastidious Digit and he gets plenty of exercise as he and Isabel race through the house. I'm sure there will be documentation of this photogenic kitten quite often from here on out.

The Mayflower

It's not a great picture but not bad for less than 1/2 hour. I also was drawing without anything to look at and found the angle I'd chosen more tricky than I first envisioned. Oh well. I've added the words "Early English Colonies" to the sky since this picture was taken and they're copying it for the cover of their first history block.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Q's New Sweater

I showed this project in process but now I get to show the final result. Q loves it which means I'm very happy with it. He picked everything - yarn, buttons, and pattern - out himself and I must admire his taste. The color is a little washed out in the photos. It's actually a very dark, cool purple that has flecks of color - Brown Sheep's Lamb's Pride Superwash in "Northern Lights". It knit up beautifully from the pattern. My gauge was just a tiny bit off (which adds up when a sweater is 53" around) so I was glad I'd chosen the 56" size rather than the size below because it fits perfectly. I'll hopefully finish the sweater I'm currently knitting soon - this one - so I can show it off here.