Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cap-py birthday

Happy Birthday brutha!

Last Friday my big bro turned thirty...ah, something and I knit him a new hat to mark the occasion.

PATTERN: Struan by Ysolda Teague
YARN: Berroco Ultra Alpaca in colour # 6287 Denim Mix
NEEDLES: 3.75 addi lace needles

I completely stressed over the sizing knowing my brother has an unusually large noggin. He claims this giant head is necessary to contain his giant brain. Seeing as it's his birthday and all, I'll let that one go.

The hat is knit from the top down, which made it a perfect pattern for altering size, and altering size I did. After completion, I got the b.f. to try it on and it looked, well, big. Really big. Not Mushmouth big, but large enough to be silly. Now, I knew that my brother's aforementioned giant noggin would probably fill it out a little more, but it still had me worried. I ripped it back half an inch and finished the hem again: Still funny looking. I ripped some more: Nice! It looked only slightly large on the boyfriend, silly-large on me - I had high hopes. Unfortunately, judging by these pictures, I underestimated the gargantuan proportions of my sibling's skull. I still think it looks cute on him anyway and hey, I can always make it bigger.

By the way - trying to get your brother to pose for a picture while he's hopped up on all-you-can-eat sushi and birthday cheer? Quite the effort:

(Apologies to Cathy for inadvertently blogging you without permission)

Luckily my inanimate styrofoam head is a model impervious to both sushi and cheer of all kinds:

So, my brother got a new hat, I got a new cold. This weekend has been spent marinating in my bathrobe and destroying the rainforest with my kleenex consumption. Today I completed the extraordinary feat of showering and putting on "real clothes". I thought it might make me feel better. Alas, no amount of shampoo or underwire can soothe the sole better than bad television, knitting and countless pots of herbal tea. Please excuse me, I believe the couch is calling.

Monday, March 24, 2008

New Beginnings

Firstly, let me thank you all for your kind words about Selena. Seeing as it's a prerequisite for all knit-bloggers to have cats, I know you understand how hard it is to lose a pet. I'm sure she's in a better place as I'm also sure that knitters and cats must end up in the same wonderful yarn-filled heaven.

That said, no more bummer blogging! Ill-feeling pets? Ill-fitting sweaters? Did Debbie Downer write my last three posts? Sheesh! Time to clear the air, brew a fresh pot of coffee and cast on something new. This my friends, is soon, to become a pair of Mosey legwarmers from the new spring issue of Knitty:

I have longed for legwarmers since 1984 when I practiced dance routines with my neighbour Theresa (thanks, Flashdance!) Maybe when I finish these I'll buy myself that Easy Bake Oven I always wanted too. Then all my childhood fantasies will be fulfilled! (Well, except for marrying Jordan Knight, but I think I can let that dream die after seeing him on the Surreal Life. Yikes!)

But let's talk yarn. This yarn has been stash-languishing for far too long. It's Farmhouse Yarn's Andy's merino and the colour (Boysenberry) is ridiculously deep and rich . My camera just can't capture it's loveliness. It's soft and cushy and fabulous and I have no idea why I left it marinating in the stash for so long. The only downside is the velvet-y texture that attracts cat hair like, well, velvet. After all, I still have Teddy to contend with:

Just look at that innocent look on his face. "What, me? I don't shed!" Hey, we don't call ya "Shed-y Teddy" for nothin', buddy!

Also new on the sticks is a pair of Coco Knits Prairie Boots:

I'm a little stalled on these after knitting the soles. I'm concerned they may be too small. It feels a little off to me that the soles are exactly the same size as my feet:

Are they supposed to be that way? Should they not be slightly larger? I'll do some investigating on Ravelry. If they work out, it will be a welcome way to finally rid myself of another long time stash languisher, my thrifted Lopi tweed.

In other news, blogging has become a family affair! My brother Pat has entered the blogosphere over at Crate Expectations. If you dig rock history and/or record collecting, head on over and take a gander. We're taking over the interweb one blog at a time! Muah-ah-ah-ah!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Oh for two

After months of grueling snowstorms, spring is finally in the Toronto air. The sun is shining, the mercury is above zero and the snowbanks are rapidly melting. Of course, all of those melting snowbanks have just transformed into ugly grey piles of mush peppered with soggy litter and petrified dog poop but enh? It's a means to an end.

It's a good thing the weather is a little warmer as I don't think I want be sporting this latest sweater:

Okay, it doesn't look so bad there, but trust me, it's not good. It usually looks more like this:

(Notice foul expression on lips.)

Boo! Another loser. Why do I have such a hard time knitting sweaters? I don't really know what happened here. Perhaps the yarn absorbed the bad mojo from the last failed project it was knit into? Was my gauge that off? Should I stop knitting patterns translated from French?

PATTERN: "Gilet #480-T7-268" from Phildar Winter 2007/2008
YARN: Drops Alaska colour #51
NEEDLES: 5.5 mm
NOTES/MODS: The pattern had a couple of errors and some wonky instructions. I just did what made sense to me and it worked out fine. (Not that the sweater worked out fine, but I don't think my changes were the problem).
- I shortened the sleeves a good 5-6 cm
- I knit the sides and back as one piece
- I added garter stitch to the bottom of the sleeves to mimic the bottom of the rest of the sweater.

Oh yeah, and I had to buy THREE extra skeins of yarn to finish the darn thing. This sweater ate yarn like a fat man at a Vegas buffet. And then there was the long and tedious sewing up process:

I made such nice seams this time, too!

I knit the smallest size and the sweater is just too big. Not only that, but there's something about this yarn that just highlights every imperfection in my knitting. Blocking did little to rectify the situation. After knitting not one, but two failed projects with this stuff, I'm totally blaming the yarn. Bad yarn! This yarn is totally grounded.

Oddly enough, after knitting two bummer sweaters in a row, my spirit is far from broken. Quite the contrary. I am nothing if not stubborn. This is not defeat but as a call to action! How dare these sweaters defy me! I'll show them! The knitting shall be conquered! The knitting shall be shown who's boss!

How? Hats.

I've started Struan as a birthday present for my bro. So far, I'm totally winning.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Let me eat cake

I should have listened to that little voice in my head. I didn't even bother finishing it. I got up to the neck and decided to try it on. Yup, the Borealis sweater makes me look like a house on stilts! Duh!

Is that you, Julia? Oh, no, it's just ramshackle beach dwelling. Oops!

Warning: if you do not posses model-esque proportions, this sweater may make you appear large and somewhat house-like! Side effects include crushing blows to ego.

Please don't say "I told you so". I knew what I was getting into. Tempted by a quickie knit and ignoring the laws of good sense, I decided the rules weren't going to apply to me and somehow this sweater would turn out smashing. (For the record, the sweater is smashing, just not on me). Therefore, This sweater is hereby sentenced to the back of my closet until such time as I feel fit to whip it out and have another stab at destroying my self esteem.

Is this a bad time to bring out a cake recipe? Why not, huh? Heck, if I'm going to look overweight, I'd rather do it by eating cake then wearing bulky sweaters! Actually, this cake is a little more guilt free than it's sugar-laden contemporaries (though sadly, still not calorie free!). Inspired by the delicious looking green tea cake Cara made, and the nutritional info gathered from Cathy and Jae, I present you my recipe mash-up!


I adapted this recipe from a vegan pound cake I found online. I changed it so drastically, that I think it's safe to say it's mine now! This cake is similar to coffee cake or pound cake in that it's dense and somewhat crumbly. If you use only spelt (or wheat) flour, the cake will be more moist and similar to banana bread in consistency. I've tried a lot of different variations, but this one is my favourite:

For the health nuts; omit the chocolate chips.
If you're not into "hippy food" this recipe might seem a little wacko. If you're willing to take the leap of faith, try out the new ingredients and you might be surprised!

Dry ingredients:

1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (grain sweetened preferred - I like Sunspire)
1 cup spelt flour (or whole wheat)
1 cup brown rice flour (or white rice flour)
4 tsps baking powder
pinch of salt
4 tbsp matcha (green tea powder, available in health food stores - pricey, but worth it!)

Wet ingredients:

1 banana (the riper the better)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 (6 0z.) package soft silken tofu (must be "silken" style!)
3/4 cup Brown rice syrup (sometimes called "rice malt". I used Lundberg brand. Use maple syrup if you can't find it.)

Coconut oil or margarine for pan grease-age.

Doin' it:

Preheat the oven to 176 C /350 F. (I use my toaster oven - less energy wasted!)

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (or sift 'em if you're fancy).

Stir in chocolate chips. (Mmm...looks like mint-chip ice cream...)

In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients and blend until smooth (I used a hand blender, but you could use a standard blender, food processor, or even a fork or whisk if you're patient!).

Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just mixed.

Pour into a lightly greased pan 9 inch loaf pan and tent lightly with tin foil*** (if you pull the foil tightly the cake will not have room to rise). Bake for 15 minutes, remove foil, and continue to bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. (Mine comes out well with a cooking time of 35 min. total).

(Pretend this is followed by a really nicely styled shot of a slice of cake on a plate. It was dark by the time we sliced it and not conducive to pretty food photography)

***A note about the foil. The cake has a tendency to brown too quickly and the top could burn if left unprotected. I think it has something to do with the tofu, but don't quote me on that.

So go! Bake! Eat! Be merry! (Just remember to stay away from the super-bulky sweaters and horizontal stripes before helping yourself to a second slice!)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Jenny Cloche

The Jenny Cloche is complete! Way back when, I offered to make my friend Jenny a replica of her favourite hat which was on it's last legs. A few tries later, I had it!

The hat is knit with double stranded Malabrigo in kettle dyes colour #80 (Azul Bolita). I know, quite the luxurious yarn choice! But when you have friends this divine? No expense can be spared dah-link!

I do plan on writing up the pattern for you all, but not after a few tweaks. Jenny is happy with her hat (thank god!), but I, of course, strive for perfection. This version is a little floppier than the original, making Jenny feel like Holly Hobby (a good thing in her books by the way - and mine, for that matter!). Methinks another prototype, and possibly another size option is on the agenda before this pattern gets launched into the knitosphere. (Seeing it's not so much an original pattern as it is a knock-off, it'll definitely be a freebie!)

On a sad note, my cat Selena is not doing so well. Just a couple of months after her surgery, her health is already declining. I took her to the vet this week after she started drinking lots of water and peeing willy-nilly. I also noticed a new lump behind her arm. The vet found two more. Now, armed with pills to help her kidney function, and special food to make sure she doesn't lose too much weight, I'm officially awaiting "the time". She's still happy and eating and comfortable, but the cancer is advancing more rapidly than originally expected. I have a list of symptoms to look out for, and at their advent, I'll have to put her down. I knew it was coming, I just didn't think it would be so soon! Special thanks again to everyone who donated to my Selena fund. The surgery may not have cured her, but it certainly gave her a little more time. Next time, I'm totally getting a robot cat that lives forever!

To boost my spirits, I treated myself to something I've been thinking about for a while now:

A ukulele! I'm not even going to pretend it's an original idea brought on by inherent quirkiness. I was inspired by her and the song in this and finally them. What better way to pass the time during yet another snowstorm than busting out a little piece of Hawaii?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Yarnless in Toronto

After vowing to complete my cardigan this weekend I found myself Sunday afternoon, with only half a collar to knit and out of yarn. Again. I already had to buy extra skeins last week! The icing on the cake? The only store in town that carries the yarn decided to change their hours and close on Sundays starting... March 2nd. Baah!

With this unexpected sweater hiatus, I was suddenly project-less. Without skipping a beat I started myself a new sweater.

It's the Borealis sweater from Twinkle's Weekend Knits in Twinkle Soft Chunky "peacock blue" and "urchin" (peacock blue doesn't exist in this link for some reason. Maybe because it's my prize yarn?). I know, I know. Super bulky yarn combined with horizontal stripes? I'm just asking to look like wooly mammoth in this one but I don't learn lessons easy. I've somehow convinced myself that this won't be complete disaster, so just hush up until I prove myself wrong! Besides, at the speed this is knitting, if it ends up back in the frog pond I won't be shedding any tears.

Without a lot to exciting knitting content, I thought I'd take a cue from so many other bloggers and post some foodie fodder:

I made Laura's Mattar Paneer! Oh. Mah. Gawd. This was SO good! I've always loved paneer. Despite hearing it wasn't difficult to make I just never got around to it (possibly due to my inability to find cheesecloth which I now seem to see everywhere). Not only was it easy, but it's possibly the best paneer I've had! You just can't beat fried cheese. Thanks Laura!

Judging by all the recipes floating around out there on knitting blogs, does that mean most knitters like to cook? Should I post other stuff I make?