Knitting Notes

Pattern: Mezquita Shawl by Roxanne Yuen
Yarn: Sweet Georgia CashSilk Lace in the Botanical colorway
Needles: Size 8 circs

I finally blocked the Mezquita Shawl yesterday – definitely one of the easiest blocking jobs I’ve recently had to do.

I really enjoyed this pattern – the short row shaping was super easy, and for whatever reason, short rows never bore me, even when they’re in stockinette. This was also a nice use of skein of lace weight – I’ll probably try some similar patterns I’ve found for some of the other single skeins I have hanging around from samplers past.

The CashSilk Lace is a lovely yarn to work with – I’d definitely buy more if I ran into another color I liked.

I also did another sock yarn sweater ornament, since I only have one other one so far. This time, I tried the cabled option, which was nice and easy (though I did manage to screw up one of the sleeves, but since those tend to hang on angles and looked skewed anyway, I’m not going to sweat it.)


2011 YA Reading Challenge 1/1/11 – 12/31/11

I’ve now completed the 2011 YA Reading Challenge, which was to read 12 YA books within 2011. I’ve read:

This year, I skewed very heavily fantasy. There was one mystery, and one dystopian/sci fi book, but the other ten all had at least some fantastical elements. I can definitely tell what kind of books I prefer to read from the list above…

The Two Princesses of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine

Read for the 2011 YA Reading Challenge.

There are two princesses in Bamarre – the elder, Meryl, is the brave one, who wants nothing more than to fight Bamarre’s battles, while her younger sister Addie is much more timid, and depends on Meryl’s strength and protection.

Naturally, something terrible happens to Meryl, and it’s Addie who must set out alone, and barely prepared, to fight for her sister’s life. What she doesn’t know is that she is fighting for the lives of everyone in the kingdom.

This is fairly standard fairy tale trope with slightly different twists. It’s enjoyable, though I like the author’s Ella Enchanted better.

Thanksgiving Notes

My contribution to Thanksgiving this year was this Maple-Buttermilk Pie. It’s far from the prettiest pie I’ve ever made (this was pie crust #4 – I don’t know what I did to piss off the pie crust gods – and after this photo was taken, the custard split), but it was delicious – it had a really nice tang to it, which made it different than the sweeter pies that we also had. Definitely a nice pie to round out the dessert selection. I shall probably have to make it again.

I, Coriander – Sally Gardner

Read for the 2011 YA Reading Challenge.

One day, a parcel containing a pair of gorgeous silver shoes is left outside Coriander’s home. She knows that they’re for her, but her mother is adamant that she cannot wear them. Still, the shoes call her name, and when Coriander gives in to that call, it starts a chain of events that will test her severely, but ultimately give her a better understanding of her fantastic heritage.

The story is set in the time of the Commonwealth in England, in the 17th century. Coriander’s father became wealthy because of his commissions from the king, and when Cromwell’s forces take over, he is suddenly in danger from that relationship. When Coriander’s mother suddenly dies, he is persuaded to marry a Puritan woman, to keep the eyes of Cromwell’s men from him. What he cannot know is that this woman is in league with darker powers. Not much later, he is forced to flee England, leaving Coriander at the mercy of her stepmother. When one day she is locked in a trunk, an unexpected journey opens before her.

It is because Coriander’s mother was a fairy, and the silver shoes were commissioned by her father, the fairy king. A darkness has come over the fairy kingdom, one that only Coriander can save them from.

This is a lovely little tale, with great historical detail, and a lovely fairy story beside it. I read it in two days, only putting it down in the middle of the book because of this little thing called Thanksgiving dinner. I’d highly recommend it to anyone.

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant – edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

Read for the Foodie Reading Challenge.

This book is a compilation of essays by writers and chefs about either cooking for one, or dining alone. There is an interesting mix of stories, most including some sort of signature recipe.

Many of the stories lean more to the philosophical than being strictly related to the food. In “Instant Noodles”, the author, who is from Thailand, is temporarily brought back to home when he’s a student at Cornell, when he’s able to find Thai instant noodles at a local store. In “Protective Measures”, the author talks about dining alone in the periods of her life when she used it to remind herself that she was important enough to deserve such a thing, even when she was alone.

There are other essays that are more food related. In “The Legend of Salsa Rosa”, the author finds the perfect pasta recipe while studying in Florence, and then finds how hard it is to recreate back in America. “Wild Chili” is about the author’s indulgence for this dish, something that he often must experiment with alone, in order to not kill his loved ones with over-peppery goodness.

All in all, it’s an interesting mix of stories that will definitely make you think about your relationship to food.

Sewing Notes

I have today off, and since baking a pie does not a full day make, I’ve done a bit of stock-taking of my sewing projects. (The pie crust should be cooled by now, so should shortly be back in pie land.)

The first thing of note is my new baby. It was my ten-year anniversary with my company in October, and I got a plaque and a lovely catalog of gifts to choose from. I chose this:

Yep, it’s a tool kit. And it makes the best sewing box ever.

The top has several small compartments that hold a whole bunch of things that I often need to randomly grab without wanting to riffle through the whole box.

That then opens to a top tray.

And this tray is wonderful. It fits everything I used to have in my old sewing kit, plus a few things I could never fit in there before (my new, larger sewing machine manual), plus some of the smaller projects I have in progress.

And the bottom compartment is a gigantic thing of beauty. It’s allowed me to empty out a drawer and a half (and the top of that particular plastic set of drawers) that I had devoted to various bits of larger sewing ephemera. I’ve got my patterns in there, my larger cutting supplies (well, except for my mat – that’s never going to fit in a box), and several larger storage containers for thread and other stuff. And, it’s all on wheels, so I can easily drag it over to wherever I’m working.

It also helps that not long before I got the box, I’d broken down and gotten some dedicated notions storage. I got this great tackle-kit like box with a 40% off coupon at Joann’s, and managed to combine a number of disparate boxes and bags of small things.

So, now, in my two plastic sets of drawers, I only have one drawer not devoted to fabric, and it’s all about my unfinished projects.

Project #1 is my mountain side landscape quilt. I’ve managed to get together three of the quilt rows that are meant to be trees. They go quickly enough I should be able to get the third row done next time I have the machine out, and then I can sew the three together and get them attached to the muslin backing. I’ve still got a pile of fabric available to finish it off – I have the mountain top to create, and I may try some applique of something the fore-ground.

The above project is actually going away. It was an idea for some pieced Christmas tree ornaments that I could put in Christmas cards some year. I got all the foundations cut, and the pattern enlarged, but I’ve finally given in to the fact that I’m never going to get the pattern transferred to all those muslin pieces, let alone do that much fiddly, small pieces. So that fabric has been put back in the landscape drawer and the book returned to the bookcase.

I had completely forgotten about the above. I think I snagged this lesson book for machine quilting when one of the local craft stores closed (a while ago), and I’d even set up the first template for experimentation. But, this was with my old machine, that I was never able to get out-fitted with a walking foot. My new machine came with a walking foot, and with winter coming, I’m hoping to be able to work my way through these lessons on some of our inevitable quiet weekends.

This is fabric I bought to draft a skirt with. I’ve decided I need to finish at least one of my outstanding projects before I try this. (I also needed to by decent paper for the pattern making, which I’ve done to go along with the supplies I bought for my niece’s Christmas gift. Those should be with me next week.)

This is the only project that doesn’t fit in the drawer – the Celestial Postage Stamp quilt.

This thing is turning into a bit of a comedy of errors. I swear, every time I make progress on it, I then have to screw something up. It’s all put together – at this point, I just need to make the binding, and sew that on. So, naturally, the binding has mucked me up. I was trying to make a continuous bias binding strip. Naturally, the piece of fabric I bought wasn’t the right shape to do it in one go, so I cut in in half. The first half went great. The second half – I managed to somehow draw my guide lines in the wrong place (twice), so I can’t get the dang thing to line up right. I may actually need to go out for new fabric for this, again (this would be the third time for the backing and binding fabric. At least they still seem to be carrying it at Joanns’s.)

But, this my longest outstanding project, so I think I need to bite the bullet later this long weekend, and tackle it again.

And finally, I have this tree against sunset picture. I’m stalled out on the tree. I can’t free form it (I have no artist ability in that direction), and I’m having trouble finding a template that’s large enough. So far, my enlarging experiments have failed. What I really need to do is spend some quality time with a real photocopier and see what I can get from that.

So that’s the state of my sewing basket. Winter, and the subsequent lack of travel, is coming, so let’s see what kind of a dent I can put in these projects, now that I have a machine I really enjoy using.

Garden Notes

These are my new best friends. After watching some neighbors one year, I’ve been bagging my leaves by using a trash can as a bag holder, and using a snow shovel to get the leaves into the bag. Last spring, I saw the green claw hand extenders next to the shovel in a magazine, and the company also carried this red collapsible can. I love them both. You do have to do more bending, but I can get way more leaves with the claws, and I completed the backyard in about two hours. (I did still have to use the snow shovel for some yard waste – hostas mostly – that had snuck in with leaves, and were denser. )

So I started yesterday morning with the above. Doesn’t really look like much, does it?

Much raking, and five filled bag later, I finished the day with the above. After about an hour this morning, I ended up with this:

And fourteen bags of leaves. I don’t understand how they take up that much room.

I should also point out that the above is the only tree that’s actually on our property. Notice the lack of leaf drop here. Fortunately, it’s on the street, which is enough of a wind tunnel that I rarely have to clean up leaves from this tree – they blow away long before I can get to them. Instead, I have to clean up after the trees that ring our back yard.

Oh well. At least my mother’s compost benefits from it…

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Saroyan Scarf by Liz Abinante
Yarn: Malabrigo Silky Merino in the indicieta colorway
Needles: Size 10 Circs

This project went so fast, I never bothered to photograph it or blog it until it was done. The pattern is really easy, but the leaf repeat is long enough to keep things interesting, so I was never bored, and it’s in worsted weight yarn, so it finishes in a snap.

As for that yarn, I can only continue with my Malabrigo fangirlishness, and say that I love it. It’s so lovely to work with, and I love the colors, and you get the idea. The day I don’t enjoy working with Malabrigo is the day the world ends.

So, once I finished that, I cast on the Live Oak Shawlette from the Summer 2011 Knitscene. I actually have the yarn they used for the pattern (Madeleine Tosh sock), so I’m using that, in the fiord colorway. So far, it’s been a fun knit.

In other news, I’ve knit up as many hexipuffs for the Bee Keeper’s quilt in the similar weights of sock yarn I have lying around (I have some lighter weights as well, but there’s less of those, so I may save them for ornaments of something). I can see why this pattern is so popular – it’s totally addicting, and I can knock off three in an evening.