Friday, May 30, 2008

Lacy Little Things

Whew. This week has been very busy. I'm working two jobs, and they're usually back to back to back, so that means not much time to write, or knit. Although I have found a few moments in between my breaks at work to begin a rather daunting project - my first lace knitting.

I have never been much in love with lace knitting. Nobody in my family would wear a shawl, and I haven't seen any that I'd want to approach just for the thrill of it. So when I saw the Lace Ribbon Scarf by Veronik Avery on Knitty, I was worried that attempting it would be out of my skill range. I bought some Cascade Heritage in a lovely light blue color, and jumped in headfirst.

I frogged this darn scarf about sixteen times before realizing, quite suddenly today, that I don't know how to correctly make a yarn over. Once I'd solved the debacle, the knitting moved along quite nicely. I might even try to knit another lace scarf soon - heaven forbid! Perhaps the next scarf will be out of mmmmm..... Malabrigo. I hear the lace is always lovely.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Storm Watch Cap

Here in Iowa we've been having some pretty devastating weather lately. If you've been watching the news, you'd know that Parkersburg was hit hard by tornadoes only two days ago, wiping out pretty much all the buildings and filling the hospitals and nearby hotels with the injured and homeless. Governor Culver declared the counties hit 'disaster counties', and aid has been flowing in from all parts of the country.

While I don't live in Parkersburg, or really, anywhere that got damage, we were still on the edge of our seats the other night when the storms looked like they might be passing through. And during that time I was busy knitting a hat - this hat.

Made out of Malabrigo worsted in colorway solymar, this yarn was originally supposed to be a koolhaas. But after knitting about a fourth of the Koolhaas and realizing that the color changes were going to hide all that intricate cabling, I decided to try something else - a ribbed hat, that would show off any variegation. As I was knitting it up the other night, it certainly seemed appropriate to nickname the hat 'The Storm-Watch Cap', since even the patterning reminds me of the radar images they get for rainfall and thunderstorms. The pattern is fromStephanie Knits, and was remarkably easy. It has gorgeous decreases, but as I'm both grubby and alone here at the house, no pictures could be taken today. There will be a pair of handwarmers to match, and hopefully by then someone can take a decent picture of the back of my head.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Be Back Right Shortly

Oh, little blog - I'm so sorry to have been neglecting you lately! But in truth, there just hasn't been much to post about. I've started two jobs - one painting and scraping wallpaper, the other selling office supplies, and I haven't had a moment to spare for knitting.

Not that it's stopped me. I did cast on for The Purl Bee's Roquefort Chapeau, in some Lion Brand wool-ease (yes, you may all crucify me and maybe cut my toes off. But it was stash, and I didn't go out and buy it. And it still falls under the yarn mandate's conditions.) At least the colors are lovely.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sweets to the Sweet

Just a little post for today. I've been slightly busy lately, but not with anything of particular interest, just two new jobs and a lot of stuff to do here around the house. I've made some progress on the ever-fluffy My-So-Called-Scarf, but nothing noteworthy. I have, however, attempted baking experiment II.

For your viewing pleasure, Peppermint Spiral Cookies. I spotted them on Sarah's blog first, and followed her link to make them. They're lovely and little and go perfectly with tea or milk. Next time I'll add more food coloring to the red, because it turned out a little pink. Because this is the latest addition to my recipe box, I've made it a really pretty card. I'm working on one for the pistachio cake, too, but it's not finished. They take a little while, but I think it's worth it to have an absolutely lovely recipe box in the end.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Present for Danny

My friend Dan got accepted to the University of Chicago's grad school program for writing after graduating this year from Drake. He's a very talented writer and probably one of the most unique people I've ever met - a very good friend, too. He really was there for me when Jacob and I split things off in December, making cupcakes and inviting me to do things, and that really meant a lot to me. It's friends like these that I don't mind knitting things for, and this scarf was more than a pleasure to finish. I really love chunky knits - they're quick, easy, and if you choose the right yarn, they stay in fashion no matter what you do to them. The yarn for this scarf was Malabrigo's Chunky weight, in a lovely nutty color called 'Roanoke'. Now, I have been to the actual city of Roanoke, VA, and I'm not sure how they came up with the color - but for some reason it reminds me of some of my favorite things. Acorns, for instance - it's got some of that 'acorn cap brown' in it that reminds me of childhood collections. It also reminds me of dead leaves - you know, the kind that crunch under your feet as you walked to the bus stop, with the smell of fresh November air clearing your senses. The color also reminds me a bit of rich almonds, sliced so thin you can almost see through them - and of pecans, lined up perfectly on the top of a pie in concentric circles at Thanksgiving. I hope this scarf has a chance to invoke similar memories for it's new owner - Danny will be living away from friends and family and new places are always a little scary. Some comfort in the way of soft wooly goodness might be in order.

The scarf really only took two days to knit, during which I had the opportunity to see a few movies I've been waiting for. My friend Sarah's boyfriend, Josh, works at the movie theatre (at least did, until recently - he's moving to Wisconsin with her), and can sometimes get me in for free night showings of movies before they come out. Such was the case with the much anticipated Prince Caspian - the new Chronicles of Narnia movie, for those of you who aren't on the up and up. I read these books a lot as a little kid and had really high hopes for the first, "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe." While it wasn't exactly what I'd been hoping for, it wasn't really awful. This second movie was a lot better - better battle sequences, better CG animation, and much better acting, at least, on the part of most of the characters.

Yesterday was an absolute movie fest - my dad and I, big Marvel comics fans, went to see the new Ironman film. It was so worth it! Ironman is one of my dad's favorite Marvel characters, mainly because instead of just being 'placed in an extraordinary situation', he's actually an innovative, self-motivated character. I think I'm going to have to agree entirely with his opinion - the movie was terrific and at the end of the credits they rolled a few-second spot that hints at a secret involving the Marvel 'SHIELD' - a group of superheroes who work together. I'm pretty sure it includes Captain America, but don't quote me on it. On our way home we rented Stephen King's new thriller/horror: The Mist. I don't know how many of you saw this in theaters, but it was pretty excellent on home dvd. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, and the twist at the end made it so much better. Although not really 'that scary', I'd much prefer the science fiction horror genre to the 'gory horror' and 'zombie' flicks - I'm not big on cannibalism or gallons of blood, thank you very much. I would definitely recommend that you see The Mist and Ironman, but see Ironman on the big screen. It was terrific and I wish it could have gone for another hour.

You know those socks I posted awhile back? Well, they're making another appearance, this time with my new Ruffhewn shoes. These shoes are the first in my purchases for a 'new wardrobe' - more grown up, better quality and more timeless. Plus, they look terrific with knitted socks, and I got them on sale! More than half off! I wasn't really satisfied with the pictures I'd taken of the socks before, either. These show the true color quite well. Speaking of which, there are irises and new knits on the needles for next week - so watch out! For now, I'll leave you with one of my favorite plants in our garden: the Virginia Belles. We moved to Iowa from VA about three years ago, and this is a native plant from a most beloved state that my mother took in the back of one of the station wagons (both of which, sadly, are long gone). It is so beautiful - arching leaves, little dainty bell blooms that are creamy white with just a hint of green on the edges of the petals when they bloom. In a lot of ways they remind me of the ever-popular Bleeding Heart flowers, but perhaps just a touch more sophisticated. Too bad they are the sworn enemy of the cat, who is always eating any sort of plant matter brought inside. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rosy Summer Days

Since the weather has been so excellent here, my mother and I decided to spend some time yesterday in Pella. I wish I'd taken pictures of the drive, since the scenery was excellent - Iowa is really very pretty in the springtime - but instead I saved up all my pictures for once we arrived in Pella itself. For those of you who aren't familiar, Pella is a little dutch settlement in central Iowa. Every year, like they do in Holland, this community has 'Tulip Time', during which they elect a Tulip Queen and the whole city is in beautiful, beautiful bloom. Unfortunately, most years, I've been at school and have had to miss out on the first few days of the tulip festivities, but this year because the weather was so cold for so long, the blooms have lasted a little longer than expected. So we got lots and lots of pretty tulip pictures, meaning this post is going to be rather picture heavy.

I think lately tulips have ended up being my favorite flower, mainly because I've rediscovered much of their beauty through Jane Brocket's blog, Yarnstorm. She's a self-diagnosed tulipophile, and I think she's turned me into one, despite the fact that we probably only have a total of three living in our garden at home. There is something so lovely about a tulip - from the broad, flat leaves, to the skinny stem, all in such a lovely pale mint green, up to the bulbous blossom at the end, whether it is tipped in pointed ends or unfurled like a peony. I love tulips! And someday I hope to have a cutting garden - a garden where instead of growing the plants just for them to stay outside, you bring them indoors and put them in vases. While I'm not much of a green thumb, I'm hoping that something like tulips and daisies might flourish wherever I end up. While in Pella, we saw not only the regular sorts of tulips, but some 'exotic' varieties - including ones with pointed tips that opened from the center like a starburst. They were bright yellow and stuck into someone's front yard arrangement along with all sorts of other types. Some had a ripped fabric looking edge that flared out and gave them an interesting look as the occasional breeze came by and shuffled their petals around. My absolute favorite sorts of tulips were the kind that my mom calls 'double bloom' - they've got almost three times as many petals, and while we saw them in lots of lovely colors, there's something rich and velvety about the darkest purple ones.

As always, there so much going on besides just flowers and visits to Pella! Yesterday when I got home I was greeted by a package - the malabrigo I won in the Malabrigo Junkies' Malabrigo March contest drawings! The Junkies are perhaps one of the friendliest and most active groups on Ravelry, and I highly recommend joining, especially if you knit with malabrigo (but also especially if you don't - you'll change your mind in a few minutes, I promise!) For awhile after Malabrigo March, I thought I would get out of knitting with Malabrigo for awhile - despite it's lovely single ply, it's soft and fluffy chunky varieties, the bright and shiny colorways of Aquarella's thick and thin strands - I was ready to move on to something different. Like a sweater in Cascade, or a pair of socks in Smooshy Dream in Color. Of course, the Junkies could never let me get away with this, and I found myself winning two skeins for being a moderator for the group. Who knew that people actually appreciate being bossed around and properly organized? They should have known I'd do it for free! (Just kidding, of course. I really would do it for free, but I do hope I wasn't too horribly bossy!)

Anyway, on to the goods! I won a skein of worsted, always a staple favorite, that will probably become a cowl inspired by the ever-brilliant Julie Frick of Fricknits. She's been dubbed the 'Cowl Queen' of Ravelry, and while a lot of people know her from her Ravelraiser efforts, I met her during Malabrigo March, where she was so helpful she should have been a moderator! The colorway I received is called 'Purple Lime', and I'm not sure if it's a new color or a color that won't get sold, but I hope it's going to be available because the yellows an oranges are simply divine! Take a look for yourself - it's pictured above.

What else did I win? What? That wasn't all? Actually, to tell the truth, I wasn't expecting the worsted at all, but rather this little gem:

Pretty, isn't it? This is the brand spankin' new yarn from Malabrigo Yarns - and get this, this smooshy soft goodness, at 440 yards, is SOCK YARN. Yes, Malabrigo will be making sock yarn - can you imagine how quickly that will sell out? I sure can. They've set the release date to either sometime this summer or fall, probably more towards fall, and it's so new that even the colors don't have names yet! The tag on this just says "test color". I am absolutely in love with it already, and haven't decided on a pattern. I'm sort of leaning towards another pattern from my sock book - "Favorite Socks" from Interweave Knits, since most of them call for a similar amount of yarn. It'll be awhile before they get started, I have so much on my plate right now, but I'm certainly tempted. (If you have a suggestion for pattern, please please leave it in the comments!) The reds are divine, ranging from a rich maroon to a pale red-violet, though I don't think they'll pool or stripe, since Malabrigo is pretty good about doing things of that nature, and it's mostly a semi-solid yarn. There's something lovely about the sheen, and I'm sure there will be even more pictures in posts to come.

There are things new on the apartment front, too. Looks like I'll be getting an unfurnished place of my own just north of campus, not far really, and I went ahead and bought these cups at the local antique store. They're porcelain from Japan and have the most lovely enamel painting on them in the best colors. I think they pretty much sum up my decorating taste.

Japanese Cups          Japanese Cups II

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cups and Cakes

I love pistachio.

Pistachio ice cream, pistachios themselves, and pistachio pudding. Perhaps pistachio pudding most of all. So this week, I decided to take my love of this dear, green, nutmeat a little further and make a pistachio pudding cake, with buttercream icing. Of course, I'm not really the best of bakers, and my luck with cakes in the past has been, at best, fickle. There was the ill-fated yellow cake, which never made it to the icing stage, instead exploding in a fiery mess in the bottom of my oven. (Lesson learned - do not overfill pans.) There were the delicate chocolate cathedral cupcakes, each shaped inside a lovely, heavy-duty muffin pan aquired at Williams-Sonoma. These never made it past the muffin pan, and had to be eaten in chunks with hands or spoon. (Lesson learned - they really mean that you should leave it in the pan to cool.) And last, but not least, the sad tragedy of the Valentine's Checkerboard cake, made with red velvet and strawberry cake mixes, which ended up separating from eachother during the baking process, in which one rose and one did not. (Lesson learned - the amount of food coloring you put into a cake has a direct effect on its baking time.) Add to this list countless burnt cookies, a pathetic flan, and a mushy pie, and you have gotten my entire baking history.

Enter pistachio cake.

I was absolutely determined to get this one right. My life from this moment forward depended on it - my reputation as a bad cook had to be broken. Especially because I actually can cook - almost anything - just fine. So I went about making this in the most careful, technical way possible. Much research was done. There was a careful selection of ingredients, an even more careful application of them. And when it emerged from the oven, ready to be properly iced and stacked and decorated, I had completed my first successful cake.

Aside from something lovely in the kitchen, I have a number of lovely things on and off the needles. Right now I'm working on a 2 x 2 ribbing scarf for Danny, out of the Roanoke Malabrigo Chunky I showed last post. It's knitting up quickly, and I'm hoping there might be enough leftover for me to make something for myself - I'm really in love with the nutty brown color! As for sweet things off the needles, there's an aptly-named Gretel sitting on my bedspread right this moment! I'm always amazed by how well this particular pattern shows off Malabrigo colorways - it's almost as if yarn and beret were made for eachother. I'd really like to make another, as this one is a little less slouchy than I would have preferred, but who would give up an excuse to knit something so beautiful again, anyway? I cannot recommend this pattern highly enough - Ysolda is a truly brilliant designer and her blog is charming. She recently took a trip to Montreal and the pictures and descriptions from the journey certainly make me want to go visit - though I'll wait until summer to do so. I'm not really a winter person, after all.

As for the cups in the title? What better imagery than the little cups the leaves of a hosta make to gather morning dew? I can imagine a little children's book with illustrations of mice and rabbits taking tea with these:

PS: If you know the song reference in the title, including the name of the *original band*, I will be mightily impressed.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Looming Knits of Friendship

Sounds ominous, doesn't it? Sometimes it feels that way, when you've offered to knit your friends things and you just can't seem to get them on and off the needles fast enough. That's sort of where I am now - knitting too many things for too many people. At least I have a summer in which to complete them.

It all started back in February, when I noticed my friend Danny didn't have any mittens. So I offered to make some. I had the Herringbone Mittens from Elliephantom in mind, so when we went to the yarn store and he picked things out we got two skeins of Cascade 220 - one in eggplant, the other in a sort of stormy gray color. While standing in the store, I mention that there will certainly be enough left for a hat, and I'll knit one, if he needs it (which he does) to match. He bought the yarn and I signed on to take a long time finishing the projects.

While there, Danny decided he wanted to learn to knit (with a bit of knitter peer pressure), and bought two skeins of Malabrigo Chunky in Roanoke. It's a gorgeous color and he was going to make a 2x2 ribbing scarf from it, but at the end of the semester he hadn't gotten very far (applying for grad school didn't leave him much time), so I'm making that too. I really do enjoy knitting for friends - especially those who appreciate it, since they really love the finished project. Just last semester I made a beautiful hat for Bennette that I adore (and haven't sent yet), and I've already offered to make my friend Larson at West Point Academy a hat, too. I suppose it's not the knitting, but the time spent away from other projects, that ends up wearing me down. The expectation for things to be finished at the end of the semester was sort of overbearing. Luckily, I have very understanding friends, and they were willing to wait until next year. 

Of course, I can't just sign up to make things for three people - I have to add two more. You've all seen the aquatastic scarf I'm working on for Ashley (though, this is a commission and she'll be paying for the finished product) - but have you seen me signing on to make a Koolhaas and a pair of Fetchings for Derrick? 
They're in Malabrigo Worsted, colorway solymar, which is very bright in person and quite soft to work with. The only complaint I have is that the cabling hurts my hands (I'm a premature arthritic). With all these knits, I really have a lot of works in progress to finish before I'm ready to take on any new ones - my mother is delighted (she's placed a summer yarn mandate for now, too). At least I won't be taking that chemistry class, and I'll have plenty of time to work on things in between my two jobs. Hah. Right!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Home Again, Home Again

It is so nice to finally be done with school and home for the summer. Although the packing, moving out, and unpacking proces is sort of a pain in the neck, it's really nice to set up a room I don't have to share, even if Laura was an excellent roommate. As if it couldn't get any better, today was lovely weather and I had lots of time (and brilliant light) to play outdoors and take pictures. Of everything. I have enough pictures to last me about five or six blog posts now (if I can hold them off for that long). 

Of course, I wasn't the only one playing outside today - as you can see, my dog Zoe wanted to do some running around. She's really shiny right now because she got a bath the other day, and my mom wanted me to go out and get some pictures of her 'by the lilacs'. Now, normally, photographing a dog (or any sort of animal) is a tedious waiting process. Not with Zoe; this dog is so well trained that all you have to do is tell her to sit or lay down and she'll do it. Right in the grass, right in front of the lilac bush, on the patio - wherever you want her. Our family is getting a little worried - she's a Great Dane, and their life expectancy is about ten years, and Zoe's getting on seven. She's the first dog I've owned, but not the first pet. We also have three cats.Of course, my favorite pictures all ended up being of her running the show. I seem incapable of going outdoors nowadays without taking photos of every tree and flower, so I have to add that the lilacs posed quite nicely as well.

With all this light, I took the opportunity to photograph some recently finished objects. Finally, at long last, the Cable Ribbed Socks are finished! These are my first socks, they're from a pattern in the book "Favorite Socks" from Interweave Knits. I got the book last Christmas and bought the yarn in about February - it's Dream in Color Smooshy in the strange harvest colorway. In the pictures it looks sort of yellowish, but it's generally sort of a mix of rich greens and browns. I was really worried that the yarn would be variegated too much for my liking, but was pleasantly surprised. I'd really like to get some in a pale color, as well. The best part? I probably still have enough yarn left for a pair of ankle socks or a beret! I'm especially fond of The Purl Bee's Purl Beret, so I think I might make that. 

And now that I've got some finished objects, maybe I can cast on some more? I was working on a really cute Hew wrap from Canary Knits, but I think the yarn I've been using (Dale of Norway Falk) is neither the right weight nor yardage, so I'm giving up for awhile. On the bright side, I'm almost finished with the My So Called Scarf for Ashley - although I hate the yarn and will never buy it again. I'm using Cascade Pastaza, which is both wool and alpaca, in this gorgeous aqua color. Although the color is fabulous, the yarn is itchy on my hands and puts fuzzies everywhere. I'm glad Ashley picked it out and not me, or else I would feel really bad giving it to her. It's pretty, though - I love the pattern, which I'm sure would look fabulous in any yarn and is especially lovely with variegated colorways!

I also had to run around and get a summer job today (lucky me, the first place I walked into was somewhere I know will hire me!), and wanted to pick up some cute recipe cards along the way, but couldn't find any! I'm glad I have a fuel-efficient vehicle to drive around in, or else the hours worth of running around and trying to find said cards (or any cards, for that matter), turned into a ridiculous and fruitless journey. Does anyone know where I can get really sweet recipe cards? I might have to do some online shopping. I've been putting together a box of my favorite recipes and meals for the last year, and I want to organize them in a nice, orderly way. Like I've been organizing everything else.

Regular posting will proceed, so stay tuned!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Tickled Pink

I'm escaping a moment from writing a finals paper to write something entirely more pleasant. More spring musings. Although returning to school isn't exactly my idea of a good time, especially since it's all going to be finals and papers and tests for the last week, at least the weather is nice. Almost 80 degrees today, which is lovely weather for me (I'd prefer it a little hotter). I even bothered to wear a dress.

Spring cleaning is what I am ALL about right now. I'm making lists and bagging clothes and completing projects right and left. I'm trying to cut down my closet to what I wear and what looks good. Since I'll be starting over school wise, I figured my wardrobe could use a little boost too. This summer will be all about saving for fall clothing and such. I want to dress a little more sophisticated - I'm going to be 21, after all!

Speaking of finishing projects, I've got another FO - this time it's an absolutely sumptuous My So Called Scarf, done in the velvet grapes colorway of Malabrigo, which has a lot of bright pinks, deep purples and maroons and should go nicely with the Amanda hat I made my mother last semester. Of course, I couldn't give it away without taking some pictures! 

It's not horribly long, but I did use up two skeins of the worsted weight, more or less (some has been relegated to complete a pair of striped Mitered Mittens, which are not finished yet...), but just the right length to wrap around your neck when the weather is nice and chilly. This summer for me is going to be all about preparing for winter - this year, I am determined to enjoy the nasty snow! I even have a list of future projects (I really want a set of mittens and hats in both a mint and a bright yellow color!)

Goals for the summer? Oh yes, I've got many of them - going to take photos and post all of my yarn properly on Ravelry, so that I can keep track with an online inventory of projects and the like, going to complete all the projects I've got listed stash for, and going to put together a little recipe box for my new apartment. Oh yes, going to be both picking out furnishings and decorations for that, too! Wish me luck, and I'll leave you with another lovely scarf shot.