Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Yarn 3, Jen 0

I had a long weekend this weekend and I thought I would take the time to start on some of my "selfish knitting." The knitting gods kicked me in the butt. I guess my slipper knitting and cowl knitting had gone off relatively well over the last couple of months, and it was time for the knitting universe to knock some humility back into me. Here is the story of the most unsuccessful knitting weekend ever, and its happy conclusion.

First, I thought I would use this beautiful Knitpicks Comfy yarn in a beautiful chocolate color that I got to make a sweater out of. After knitting a couple of swatches, I began to think that maybe this wasn't the right yarn for the pattern I had in mind. So I thought, no worries, I will make this beautiful Debbie Bliss vest that I found on Rav. The color would be perfect for these beautiful vining designs. That's a beautiful picture of it to the left. As you can see, I think it is really beautiful. It would have been so pretty if it had worked. After casting on 140-some-odd stitches and knitting in stockinette stitch for 4 inches, I got to the good part! I was so excited! I knit my first row...and the pattern was wrong. I counted my stitches again. I counted the stitches in the pattern again. The pattern was definitely wrong. Not one to give up easily (or to recognize clear defeat when it is screaming in my face) I knitted another row. Nope, pattern is still wrong. Yarn 1, Jen 0.

Ok, so I was down, but not out. While I was knitting those 4 inches for that vest I realized that the yarn was actually much sturdier than I originally thought. Maybe, I said to myself, maybe I could make that beautiful Pearl sweater pattern that I have been coveting for so long. I got all excited about knitting again! I forgot my (very recent) defeat at the hands of Debbie Bliss! I cast on 170-some-odd stitches. At least I didn't have to knit 4 inches to find out the pattern was wrong. Yarn 2, Jen 0.

Now, I have to admit- I haven't double checked the pattern on this one, so it is quite possible that the mistake was entirely mine. But two beat-downs in one day? It was too much. I had to take a break, so Sam and Wicket and I joined Natalie and Abby for a hike at Pilot Mountain. Got some fresh air, hiked around, thawed out a little bit....a good time was had by all.

But the good times were had only for a little while, and then it was back to my battle with the yarn. The fresh air and majestic heights had reinvigorated me. I was ready to take on another project. So I decided to work on this men's scarf that I am making for my brother, AJ. He likes blue, which is perfect because it is such a good color on him. So I tried the Eco-Ways (i think Bernat) Bamboo and soy blend (on sale!!) in a gorgeous cobalt color. I'll make this short- great project, wrong yarn. Yarn 3, Jen 0.

I returned to AC Moore to give them back their blue yarn. Feeling despondent, I looked around for more blue yarn. I couldn't find anything that looked just right. Chris was with me and, sensing my lack of enthusiasm, he grabbed a beautiful gray alpaca blend and said "This is the one I want for my scarf." I had talked about making him a scarf for a while, but had never actually gotten around to it because he is so particular about his clothes and I didn't want to invest a week of my life in making something he wouldn't wear. But here he was, telling me he wanted a scarf, and PICKING OUT HIS OWN YARN. Could it be? I looked at the yarn. I felt the softness of the alpaca and thought it would be great for a scarf. I started to get excited about the whole process allover again, but I was reserving the true excitement until I had a project that worked in my hands. I said, "I don't know if it will work." Chris, always insightful after hearing me whine all weekend about knitting gone bad, says, "You knitters need a hobby with more certainty." So true. He is so right.

Now, at this point in the story I should stop and tell you that this post should be called Yarn 4, Jen 0, because the beautiful men's scarf didn't work in Chris' chosen yarn either. But I don't care anymore. The only way to beat the knitting gods is to keep knitting, even when it seems like nothing is going to work. And, as Chris says, " I just want a scarf." So forget that beautiful pattern until I find the right yarn, and Chris is getting a simple, masculine, ribbed scarf. Who knows? Maybe I will even throw a cable in there. It's the beginning of my comeback.

I promised you a happy ending. Has anyone (besides my mom, who I made explain the pattern to me) seen the Noro striped scarf? It was super-popular a couple of years ago on Rav, but that was a) before I knew about Rav and b) during my first year of law school, when I had, for allCintents and purposes, dropped off the face of the Earth. I am back now. This is such a pretty scarf, and if you want to see all the amazing variations on the pattern that clever people have devised, check it out here. Now, that amazing variegation is achieved by using not one, but two variegated yarns in a simple 1x1 rib. Nothing could be easier. But Noro Silk Garden is unbelievably expensive, so I went searching for options and found Patons SWS. The SWS is thicker than Noro, but very beautiful and well, about 1/3 of the price. I decided to start with a scarf for my father in law, who looks great in blacks and greys. I am using a variegated grey, white, and black yarn and a solid dark grey. I think is will be amazing. I will let you know. Send me good vibes- I really need to chalk up some good knitting kharma.

Also this weekend, I started doing something very very very exciting....I started planning my garden! This is a little bit of self-flagellation, since it is JANUARY and I can't do **anything** in the garden until **at least** the first week of MARCH. But it was so beautiful out this weekend that I thought that I would at least look at the garden book and see what I wanted to do. We learned so much last year from our first garden, which was pretty successful, especially in the tomato and squash department. But this year we are going for variety because if all you plant is tomatoes then around July to start to make new friends just so you can give away tomatoes! So variety is the name of the game. And a continuous harvest. That is the other name of the game. So far, here are the big new superstars that I am planning to grow: Eggplant! Corn! Pumpkins! Cantaloupe! Butternut squash! Winter squash! As well as our oldies but goodies: tomatoes! Lettuce! Spinach! Chard! Green Beans! Yum! So anyone who feels like turning soil and playing with compost come March, you just say the word and I will put you to work and feed you a good dinner!

And one last thing, before I have to go to Immigration Law. Alice was here to visit this weekend and we had a great time! She went to Angelina's Teas with me to check out the amazing selection. I got this incredible Chamomile Vanilla bedtime tea because Chris does not like plain chamomile, and because I really do like vanilla. It is delicious. Alice went all out and tried three teas- maple blueberry, ginger rooibos, and a third one I can't remember now. She also had a cup of chocolate chai tea that smelled like heaven in a cup. This place is so much fun.

Ok, no more wasting time. Thanks for reading all about my knitting disasters and being interested in my silly life.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Gloriousness of Tea!

Hello friends:

Once upon a time, long, long, ago, I drank coffee. I had a special relationship with coffee. It was my moon, my sun, and my stars. I drank coffee with breakfast. I drank coffee after lunch. I drank coffee after dinner. I drank coffee in between those meals. I could tell the differences in the different Starbucks roasts. I would sit in coffee shops and drink cup after cup until I couldn't even see straight from all of the caffeine. And then I would crash.

Yes, my friends, I had a coffee problem. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't focus. I couldn't even finish a thought in my head. And, after an especially grueling day of marathon coffee-drinking, I even had a fluttering in my heart. That is when I knew I had to kick that terrible, terrible habit.

So for two days, two, horrible, dreadful, godawful days, I detoxed from my relationship with coffee. It was the worst weekend of my life. I had a headache that originated somewhere in my spine and radiated through my legs before pushing itself out of my eyes. And I could...not...move. (Those ellipses are meant to show you how slow I was moving) I had previously planned a bbq for some friends of mine from school, so I couldn't cancel it. I thought I was holding it together pretty well until one of my friends later recalled to me of that night that "you just looked so sad."

Well, I was sad. I was sad that I was not drinking coffee.

So, I had to learn to replace the old habits with better habits, since I was clearly not responsible enough to drink coffee. I started drinking tea. I was able to limit my tea intake. And I am happy to say, almost two years later, that I have stuck with the tea.

Here's the happy ending-- tea is amazing!! There are so many more varieties and flavors of tea than coffee and it is so much better for you. I'm telling you this long, drawn-out story about tea because my friend Julie and I discovered a tea shop here in the Dash that has taken my tea drinking to a whole new level. Here is a link- I warn you that the website is not great....

btw- how cute is that tea set on the homepage?

This guy has no fewer than a billion varieties of loose tea, and they are cheap-ish. I got 6 oz. of Russian Earl Grey for 9 bucks! And he is wonderful because if you go in there and say, for example, "I like green teas that are minty and citusy," he finds the right tea for you and he is spot on. So when all of you friends from various, far-flung cities come to see me, I am taking you there.

Another cool thing about today is that my friend Jody, who I work with, and who I think may be reading this too! likes to trade recipes. Today she brought in a recipe for black bean brownies!! No joke!!! And I looked at the recipe and it looks like they could be pretty good-- I think the black beans will have a cakey consistency like regular brownies, but there is hardly any flour or sugar in them and they have, like, 1/3 less calories. I think Jody is going to try to make them first and see how they are and if they are amazing, I will post the recipe for everyone sho we can all indulge our healthy sweet teeth.

P.S. Thundersnowbaby, you are the coolest! Thanks for commenting so nicely!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Yeah friends!

I can't believe people are actually reading this! I'm glad that you are all as excited about reading about my adventures as I am about writing about them! I hope you will all feel comfortable to include your fun stuff here, or just to tell me that this is all not really as interesting as I think it is and not to waste any more cyberspace. Either way. :)

Yesterday, I told you all about the delicious granola that I made. Well, I had some today for breakfast with a little french vanilla yogurt and I was over the moon. I mean, pure deliciosity. With the yogurt, it really does taste like a creamsicle. I didn't even add the blueberries because there are so many fruity flavors in the granola, I just didn't think it needed anything else. Success!

Not so successful was the first Chris-friendly salad I made for us last night. It was an asian steak salad with peanut sesame dressing. I think the idea is great, but it needs some work. It may actually be as simple as salt...I just think that a little more salt in the dressing could have brought out all of the peanut, sesame and spice flavors. As it was, it was kind of bland. It was pretty, though. Here's a picture. The actual salad was great- it had baby greens, red peppers, sno peas, carrots and red cabbage in it. Very asisan. We will have to try it again some time soon.

Chris was funny about his first day of healthy eating. When I asked him if he liked it (and braced for his answer, because I actually didn't like it that much) he said "It doesn't matter if I like it. This diet is war. It is just me versus my body and I'm kicking my ass!" He's a trip sometimes.

I also made a new salad tonight, which, like the steak salad, was beautiful but not as good as it could have been. Dressing fail, two nights in a row. The recipe for this salad, which was called a loaded spinach salad, called for blue cheese. Now, blue cheese dressing makes me gag just thinking about it, so I made a red wine vinaigrette. The dressing was delicious, but not right for this salad. Ah, I guess you live and you learn. One day I hope you will all be reading about the amazing salads that I made that worked out well, but for now, we can all laugh at my dressing failures. Also just like the salad last night, this one had amazing stuff in it. Greens, carrots, eggs, pecans, and BEETS! I think that honey mustard with it will be the perfect combination. I'll let you know how it goes.

Here is a picture of tonight's salad before I mixed it all up. I thought it was so beautiful and colorful.

I think tomorrow is a fail-proof salad: salmon dill salad. Should be easy and we will be able to chalk one up in the win column. Then Chris will look like this:
Isn't he cute?

Last thing for tonight...I was listening to the radio on Sunday when I was making granola and I caught one of my favorite NPR programs of all time- Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett. I never heard this program in Charlotte or Raleigh, so I don't know if it is new or if it is only in NC on WFDD. But, if you are all looking for some amazing conversations to fill your time when you are doing something mundane, tune into Krista. The first program I ever heard was one where she was talking to the director a thinktank (I guess that is what you would call it) called the Play Institute or some other amazing thing like that. He was a former work-aholic doctor who now researches the importance of play in our lives. And the show just blew my mind and reminded me of the importance of having fun...maybe this blog came out of that show in some way.

Anyways, Speaking of Faith is not really a religious program, so for those of you, who like me, aren't certain that you and God need a middle man , don't run away from it! She discusses really amazing topics and most of them are totally non-denominational, even if they do touch on things that are connected to spirituality. Check it out here! And I even found a link to the show about with the Play Institute guy here! They have the ENTIRE UNEDITED INTERVIEW on that page! Could I get any happier? Enjoy!

Tomorrow: teas and balzac?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holiday knitting, fairy tales for adults,and creamsicle granola!

So there are a few things that I am really excited about right now that I thought I would share with you.

1. French Press Knits Felted Slippers: It's a little late for holiday gifts, unless, like me, you are still trying to catch up. This year, I made (or am in the process of making) slippers for all of the special ladies in my life. If you are a knitter who hasn't run across this slipper pattern now, RUN! Don't walk- to this blog:

Melynda Bernardi has posted a few patterns on this site and they are all lovely. I also made the Breckenridge Cowl for my dear friend Alice (and I have some yarn set aside to make one of my own too!) But what really stole my heart were the slippers! They are adorable, super-easy, and fast! Perfect for gifts and so, so cozy when the weather is as cold as it has been here!

I think I have made six pairs so far and about four more to go, one of which is knitted and sewn and not yet felted. I discovered while I was making the first few pairs that it really makes eco-sense, if you are concerned about such things, to felt more than one pair at a time (especially if you can't figure out how to set the water level on your new washing machine). The pattern is really straight forward and worked well with all of the yarns that I tried. My favorite yarns for this project were Paton's Classic Wool (but avoid the tweed colors, which lose their oompf in the felting process) and Wool Pak Yarns NZ. The Paton's yarn is much less heavy, but I think the Wool Pak creates a much sturdier, cozier slipper. I think the price is about the same too, when you consider that I got two pairs of slippers out of one skein of Wool Pak yarn. I hope I am remembering that correctly.

Also, I just noticed in that picture that you can probably see Sammy hair all over the pink slippers, which I kept for myself. He'll be 14 this year, so we don't fault him for shedding all over the place anymore. I think he deserves to shed wherever he wants. Don't you agree? How could you get mad at that face?

2. Creamsicle Granola: YUM! Chris is really motivated about losing weight and gaining muscle this year, and I am officially on board. He thinks that he is going to do this by eating nothing but fruits, vegetables, and water. Having fallen off a diet wagon or two in my life, I started looking for healthy recipes that we could both incorporate into our lives. I love to have yogurt and granola and blueberries for breakfast, but I have been eating much of it lately because I have had a really hard time finding affordable granola that is actually healthy and not loaded with excess sugar. Well, no longer. I found this recipe for citrus sesame granola that I tweaked a little bit to create this amazing concoction today! I left out the cashews intentionally because the nuts were getting to be too expensive, and because I wanted to use nuts that I had on hand. I left out the sesame unintentionally because I forgot to get some at the market. I added dried cherries for the fruit, and the result was spectacular. I can't wait to try it for breakfast tomorrow. I will have to let everyone know what Chris' verdict on the thing is.

3.Stardust: Since I am out of school, I actually have time to read non-fiction, which makes me veryveryvery happy. My sweet mom gave me a great book narrated by a dog, Enzo, called The Art of Racing in the Rain. It was such a sweet read- I'll warn you now that if you are prone to crying, you should get out the tissues before the last 20 pages or so. I finished that one in a couple of days because I couldn't put it down, and then while I was at this wonderful, spirited bookstore in Asheville this week I ran across Stardust. Now, this was one of our favorite movies that we discovered last year. I'm not much for watching movies over and over again, but I've probably seen this one 10 times now. I'm also a little cautious about books that are turned into movies, but this one is such a fun read. It is an adult fairy tale about a land that is filled with magic and adventure as it is explored by a young man who is out to find his heart's desire. Of course, I can't tell you much more, but everyone should read it. And then watch the movie. Over and over again.

New year, new resolutions!

Hello, all!

Happy 2010! I hope that everyone had a great holiday season!

As an antidote to the usual new year's resolutions, I decided to spend this year focusing on the things that really make me happy. After two years of law school, I realized that some of my favorite things have been neglected, and I am certain that I can rectify that with a little determination to have more fun (and some help from my friends). I hope that you will all join me!

So this blog will focus on the great, creative things that I love to do and I hope that my equally great and creative friends and family will let me steal bits and pieces of their projects and interests to share here too. The way I envision it, this blog will be about knitting, cooking, gardening, reading, and maybe, just maybe, if I can work it in (and if I can find a power cord for my sewing machine, which was unfortunately lost in a move) sewing debut. We shall see.

This is a great time to start this blog, too! The cold, cold winter we are having here in North Carolina has given me tons of excuses to stay inside and dream up new projects and sift through new recipes! Don't get me wrong- I am looking forward to the warmer weather and gardening season, but right now I am perfectly happy to curl up after a good dinner with a good book!

Hope you all enjoy it!