Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Between Needles and Hooks


Happy Leap Day!

Feels like we're stuck between one month and the next and between one season and the next. This is where I've been lately...wielding the needles and and dreaming about the hooks. This is a photo of the Fedora Scarf and a crochet medallion both done with Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport in Mine Shaft. I went raiding my stash of leftovers--tiny balls of this and that left from various projects--because I've been thinking of crocheting them up. Some of them are so tiny there is only enough for a motif or maybe two. This presents a challenge.

The challenge is to become unstuck and to do some crocheting! Happy accidents, March is National Crochet Month and Ravelry is having a big crochet party all month, too. Here's what I'm going to do here on figknits. Every day of the month of March I will show you some crochet, be it motifs, patterns, tools, doilies, or whatever comes up. Few words, lots of image. Oh, and all other regular post series will be paused for this event. Monday Favorites and Friday Food Fun will be back in April.

Fun, yes?

See you tomorrow for the kickoff!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tied Up with String

Favorite things for this, the last week of February...in Leap Year, I might add!

Mt Rainier...which we can see from our front yard (on a very clear day, that is)...

...banana bread...with or without nuts...

...and camping! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Food Fun: Oatmeal Yogurt Breakfast Bowl

I had a great recipe many years ago for making an oatmeal dish that sat in the fridge overnight and produced a creamy breakfast for the next morning's enjoyment, but with all the many moves and different lives, I can't remember the source. I've never forgotten it, so when I saw SLC Foodie's recipe for a delicious raw oatmeal cup, it all clicked.
I tried the same thing but with yogurt, and it worked!

Oatmeal Yogurt Breakfast Bowl

1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
1/2 cup raw oatmeal (not instant)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla flavoring
3-4 chopped dried apricots

Mix all ingredients together and place in airtight container (preferably glass) and leave overnight.
Wake up, give yourself a stretch. Eat your oatmeal. Easy!
2 servings

This is just the first version I tried. I also want to try it with fresh or frozen strawberries or peaches, or even with some fresh banana slices added just before eating. It would also be good with other dried fruits--raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries, etc. I use Bob's Red Mill Extra Thick Rolled Oats, Nancy's Organic Yogurt, and real maple syrup. It made a yummy, creamy, chewy breakfast. Let me know if you try it and how you put in your own special touches.

Time for our yarn pairing! I thought I could easily find some oatmeal-y yarn in my stash, but I found it somewhat easier to find a yarn to mimic the dried apricots I used in this recipe. I found that this Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Equinox had some apricot hues. This Hanks in the Hood handspun/hand-dyed that I got from Jen way back at OFFF in 2010 had some, too! If only I had the time to do more than admire their loveliness. Sigh.

Meanwhile, back to the mystery sweater. I hope your knitting and crocheting and everything else goes smoothly today! 

Happy Friday!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Brown Paper Packages

This week's sweet favorites...

Tea with honey in this little set from my mom

Ferry rides with Fred

Baking oatmeal cookies with Tillamook butter and Craisins...dangerously good.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Food Fun: Juicer Carrot Cake

We have been using the juicer that Natalie and Jesse gave us for Christmas several times a week and our favorite is carrot/orange/ginger/apple juice. When I have the time, I like to juice the carrots first and scoop out all that lovely carrot pulp and use it to make carrot cake. The first batch I made was with the recipe in the booklet that came with the juicer, but that was a little bland. I have since experimented and come up with this recipe. It's pretty good!

Juicer Carrot Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/8 t salt
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups carrot pulp (you could use grated carrot)
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)

Grease a 10" x 6" loaf pan. Preheat oven to 360 degrees. 
Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in large mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix until well blended. Mixture will be thick and a little dry. Bake for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean when poked in the middle. Cool for five minutes in pan before turning out to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Then here is a suggestion.
Take about 5-6 ounces of goat cheese or cream cheese, one tablespoon of orange zest, and two tablespoons of honey and blend them all in a food processor.

Smear it on your warmish carrot cake and enjoy.

Slice the remaining cake into slender slices, half those, and make little sandwiches of them with the cheese mixture. Wrap them individually and put them all in the freezer and you have a great little snack. I like to take a couple out of the freezer and put them in my lunch bag with an apple to take to work. The perfect little lunch! This also keeps you from eating the whole darned carrot cake at once. Probably not so good to do that...no.

And for our yarn pairing...

A little orange sock I started. Beta carotene indeed!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

LetterMo Update: My Dusty Mailbox

So far I've sent 15 pieces of mail as a part of the LetterMo project.
Received? One.
Time to get some new penpals! Mailing out postcards next.

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Warm Woolen Mittens

Get your favorite things here!
(Sorry for that title--I know it was a really mean tease to you knitters. No yarn today.)

Sister Wendy's books

My husband's grad school poetry...typed out, printed and laminated (by me, of course)

Goat cheese with honey and dried cranberries on crackers...with white wine.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Answers

I wanted to take a little space and answer a couple of those questions from my last post and to clarify that all the salt-making was a little more than an avoidance technique. I don't know about you, but I find myself so much more productive when avoiding some odious task like trying to figure out knitting-pattern math (I actually should have been finishing up a pattern draft when instead I was in the kitchen fiddling around with lemons and limes...sigh.)

Bonnie, the fizzy drink is made by pouring into a 16-ounce glass about 1/4 cup of "just cranberry" (nothing but cranberry juice, which is very tart and strong), a packet of stevia (or even better--a squeeze of agave nectar), which I stir well before adding anything else so the stevia (or agave) will melt and not make the fizz go extra foamy and roll out of the glass! Then I add the juice of one lime and fill the glass with fizzy water. I use some lemon-lime flavored carbonated water with no sweetener that we get from Fred Meyer. I really want one of these fizz makers, though! Ah, someday.

Vanessa, I plan to try the salts in some dishes both on my queue yet to make and in some old favorites. The orange or lemon salt would be good sprinkled over this, or this, or this. I want to try the lime salt on some of this, and this, and this. Of course, anything that has those citrus juices already as an ingredient can be intensified by adding like salt. I would just decrease the amount of salt added when cooking the dish, knowing I was going to add a dash of the citrus salt just before eating. If anyone else has any good ideas for using the citrus salts, we're all ears! Heidi, of 101 Cookbooks, had another good idea--sprinkled on homemade caramels. Now, I have seen quite a lot of this salted caramel thing going on, but since I'm not really a caramel-loving girl like my oldest daughter Emily is, I have yet to try any. This might be the thing to get me to finally try a taste. Dark chocolate caramel with lime salt? I could go for that!

Now I'm off for a somewhat drizzly walk with Fred, then my workout, and then more of this.
Have a good Saturday yourself!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Food Fun: Citrus!

It's no secret that I love 101 Cookbooks--see my "Blogs I Read" in the sidebar. It's right on top. I first found it on the Yahoo reading page and have been following Heidi there ever since. I have so many of her recipes saved and have only braved a few.
Since we have so many limes, lemons and oranges right now, I decided it was time for me to try Heidi's Citrus Salts. It's pretty easy. You just zest some citrus fruits--one tablespoon each, which translates to one regular orange, lemon, or a couple of limes. Wash the fruit first and it's best to use organic, if possible.

Lemon, orange, lime zest ready for mixing.

Mix your tablesoon of zest with 1/2 cup salt. I used Kosher Salt. I didn't have any sea salt, as recommended, so this worked fine.

Set the oven to 225 degrees and place the salt piles on parchment paper. Bake for 70 minutes, which will dry the zest.

While I was waiting I got to work on something else to use my first batch of orange zest. I had tried to zest an orange that I had already juiced, so of course I wound up with too-juicy zest. I was afraid to put that with the salt, so it will be used in another way, which I'll tell you about next Friday.

After the salts had baked and cooled, I spun them in a little coffee grinder I keep for spices. This turns the zest into powder. Since this is what the chefs call "finishing salt," it needs to be used in a shaker. I plan to hunt up some of those little shakers and share this with others. You need to use it within a couple of months, and that's a lot of salt for just Fred and me! I am curious to see how this works adding it to dishes at the table. I'll let you know how it works out.

Because I have learned that zested fruit gets dry very fast, I decided I'd better juice these beauties and add them to one of my favorite beverages--cranberry-lime fizz. Today, it's cranberry-citrus fizz with a little raw stevia to balance all that tartness. Wow, was that a vitamin-C-packed drink! Delicious, too...

...with lots of pulp!

And because this is a yarny blog, we have our yarn pairing with today's kitchen adventure--this lovely green mystery yarn.

Yes, it's another secret. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

LetterMo Update: Smash Books and Fudge

How are you doing with your LetterMo challenge? We're seven days in (Sunday didn't count) and I have sent a postcard to a friend, a thank you note to my mom, a journal to my youngest daughter (we have been doing a Circle Journey journal the past few years), a note card to a friend, a birth congrats card to a friend, a letter to my sister, and today a letter to my middle daughter. This is right up my alley since I have been trying to jump-start a regular program of writing to folks for some time now. It's like they read my mind. I finally printed out the pretty stickers that Vicki Stephens made for us (missed the first few days) and this morning I had a bunch of fun making smash books for two of my grandsons. I hope I can tempt them both to start passing those back and forth with me--those are the mail for the next two days. I have also received one pretty card from a friend--see it in the lower left corner? Thank you, Kelli!

I hope I make it through the whole month. Join us! It's okay if you start late. As with most good things, some is better than none, right?

As for yarny pursuits,  I'm working exclusively on this buttery mound of alpaca/wool softness. Yep, you can see some cables and a sleeve on hold. That's all I'm telling! Secret.

But I can tell you more about these Fudge Babies I finally tried out from Chocolate Covered Katie. No sugar. Seriously! I will advise you to take her up on the tip to roll them using a piece of plastic wrap--they get kinda sticky after about the first five and it gets harder to make them roundish. If you have some of those lunch lady plastic gloves, that would work great too (while you listen to this!)

Hope your day is as fun as mine is turning out to be.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Bright Copper Kettles

Favorite things? Yes, I have them ready for you.

Our antique mantle clock...it has the sweetest chime.

...and I love these sour cherry drops...one at a time!

And apparently this color family is one of my most favorite. I have noticed its growing presence in my stash!

Do you ever have that happen?

Friday, February 03, 2012

Journals & Diaries

This post is something I've been wanting to do for a while. It is a bit long, but I had fun doing it. Thanks for reading!
What you see here is a stack of diaries representing 27 years of my life. Only one year is missing--1995.

Back in 1985 I ordered my first Our Old Fashioned Country Diary, now Our Country Diary (in case you want to start keeping these for yourself!) The first decade of my collection was printed by Tree Communications, then Our Old Fashioned Country Diary Ltd., and then the Country Diary Company, finally to be taken up by Michel Publishing, as it has been done on up through this year. They do a wonderful job with this. Toward the end of each year I receive a mailer and whether I remember to answer or not, my diary is mailed to me in December with a bill for $19.95. I can't tell you why I did not order the 1995 diary. All I can guess is that I was deep into teaching and life in general and let it slip away from me. I never made that mistake again!

These diaries have changed a lot over the past three decades, but they've always been delightful. Each includes special pages at the first of the year for predictions and at the end for reflections, the same for every major holiday, and each week at a glance with beautiful images and quotes and details about special dates (famous birthdays, historical milestones, etc.) They make keeping track of your life very easy and fun. We use these now in our New Year's Eve ritual of taking stock at the end of the year. It's always amazing to read and remember all the big and little things that we would have forgotten, or at least would not have been able to pinpoint the exact day of their happenings, without these diaries. Do any of you use this same series? I'd love to know!

I had fun grouping them and realizing how much the styling of just the covers transformed with each passing decade. This first set is very much in keeping with the whole country theme that many of us were obsessed with in the 80's. We all had lots of calico and pine furniture and dried flowers all over our houses. It was a very cluttery style. Fun, though...bunches of fun!

Then in the 90's things got very flowery and Victorian (I especially love the paisley one).

Comes the 21st century and while very floral, there are some birds and fruit to be seen. The look is vintage botany prints and collage.

It's looking to be the same in this second decade of this millenium, and I like it. They can certainly keep it up. (I know they were just waiting for my approval before moving on, you see. Ha!)

Over the years some weeks look like this...

...and some like this (blurry artistic effect added to obscure embarrassing diary confessions).

I have learned that the best way to keep this a regular habit is to jot down at bedtime what happened each day. I have been having much more success with it since I changed this from a morning ritual to a bedtime one.

As you can see from the representational pages above, there really isn't a lot of room in the diaries each day for writing in depth--they're just for hitting the highlights. When things need to get wordy I turn to my journals, which I've been keeping in these composition books since 1979, the year I graduated college. I was already married by then and feeling the need to write out quite a lot of angst into my journal, which has become my non-judgmental best friend. More often than not, these journals are where I vent when I'm sad or mad--you know, when you're trying to work off steam and/or tears and figure out life's tough parts without dragging somebody else down with you. Journal doesn't care. Journal just listens. Journal gives me no drama. Journal does give me a lot of laughs when I go back sometimes and read what I wrote, but that's another story.

There's also a whole period recorded somewhere around the middle of these journals when I was doing the three morning pages a day for The Artist's Way. That was really nurturing. If you are a creative person and feel stuck at all I recommend this book (series of books, actually) by Julia Cameron.

Sometimes the journal-keeping can get out of hand. I have realized lately that I have some sort of fixation with this.
Evidence
(from top left):
1. Leather-bound journal my daughter gave me for Mother's Day which I use for my  reader's journal
(one page for each book--title, author, when read, critique) 
2. Literary response journal started with my English students when I was teaching at Collins Hill High School in Lawrenceville, GA
3. Sketch diary filled with Celtic knot drawing practice and some design sketches that creep in
(they always creep in!)
4. Gardening journal
5. Wine journal
6. Knitting journal
(of course!)
7. Artist's Way journal that came in a fun box with other creative prompts
8. This blog!

Clearly I am a habituated life-logger and figknits is just more way to keep track of life--mostly the yarny parts, but life leaks in here, naturally. The biggest difference is that this one is to share with you. I like that.

Do you keep journals? Diaries? Calendars? Logs? If not, I hope I've inspired you to start. It's a good habit.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Snail Mail

Hi!

I never expected to be back so soon, but I heard about something from Clara in her Knitter's Review newsletter this morning and I just have to tell!

February has been designated as LetterMo! That's write, I mean right (hahaha)--a pledge to send some snail mail to one person a day the whole month. Since I was already planning to use all the beautiful cards and stationary Fred gave me for Christmas, now's a good time to do it!
Will you join us?

Since it's the second day of the month, let's send two today.

P.S. Clara, look out--you may be like the judge in Miracle on 34th Street when all the mailworkers come tromping in with bags and bags of mail to Santa. Whoops!

ETA: You can send snail mail to me at Jen Hagan, P.O. Box 6982, Tacoma, WA 98417.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Best Laid Schemes

I was going to call it "best laid plans," but when I looked it up I was reminded that Robert Burns said "best laid schemes o' mice and men, Gang aft agley" in his "To a Mouse" poem instead of plans. We like to mix things up a lot, right?

Thanks for being patient with my leaving you with only my Monday favorites posts for the past couple of weeks while I've been working on TICSY things (Things I Can't Show You, that is!) While I'm not showing you things I can at least let you in on what to expect this year. I've been making plans...carefully. Not like I did at the end of last year when I had a relapse of Wonder Woman Syndrome and tried to do too much...and failed. No. I've had a whole month now to think, really think and imagine what will honestly be possible to get done instead of what I wish and hope would get done.

I've been using these pretty notebooks and journals and diaries to help me plan. I am an avid diary keeper, but more on that later. This particular stack is (from bottom) my design notebook (in which I try to take notes as I work on a design so as not to completely forget all those sniggy details), my journal (in which I write out my angers and sorrows instead of blurting them out to everyone...and occasionally make planning notes and sketches in the margins), my diary (see note to previous item), my sketchbook, and on top is my business weekly log. The last couple of months last year I wrote out a plan that took in several weeks at a time (like I did in grad school, which my mom referred to in her comment on a post I so bravely wrote about said faulty plan), but this year I am only writing large goals on one list and filling in one week at a time in accordance with those goals. Whew. Wish me luck. It's working better so far! 

Note to Mom: If you are reading, you may want to skip the next section. (It makes her weak in the knees when I frog my knits.)

One day last week I had a ripping session after getting honest with myself and needing to purge old hopes and dreams (in the form of half-knit designs that had no right to live). One of them was in this box, and had been for years--I have no idea how long. It was a cardigan featuring an unfortunate cable with seed stitch and the thing needed to vanish. I closed my eyes, focused on lovely thoughts, and let her rip! Another one tidily eradicated was a pullover that came out horribly misshapen and boxy, despite its stitch pattern being lovely. That stitch pattern will return in a different form, I assure you.

This is a knitting box that my dad made for me about 30 years ago. He dabbled in woodworking (between jobs) and if he'd been a happier man, he might have been able to continue. This is the only piece I still have from him, apart from a couple of turned wooden bowls of his making. He passed away a few years ago, mostly from unhappiness, so I like to imagine he's better now and glad I'm finally using the box again. I have to decide which project goes in it next.

Right now it only houses this little shell. Shell, you're gonna have to scram once the yarn comes along. You might snag it.

Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah. What to expect of me this year...
I am finishing up a charity design and then a commissioned design (the TICSY) and then I am jumping right into a baby dress design for Figheadh. That one will be another of my "pairing sock yarns" projects. Can't wait to show you!

Then, by golly, Figheadh is going to have a real shawlette design...I mean one with lace all over it. Yeah.

I also mean to make March crochet month around here, just as it has been declared National Crochet Month by CGOA. You will see some hooks flying in about a month from now. Maybe I'll design a crochet shawlette, too!

For the fall I plan to roll out at least one women's cabled sweater design for Figheadh (maybe two!), because as much as I enjoyed all those Fundamental cardigans and the Wanda Nell, I am hankering for some cables. Sound good?

Figheadh will also gain a couple of cabled earflap hats next fall. Yes, those are the ones I said would come out in January, but I decided to let them slide so I could jump on some warm weather designs (like the shawlettes and baby dress). They'll be worth the wait.

I hope to get a cabled blanket design released for Figheadh as well. Yes, it will be raining cables again!

I also plan to be able to release a few freelance designs as PDF downloads once the rights revert back to me. Stay tuned for those.

And you may be wondering about Junebug Days. Yes, of course, there will be Junebug Days. It will be completely different from last year's event, though, so also stay tuned for that.

Okay, that's just some of the fun in store. Between and around all of that, I will be doing the Monday posts, the WIP posts, the UFO posts, and all the other general nonsense.

Thank you so much for joining me!