Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Santa reads my blog!

And I must have been a VERY good crafty bitch this year! The amazing gifts I got for Christmas will be providing fodder for this blog for quite a little bit, I think so I'm not going to go into the details of everything I got right now. But for starters, let's just say that my wishes of receiving the Handmade Nation documentary were heard and answered.
I watched it yesterday and it was amazing. Honestly, I would recommend it to any of you. A word of warning, though. You've probably figured out by now that I'm sort of a serial crafter. Some people stick to just knitting or crocheting or whatever but not me. I'm sort of all over the map. Knitting one day, sewing the next, making candles another day. Honestly I try anything that looks interesting to me. That's where this movie gets a little dangerous.
I watched it with notebook and pen in hand and I now have a list of about 10 new crafts I'm planning to experiment with. As if I have the time.
On the plus side, it means I'll have plenty to write about. Anyway, for now, the gist is, see this movie. Either buy the DVD, which I now am very happy to own, or go to one of the nationwide screenings that are listed on the link I gave above.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Movie on my wishlist

Just a short one today. I really am trying to get back to doing this, it's just been a little busy lately. I'm Trying to gear up to sell some of my craftiness, so that's been occupying a lot of my time. Also, tons of handmade Christmas things this year. I'm knitting a ton of Christmas presents and my boyfriend's mother came up with a cool idea for some gifts she's giving and I was helping her with it. She was giving some necklaces and wanted to put this in cloth bags. I used some simple cotton fabric and sewed them into gift bags. Then, to save myself the trouble of hemming the tops and also because I thought it would look kinda festive, I used pinking shears along the top edge. We tied them with some silver and gold elastic cord. Totally cute and it didn't take me long at all!

But that's so not what I planned on posting about. I really wanted to tell you guys about the DVD that's at the top of my list this Christmas. I was reading the Alt-Weekly, The Shepherd Express,
and stumbled across an article about a documentary made my Faythe Levine, who happens to be a resident of my newly-adopted hometown of Milwaukee, WI.

Her documentary is called Handmade Nation and as her blog describes it, it's about "the rise of DIY and the new wave of art, craft and design." I don't know about you, but sounds right up my alley. It's being showcased at various places around the country and is also available on DVD. Sadly, I can't make the showing in my area, so I'm going to have to hope that a little elf is reading my blog (ahem, DBF :)

Also, if anyone has already seen it, I'd love to know what you thought of it. Please post your comments.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Farmers Market Success!!!

Just got back from the farmers market... I am in HEAVEN!!! The peaches smell amazing, the blueberries look spectacular... it's getting to be that time of the summer around here where everything is really coming into its own.
I don't usually do much with the blueberries because I don't have the willpower to stay away from them long enough to bake something... usually I throw them on my cereal or my favorite, mix them with some Greek yogurt and a dollop of honey... soooo good.
I haven't decided what to do with the peaches yet... I think a cobbler would be awesome, but with summer vacations, there isn't really anyone but me around to eat it. And I don't think my thighs would appreciate that. We'll see what happens, but they may just go the way of the blueberries. Although, my favorite way to make peaches is usually to cut them in half, take out the pit, brush them with balsamic vinegar and grill them. The vinegar sweetens up and carmelizes so nicely. And it's a great way to use under-ripe fruit. I don't have a grill in this apartment, but the grill pan usually works fine too.
One more good one, is to press the cut side into a mixture of cinnamon and sugar (or just brown sugar if you like) and then put them in a hot pan, cut side down to carmelize the sugar. If they're big, you may need to stick the pan in the over for a couple minutes to warm the fruit all the way through. Either of these methods go amazingly well with some vanilla ice cream, but they work great plain too!
Of course, my favorite find of the week has to be my new rosemary plant. I'm slowly building a container garden on my fire escape and I've been jonesin' for a rosemary plant for so long. I tried to grow it from seed but as it turns out, that's not the easiest thing to do. So then I decided I would look for a small potted one. Turns out, very few places around here carry them... but finally, today, one of the farms at the market had some great ones... and I'm not talking a little bitty thing, this thing is MASSIVE! Seriously, within minutes, my whole car started smelling like rosemary...
The other day, when I told my mom I wanted a rosemary plant she said "but what would you do with it?"
Um, what can't you do with fresh rosemary??? Honestly, whatever veggies are in season and sitting on your counter (like that gorgeous zucchini I have at home... and those bell peppers), cut em up, toss in olive oil... add garlic and rosemary and roast it in the oven... easy as that... eggplant, tomatoes, it's all good!
Also, when I was in Milwaukee a couple weeks ago, I ate brunch at a place called Trocadero and they served my eggs with rosemary potatoes that were to. die. for. I'm hoping to figure out how to recreate whatever they do to them. Or at least come up with something that's a close second. This new plant is big enough that I should be able to do plenty of experimenting.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Need ideas

Yesterday I noticed that I've basically become a vegetarian. I think in large part it has to do with living alone and not wanting to cook large amounts of meat for one person. But there's also health and environmental benefits to not eating meat that are pretty important to me.
I wouldn't say that I've sworn off meat completely, I still eat it when other people make it for me and will occasionally order it out, but for the most part, I don't really miss it.
But I do notice that my vegetarian culinary skills leave something to be desired.
I eat a lot of veggie burritos, quesadillas, pasta.... I do have a recipe for lentil chili that I LOVE (can't remember if I've posted it here yet. If not, stay tuned...)
But I could really use some new meatless options in the repertoire so please, share your faves!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Plans for tonight

I'm planning on a Martha-style evening tonight.... I need to bake off a loaf of bread for sandwiches this week and I'm thinking some homemade granola is in order. I've been researching some different recipes, but I'm curious what people like in theirs (in terms of add-ins- fruit, nuts, etc.)

Leave a comment, let me know your faves!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Farmer's Market Pasta

Summer is definitely in full swing here in the garden state! I made a pilgrimage to the local farmer's market the other day and man, I was in heaven! Peaches and blueberries and tomatoes, oh my!
Anyway, I probably went way overboard, but it was so much fun. I get really excited about fresh, local produce. So last night, I started realizing I needed to do something with it. I wasn't in a particularly creative frame of mind, so I decided to just do what I love doing most: Chopping vegetables. Don't ask me why, it's my favorite task. There's something hypnotically soothing about it. So anyway, I came up with what I'm calling farmer's market pasta. It was super yummy and crazy filling... extremely healthy too! I'm not giving proportions because, to be totally honest, I didn't measure anything. Plus, it'll vary depending on the number you're cooking for. So here's what was in mine:
Whole wheat pasta
olive oil
cannellini beans
Crushed red pepper
Green bell pepper
Shredded Mozzarella

So here's what I did. Started out sauteing onion and garlic in a little olive oil. (I didn't use much. You end up gaining some liquid from the juice the tomato.)
Add diced up zucchini and bell pepper and continue to saute until veggies soften. (I went super light on the bell pepper because I think the flavor can kind of take over if you're not careful.)
Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Add beans (note: these, I didn't get from the farmer's market. They came from a can. But I needed some protein). Toss in a diced up fresh tomato and season a little more. Allow to saute for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, the pasta should be cooking, forgot to mention that part, I think.
Drain the pasta, and toss into the veggie mix. Just before serving, toss with shredded cheese. Awesome. Tasted like summer to me.

Now, one note. These are the veggies I used because they are what is currently fresh locally. Clearly, this is not a hard and fast recipe, so feel free to change it up based on the veggies that are local to you (I'm all for eating local whenever possible!) And by all means, please post a comment and tell me about what you used in yours!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trail Mix Cookies

Yes, yes... I've been ignoring you... but such is life... moving on.
I made this amazing cookie recipe a couple weeks ago for a trip I went on. They were a hit. Seriously, everyone raved about them. Even strangers I shared them with who were under no obligations of friendship to be nice to me. So I'm confident in saying they were really good.
Also, I know they were really good because they wrecked my diet for about a week. Eat them sparingly because they are NOT figure friendly. What can I say? I firmly believe there are some places you just don't scrimp. And cookies is one of them.
I also apologize in advance that there are no pictures to accompany this post. In my excitement over how well these turned out, I forgot to take them.
I call them Trail Mix Cookies because they remind me of the trail mix my mom used to make us when we were kids. Nothing very fancy, but she used to throw together a jar of peanuts, a box of raisins and a bag of chocolate chips and that was trail mix. And I loved it. I used lightly salted peanuts because that's what mom always put in the trail mix I remember, but you can use whatever you like. Anyway, here it is... if you make em, I'd love to hear your comments on em...

Trail Mix Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup backed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups quick cooking oats
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts

In a medium bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and slowly add to the creamed mixture. Mix in oats. Add chocolate chips, raisins, and peanuts. Cover and chill dough for an hour (longer is fine too).
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease cookie sheets. Roll dough into walnut size balls and place on cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart (these things definitely spread). Flatten each cookie slightly with a fork dipped in sugar.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
NOTE: the cookies will still seem a little too gooey when you take them out of the oven, but if the edges are beginning to brown, they are done. They will firm up the rest of the way as they cool on the baking sheet. If you bake them until they are no longer gooey, they will not be chewy later.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I've been a bad crafty bitch...

I know, I know.... you thought I'd abandoned you.... but I'm here now... so that's what really counts, right?

Anyway, I've got total spring fever lately, and I'm taking it out on my food. I'm going crazy with veggies like you would not believe!
My new favorite veggie side dish... roasted tomatoes. It's super easy. I just take a pint of grape tomatoes (you judge the quantity because I could eat a whole pint by myself), then I toss them in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.
I roast em at 350 until they just start to burst.

Another fave of mine comes from my gal Rachael Ray (btw, this link is directly to the recipe). This Tomato and Orzo salad is my total go to summer side. It gets raves at every barbecue I bring it to and my darling BF just can't get enough.
A short cut I've found: If I'm short on time, I replace the corn from the cob with a can of corn (the kernels, not the creamed kind)

One place not to scrimp: the basil. Use the fresh stuff. Trust me, it's worth it.

Enjoy :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Too much knitting?

I know, I know what you're thinking... "no such thing!" But lately, I've been on such a knitting jag that I keep forgetting to update y'all about it... well anyway, I've been a busy girl this week!
First, last week I finished up a pair of fingerless gloves using the Malabrigo scraps that were left after I finished making Calorimetry. (Not really scraps, I guess... it was close to 100 yards).
The Malabrigo makes them super cozy and the pattern is totally easy peasy. And in case you love em as much as I do, this is the pattern I used.
Seriously, super easy. They're knit flat and then sewn up the side. And the fingerlessness makes them perfect for my icebox of an office.

Next, I got started on a drop stitch scarf using some Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride. It knits up super quick because it's on big needles and I totally love it. I used this pattern and the only change I made was adding the tassels, which are super easy. For those, I cut 16 18-inch lengths of yarn. hold two of them together and fold them in half. Now you have a loop at one end and 4 loose ends at the other. Weave the loop end through the end of the scarf and then pull all the loose ends through the loop to knot it. I put four on each end, but you can obviously do as many as you want.

And as if that wasn't enough, on Saturday I decided to make a hat. It knit up super quick. It's the Aspen hat from Twinkle's Big City Knits and I made it using Sirdar Big Softie. No way was I gonna pay for the price of the Twinkle yarn! Big Softie is a great bargain. It's a blend of wool and acrylic and it's super soft and, of course, super bulky.

Here's the result:

Oh, almost forgot that I picked up those buttons at Modern Yarn, and I love them. They might be my favorite part of the hat :)

Friday, January 16, 2009


Late last week, they were predicting that my area would be hit with a pretty sizable snow storm. Since the weather people were being all doom and gloom about it, grocery stores were packed on Friday with people trying to make sure they had the necessities to get them through the weekend.

So, around 8 Friday night, I started to cast on a project. And around 8:30, I came to the realization that the stitches would not all fit on the needles I had. Now, the logical thing would have been to switch to a different project, for which I had all the necessary materials.

But that's not what I did. I decided that since seriously cold weather was being predicted, I just HAD to make myself a calorimetry. And I couldn't bear the thought of a snowed in weekend wasted because I didn't have the right knitting supplies. So at 8:30 on a Friday night, I threw on some sweats and high-tailed it to AC Moore (which closes at 9).

When I charged into the store on my mission, the clerk immediately informed me they would be closing shortly. I told her I understood. That I just needed one thing and I would be in and out very quickly. I got my needles and went up to the register. The clerk looked confused. I guess she'd never witnessed a needle emergency before. I felt I needed to explain. I'm still not sure why. So I explained. My needles are too short. It's going to snow... I wanted to make sure I was ready...

The response I got? "Wow.... ya know, most people just stock up on food before a storm..."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A little selfish

Christmas time felt a little bit odd for me. I guess I'm what you'd call a selfish knitter. I tend to knit primarily for me.... I mean, it makes sense if you think about it. In the first place, the main reason I started learning to knit was because I like to have my own unique style and I wanted to have a few one-of-a-kind pieces in my wardrobe...

So this Christmas was the first time I was doing a whole lot of knitting and getting nothing in return for it (oh, except for the joy of knowing that my loved ones loved something I made for them... blah blah blah...)

So anyway, now that the gifts are out of the way, I'm back to being selfish for a while and I think the deprivation has got me casting on compulsively. So far, I've got a pair of socks in the works, using a pattern called Basic Socks For the Family, which I got from the Mountain Fiber Folk Cooperative.
I'm using some Dream in Color Smooshy for those... yum...
I also cast on a pair of fingerless gloves which are coming along nicely. They're being made using the leftover yarn after I finished the first thing I cast on after Christmas, my Calorimetry.

And what perfect timing, I finished just in time for the North East to start freezing our little tooshies off... Seriously, guys, I would've worn it even if temps were in the 40s... enough with the deep freeze already...
I made this using some Malabrigo worsted. Say it with me now: mmmmmmmm.... Malabrigo.... I know... I understand exactly how you feel... The color is called Rosa Vieja (except you have to say it with an exclamation mark at the end. Like, Rosa Vieja!) And yes, since you asked, that is my lovely profile modeling it for you...

Anyway, this pattern is super easy and quick. My favorite part is that it's adjustable. Because it uses short rows to make the shape, the button holes are formed in the spots where you turn the work, which means they appear every few stitches the whole way around... brilliant! (I just want to go on record saying I hate those stupid Guinness commercials, but that was the first thing that popped into my head..... Sorry.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

How fearless are you?

My friend, The Spinning Hand, calls me a fearless knitter. The name came about because I've only been knitting for a little over a year and there's very little I won't try. I've already tackled a sweater, socks, lacework, circs and DPNs, and even designing my own pattern... There's pretty much two reasons I'm "fearless" in her eyes:

1) I don't know any better... I have a really bad habit of not reading directions all the way through... as in, I think a recipe looks good, so I decide that's what's for dinner. And it's not until I have water boiling on the stove and chopped vegetables all over the counter that I realize that it calls for an ingredient I don't have (and occasionally, have never heard of). In the case of knitting, I see a pattern, I really like the picture. I glance over the instructions, thinking they don't look so bad.... I cast on and I'm doing just fine... then, all of a sudden... what the heck does that mean???!?!? Yup... I come to an instruction that I don't even know the meaning of, let alone how to do it... (but of course I never learn my lesson)

and the reason I never learn my lesson brings us to:

2) There are no consequences. A couple key pieces of information about my friend, The Spinning Hand: Not only is she a fellow knitter, in her spare time, she's a knitting teacher. Oh, and at her day job, she sits two desks away from me. All it takes is a free cup of coffee over lunch to get her to give up the goods on whatever I don't know how to do.

But I'm finally being honest with myself that even with the moral support and the stupidity, there are things that I'm even afraid to try... and I covet these patterns so much... I even have the yarn to make these patterns... I've bought the needles... the pattern is ready and waiting... but I'm afraid to start.

So here it is, my confession of not-so-fearlessness... I am deathly afraid of cables... I love them so much... but I can't bring myself to cast on a cable pattern... so come on, make me feel better... tell me about your own personal crafting paralysis... what creative endeavors stop you in your tracks?


even better, what used to... and how did you overcome it??

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The scarf that means business

OK y'all... feast your eyes on the first item I've EVER designed myself!!! Yes, I'm fully aware of the fact that it's only a garter stitch scarf but I had to start somewhere! And I'm really liking the striping... I'm calling it The Scarf That Means Business because I designed it for BF to wear with his work close and overcoat... basically, I wanted something that looked polished but still kept him warm... not something bulky and fuzzy with tassels... The finer yarn keeps it from being too bulky, but the nubbiness of the garter stitch adds just enough bulk to be warm and cozy.

A note on changing colors... I'm sure that someone more talented than me knows a way easier way to change colors back and forth. I use the most basic possible way, which results in weaving in a ton of ends when you're done. Basically, here's what I do. When I come to the last row of the color I'm using, I leave about a 6-10 inch tail and break the yarn. I then start knitting the next row using the next color, leaving a tail at the beginning, the same way you would if you were starting a new ball in the middle of your project. Like I said, You'll be left with about 20 pieces of yarn that have to get sewn in, but it's not so bad. I think it took me about 20 minutes to do that.
So anyway, here it is...

Materials: 3 balls Rowan Cashsoft DK in Black
1 ball Rowan Cashsoft DK in grey (you actually only need about half a ball of the contrasting color if you have some lying around)
U.S. 8 needles

With MC, CO 36 stitches.

Knit using MC for 28 Rows

Switching to CC, knit 14 rows

Switching back to MC, knit 10 rows

With CC, knit 5 rows

With MC, knit until work measures 56 inches (or longer if desired. My BF is about 5'10" and this hits right around his pelvis, which is perfect for him. If adding additional length, remember to factor in 6" for the end pattern)

Switch to CC and knit 5 rows

With MC, knit 10 rows

With CC, knit 14 rows

With MC, knit 28 rows.

Bind off and weave in all ends.

I didn't actually block this at all. It was fine without it. But I'd imagine it would end up a bit longer if you block it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Green knitting

Lately, I've been wrestling a lot with the idea of green knitting. And know, I don't mean my internal debate over which pattern to make with my new chartreuse yarn....

I'm talking about knitting in an environmentally responsible way. Of course, part of me likes to argue that any knitting is better environmentally and conscientiously because clearly my living room is not a sweat shop or a factory emitting toxic fumes and neither, to the best of my knowledge, is the Starbucks where I knit on my lunch break.

But there is the yarn to consider. It has to be processed somewhere. And some of that processing uses some pretty harsh chemicals. Plus there's the idea of sustainability and the impact that actually creating the fiber has on the environment (waste from the animals, pesticides if it's a plant fiber...)

Being the yarn snob that I am, I rarely use acrylic, so that cuts out one major process offender... but a lot of "natural" fibers, it turns out, aren't so natural after all... take bamboo, for example. A bit hit among vegans because it's not animal based but have you ever thought about how much processing is involved with getting that stuff soft enough to wear next to your skin??

You see why I'm wrestling with it... there's a lot to consider... Fortunately, I found this awesome Web site that really does help you sort it all out. But there are still things every knitter has to decide for themselves... namely, what's most important to you? For me, it's all about process. I try to minimize the amount of harsh chemicals I put near my body and the amount of waste I create. So for me it means fibers that don't require excessive processing and don't use harsh chemicals. But like I said, it's up to you.... hopefully this Web site helps, though :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lighten up!

If you're like me, one of your new year's resolutions is to get back on track with healthy eating habits. Last night I made a lightened up version of a Shrimp Bisque that was soooooooooooo good!

For all you fellow Weight Watchers, it comes out to 6 points for a 1 1/4 cup serving. The nice thing is that because it's not quite as rich as the original, you actually can eat a serving that size without feeling sick about it. Add a lightened up garlic bread for dipping, and you've got a meal!

In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, this is a takeoff/combination from two other recipes... I took the best parts of each and added a couple of my own tweaks and here's the result! It's part of a shrimp stock recipe from Bobby Flay's Boy Meets Grill cookbook, and part of a bisque recipe from cooking light, and part my own ideas. Anyway, here goes:

First you need to make the stock. This is actually the most time consuming part.

Cooking Spray (olive oil flavor if you have it)
1 white onion, roughly chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery rib, roughly chopped
About 4 cups of shrimp shells and tails (I save mine whenever I make shrimp and freeze them in ziploc bags)
6 cups water
1 cup dry vermouth (or other dry white wine, but I really like the flavor this gives)
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 bay leaf

Spray a stock pot with cooking spray and heat over medium. Add onion, celery, carrot and shrimp shells to the pot. Cook for about five minutes or so. Add water, vermouth, tomato and bay leaf. Cover partially (rest the lid on the edge of the pot) and simmer for about an hour and a half. The longer you let this simmer, the more concentrated the shrimp flavor will be and since we're trying to lighten up this dish, concentrated is better.

1 Tbsp. butter
1 lb. of shrimp, uncooked, roughly chopped (you'll want it to be big enough chunks so that you can notice them once they're in the soup.)
1 can of no salt added corn kernels (frozen works too)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup dry sherry
3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
4 cups of the shrimp stock
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1.4 tsp. white pepper
1 cup half and half (yes, the real stuff! It's still a big upgrade from the amount of heavy cream this soup usually calls for)

In a large, nonstick saucepan, melt butter. Add corn kernels and tomato paste. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently. In a separate bowl, combine sherry and flour and whisk until they create a slurry. Add the slurry to the pan and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add shrimp stock and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add shrimp. Allow to simmer for about 10 more minutes, until the bisque starts to thicken and shrimp is fully cooked. Stir in half and half and simmer another minute to bring temp back up. Serve immediately. (and try to convince yourself there's nothing sinful about it!)

Off topic, but too bad... Attention North Jersey yarnies! Stix n Stitches in Montclair is having a pre-inventory sale this weekend and it is sooooooooooooooooo worth the trip! (Just a quick brag, I got Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk DK weight for $3 a ball!)