Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Essence of Simplicity: White Bread

I've made my share of fancy loaves - mustard-flavored,veggie-based, saffron-infused, long-rising sourdoughs - but it doesn't always need to be that way.  Over the weekend, I felt strongly that I was ready to take it back to basics.  It doesn't get much simpler than a nice white bread, and before you think "but that's the unhealthiest of them all!" - this isn't the preservative-laden version that's so common on store shelves.  Real ingredients make real bread, albeit really simple bread.

1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
4 tsp olive oil
3 cups bread flour
3 and 1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast

As is my standard, this makes a 1.5 pound loaf, and is of course baked on the white bread cycle on your machine (what else would you use it for?).  It may originally look pretty dry when it's mixing up, but it quickly turns into the perfect ball of dough, and bakes in to a light and fluffy loaf.  It's a Wonder, when you think about it!  ;)

It's ok to make bread simple, and to just have something relatively plain (yet familiar) to enjoy in the simple ways we've become accustomed to throughout our lives.  Cold and hot sandwiches, breadcrumbs in meatloaf, toast, slathered in butter - you have a blank canvas and ideas from your childhood to work with!  A minor obsession of mine is the tuna melt.  I had one for dinner tonight and I'll probably have 3 more as the week goes on.  How's this for screen-licking goodness?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dog Days

It's not often that I'm in the company of a dog (my cat would be outraged at such a thing), but once a year I get to watch my mom's dog, Liesl, while Mom takes a day trip up to Infineon Raceway to watch the NASCAR race.

In the grand scheme of things it's not much different than the usual life - just a different setting and a different animal.  Liesl spends most of her time napping or doing her own thing anyway, so it leaves me plenty of time to keep up with my knitting or watch whatever junk is on tv.  But sometimes Liesl commands an audience, so I've wandered out to the garden a couple times with her to see what's going on.  She'll investigate the insects flying near the flowers and bark at an imagined foe, but mostly it's all good for sitting in the sun.

It's a gorgeous day (after being so cold this morning), and it's almost too hot to stay out there for too long.  Sometimes it's ok to sit inside and quietly watch the world.

Friday, June 24, 2011

50% Sock Progress - One Down, One to Go!

Not too long ago I shared excitement with a new project, and I'm proud to share that I'm 50% done - I have an entire complete sock!  This pattern hits the target of looking beautiful but not actually being as complex as it looks, nor is it mindless and frustrating.  I love it!

So I've accomplished half of this project, now I've got to get started on the other one!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Yarn! Planning the Next Big Thing...

I know, I just had a big "planning/next big thing" post, but with a new KAL coming up I had to get planning, and that's how the pretties above came to live with me.  You may remember that a while ago I had a failed color combo in a striped shawl (the color combo falling firmly between "raging Harry Potter fan" and "fast food nation").  But when our group planned the next KAL to knit the same pattern, I HAD to try again!  This time I picked up 2 skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light - in Tomato and Milk.  Not only are they pretty, they sound delicious!  Unfortunately for now I have to put them away - the KAL doesn't start until July 1, which gives me some time to play with other things for now.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Back to Bread - Strawberry Bread with Chocolate

Most of the time I prefer savory bread.  Something I can put egg salad or grilled cheese on, or sop up the sauce after a good plate of pasta.  And really, with those descriptions I'm being generous - tearing off a big hunk of french bread and eating it plain is oh-so-good.

But "most of the time" does not equal "all of the time", and there are times when I want my dessert in bread form.  Hey, it requires even less work than cookies!  And with the inclusion of strawberry jam, we can pretend it's healthy.  ;)

2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup strawberry jam
1 egg
2 tbsp butter, cut
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups bread flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer Ghiradelli)
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (more Ghiradelli!  Also, the mini ones mean the chocolate is more spread out)

This is a 1.5 pound loaf, and it's baked on the regular ol' white bread cycle.  My machine has a signal after the first mix has ended at which you add additional ingredients, this is the ideal time to add the chocolate chips as the more they get worked up, the more likely they are the become a melty mess.  Which really doesn't sound terrible.

I haven't really been patient enough to figure out what the best way to eat this is, besides just eating it straight - butter makes everything better, but it's really not necessary here.  Perhaps if you're feeling crazy, Nutella?

In parting, have a moody emo chocolatey photo:

Friday, June 17, 2011

New Socks! (and I REALLY like these ones!)

I have had these on the needles for 10 months.  Now, THEY ARE FINISHED!

These Sidesteps (Rav link) were on my "must finish before starting new fun things" list, and while they were slow-going for a while because of all the 1x1 twisted rib and small cable crosses, I really, REALLY like them!  They fit perfectly and are so pretty.

I wouldn't knit them again (they almost celebrated a birthday on the needles!) but I sure am glad I knit them once.

And now I can finally start new things!  I have big ideas!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Exciting New Project - So Many Parts to Love!

For the last few weeks I have been trying so hard to finish up some older ones, and put myself on a sort of "time out" from starting new projects until I got some things finished.  Now, as there were days that I didn't WANNA knit what I had on the needles, stomp, that gave my plenty of time to plan my next project, and plan I did!!  As I planned, this started to turn in to a project of luxury - I wanted the pattern to be something I would love to knit and love even more to wear.  I wanted the yarn to make me stop and look with its beautiful colors, and be a pleasure to touch while knitting and wearing.  As I went on, I even wanted my needles to be fun and cooperative and a joy to use.

First, the pattern.  Socks.  I go through cycles of wanting socks, shawls, sweaters, scarves, and socks again.  As much as I was fed up with the socks on my needles, I love knitting socks and love the portability and general ease and of course the final product!  I looked to my bookshelf to inspiration, and reached for my newest book.  knit. sock. love. by Cookie A, quite possibly the most brilliant sock designer we've seen so far!  This particular book is special, as it's a gift from my friend Kate, AND she got it signed by Cookie A herself!  Yes.  This is the book that I would work from for this project.  Marlinda seemed to be just the right combo of interesting, simple, and able to keep my excitement.  This would make me happy.

I had my sock pattern.  The next step?  Yarn.  I sorted my Rav stash by sock weight, and was a little alarmed to find that I have 51 different sock yarns in my stash!  Buying new yarn was obviously NOT an option, because that would just be absurd!  So I paid close attention to the options I already had.  Cookie A's socks tend to really shine in solid or semi-solid colors, so that eliminated 75% of my options.  Next I had to figure out what color I preferred to work with at that moment, and what would be the most luxurious.  I was again able to eliminate several options, and finally selected a beautiful skein by SweetGeorgia that I picked up on a trip to Vancouver last year (was it that long ago already??).  70% merino, 20% cashmere, and 10% nylon for strength.  That combined with THAT reddish orange color - do you have any questions why I picked this option?  My only question is - how have I not used this yet??!

I can be picky about needles, but only in a general sense.  I like metal, hate bamboo, prefer circulars, don't go for straights, and want the pointiest needles I can get.  These patterns are really written to be knit on Double Pointed Needles, and as I hadn't used mine in so long, all my sets were all in a state of bent, repurposed ,or lost.  I needed new needles.  I did something crazy, and I SPLURGED on some Signature Needles.  But hey, it's the first $$ I spent on this project, isn't it?  I ordered my DPNs and they arrived today, and boy are the beautiful.  Signature Stiletto points are known to be wicked sharp, and the sort of "brushed" texture is very nice to the touch.  This was really the cherry on the sundae, and though not part of the finished product, would go a ways to make the actual knitting enjoyable.  I'm so excited to get started!

But first, I have one more project I HAVE to finish.  But we should have work in progress photos on these special socks by the weekend!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Knitting: A Whole New Kind of Fiber

On Ravelry, there is a lovely little group called the 3 Country Shawl KAL, where myself, my buddy from Canada, and my buddy from England are all mods and we have a rotating schedule of things to knit (or crochet!) along to.  There's generally a big, 3 month project going, and on the off months we do minis - fun little things to keep us busy until we start the next big project.  As we're getting so close to Summer (I can't wait, it's my favorite season), we wanted to do something a little different, and suggested a little Summer knitting in a fiber that hadn't been used before.  We figured it was good motivation to step outside the comfort zone.

For me, that unused fiber would be cotton.  I love using animal fibers and have been hesitant to try plant fibers, they're not usually people's favorite fibers to use.  But after I had such a good experience with linen, I figured "why not?"  I bought some kitchen cotton years ago when I was first playing around with crochet, and it's finally time to use it.

So I'm working on cotton cleaning scrubbies.  So far, I have one done.

Unofficially, it also makes for a fashionable 1950s style kitty cat hat.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

New warm SOCKS

And they're just in time for June.  :D

I've spent most of today playing with a new loaf of bread (have I got a good one to share with you!), and getting some knitting done.  I've finally completed something, and now I'm trying to decide if I should be practical and continue working on current WIPs, or if I should play with something COMPLETELY new!

While I decide, have a look at socks!

That cat just can't stay out of my pictures...