Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Au Revoir 2008

2008 proved to be a less than exciting knitting year, however, it is nice to reflect on what one accomplished – and the biggest headline for me would be cooking.

For Christmas in 2007, Hart bought me a Kitchenaid mixer and after 3 solid years of obsessing over Good Eats it was time to roll up my sleeves and start cooking.

2008 was a year of major cooking accomplishments for me. Up until then, Hart and I ordered in take out literally 5 days a week – the other two were reserved for eating out. It was not only a waste of money, it was totally not healthy. I didn’t grow up with a lot of home cooking so despite being able to boil water, that was kind of it. Three things really helped me to start cooking well.

For beginner cooks, I can’t recommend these two magazines enough – they include basic yet delicious recipes that are really quick and easy. Whole Foods opened 2 blocks from my house about 2 years ago and if it wasn’t there, I wouldn’t feel nearly as inspired to get cooking.

Here are some of my highlights – unfortunately, food photography is not my strong suit, particularly when looking at this, however, this is a sampling of my accomplishments..

I’m excited about 2009. Hart bought me a pasta maker for Christmas this year, and we just got our first Dutch Oven – which apart from its function – is just beautiful.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

November Check In

Hart’s mom (herself, a serious knitter) has convinced me that it’s okay to have really long periods of knitters-block and that’s what I’ve been having. And same with posting. It’s the posting I’ve been having an issue with. I used to be fine blabbing about any old random thing but now every time I sit down, I think “is this worth really posting about?” Even though I don’t have anything major – part of why I do this blog is to have a long lasting diary of what was happening at certain times – even if it’s insignificant.

Last week I buckled down and “endured” the Blue Print Cleanse for 3 days, which isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Before I did it I scoured for blogposts to get some insight beyond the wonderful marketing focused praises on their website, so I’m doing this for the next person who is googling away.

So what is this Blue Print Cleanse? Basically it’s a juice “cleanse” which you can do for 1, 3 or 5 days. It isn’t a recipe you follow – it’s an actual company - a small independent one based in NYC, run by a couple of woman. You pick your level (I did Renovation), your duration (I did 3), and they deliver your juices right to your door. They provide you with cooler bags – each filled with 6 numbered juices that you drink each day. They are numbered, which is great.

People do these things for many reasons and what I liked about Blue Print is that is not a psycho hard core thing like the Master Cleanse - instead it’s more health focused. I did this to give my system a break and also to re-set my eating patterns. I’m not really great with discipline and eating. I’m a vegetarian and frankly, I eat pretty well – I don’t eat typical junk food (chips, cookies) but Hart and I are terrible about ordering in food. Also, I’m bad about portion control and after awhile I just feel heavy and overcarbed and sluggish.

How did it go? The great part was that for me, it was actually pretty easy, relatively speaking. You drink a lot of water along with the juices and I really wasn’t all that hungry. I lost 7 pounds over 3 days (which as I expected, has come back – but that wasn’t my objective). Mind you, I have a few (or 10) pounds to lose so that was kind of nice. I felt like I did cleanse my system, however I didn’t feel like a new person after it was over. I have a few other friends who have done this and they have actually felt amazing afterwards. All of them are meat eaters and I’m guessing this had a lot to do with it. I was only 14 when I went vegetarian so I can’t remember exactly – but I do know many folks who went veg as adults and they feel like a million bucks by cutting out meat – so I’m guessing that’s why it worked better for them.

I guess my key takeaway is that I just eat too much normally and this was a great “reset”. I felt like a million bucks because I didn’t feel weighed down with so much food. I was getting all of my nutrition on a small amount of intake and that felt amazing. The problem is the discipline, which I’m terrible about. And also my love of food – which gets the better of me. I am going to actually try and hit a better balance. Real fresh juices (like the ones that are green, not Jamba Juice) honestly never occurred to me before. And I think it would be great, AND healthy to have those for breakfast or lunch once and awhile. My only concern had been drinking juice in that way that was for crazy dieters who were trying to starve themselves, and I no longer feel that way because they are actually filling, along with being far more nutritious than my cheese sandwich.

And with that, I head off to stuff my face for Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tribute in Light Memorial from apartment window

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A New Beginning - Tomten Stash

I was so excited to receive a package from Webs today which opened to reveal 6 thick, squishy skeins of Cascade Eco +. Five in navy blue and one in maroon.

Last holiday my mom requested a sweater for the following year’s main gift and after stressing for a second about picking the right pattern, I immediately thought of the Adult Tomten by EZ. Actually, specifically I thought of Ann’s on Ravelry.

I’m headed to SF tomorrow and I’m itching to start but this puppy requires swatching, measuring and planning and despite Demi not being travel friendly – I would rather bring her as at least I know what I’m doing.

Hopefully I’ll have some great Demi status shots when I return and I’m so excited to start this new project!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Minimalist Cardigan - FO

I’m excited to present My Minimalist Cardigan, which has to be one of my favorite sweaters so far.

I really loved knitting this sweater – it is the perfect combination of easy knit with an interesting pattern – which is very satisfying. It’s also incredibly classic – which is why I decided to knit it in black. I envision this as the sweater that either stays on the back of my chair at work for cold days or the one I throw on over a top with jeans or a dress.

Mini was also the sad recipient of my knitting downslide. I actually finished this in January but between my ordeal with Dollar and a Half, my downright hate of finishing and my unfortunate downward spiral into apathy towards knitting, this just didn’t get done until now.

Pattern: Minimalist Cardigan, Interweave Knits Fall 2007
Size: 35 ½
Start: October 2007
Finished: Knitting: January 2008, Seamed, blocked and finished: July 27,2008
Yarn: Rowan RYC Cashsoft Aran in black, 10-11 skeins. Love this yarn and highly recommend it.
Needles: size 7
Modifications: Not much, as usual, I lengthened the sweater. I find most patterns walk dangerously close to being “cropped” and therefore ususally add a few inches. In this case, only 1 inch, and only to the back (knit moss to 14 ½ ” instead of 13 ½

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Alton Brown Cinnamon Rolls

As you may know, I love Alton Brown. If you aren't familiar with Alton, I highly recommend DVR/Tivo-ing Good Eats on Food Network.

The first time we saw the "House of the Rising Bun" episode we knew we would eventually make the star of the show, the Cinnamon Buns, but at the time, we didn't have a stand mixer. Hart gave me a Kitchenaid this past Christmas. The sad part of the story is that it went unused (due to my intimidation) for 8 months, the good part of the story is that it was christened with this recipe.

This actually isn't really hard at all - the only non-traditional ingredients that weren't in of our pantry were yeast, buttermilk and powdered sugar - but those are pretty easy to buy. I'm also a non-baker and for a first attempt at using my mixer and for a relative beginner - this couldn't have been easier.

Below is the ingredient list and click here for the full recipe.

main ingredients
AP flour
Instant yeast
Kosher salt
brown sugar

Cream Cheese

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Winter Knits in 100 degree weather

There’s nothing like the combination of getting over a chest cold, having the apt to yourself bc your b-friend is out of town, and it being 100 degrees outside to get you focused on a project. Today (and a good chunk of yesterday) was knitting extravaganza in my household.

I had two things on the agenda: to knit Demi and to weave in ends/ block my Minimalist Cardigan. This whole thing started at 1pm and I had a very specific plan. With the aid of NPR, I would knit Demi until 4pm and then start the Mini Cardigan work.

I tell you, Demi is a bear, but a really sweet one. I really am excited about this project, but I wouldn’t call it the most joyous of knit experiences. I’m actually a moderately fast knitter but as mentioned before, at least for me, this requires full attention. It’s getting SO much easier than when I started, but I’m still clocking a 10 -15 minute row depending on it being a WS (10) or RS (15). I know, that’s weird – anyone else ever do that? So if you saw my last pictures (I haven’t knit since), this is what I accomplished in 4 hours. Not much but progress nonetheless.

I have a very specific vision for Demi. When I saw the picture in Vintage Knits – and then all the glorious FOs on Ravelry - I immediately thought that this would be a classic pullover that I could keep and wear forever. It would be for cold winter nights and ski trips and I don’t know, it’s no EZ classic but I kind of have visions of handing her down. It’s this vision that is my motivation.

Anyway, I stopped at 4pm. Again, being weird, I’m very specific like that – but I think only with projects that are a) hard and b) are in the end weaving/blocking process. Both of which I was dealing with.

Anyway – I am SO excited with Mini Cardigan’s blocking status!

I looked back and I think I finished this 6 months ago. I don’t know what it is but I just stall at the finishing stage, at least lately. I loathe this part. It’s a process, right? At least for me it is but I’m starting to think I make things harder on myself than necessary. I always seam it up pre-block, using some contrast color. And then I inspect it for a few days – determining if things need to be lengthened during blocking, or seeing which areas need to be smoothed out. And then I get all mathematical and draw diagrams about blocking dimensions. Maybe if I just chilled I would not have sweaters sitting in WIP piles.

I wished that I loved summer knits because I think I need another project to switch off with Demi. Have you seen Jared’s squishy blanket? Love…..

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Demi Part 1

My knitting drop out status has really wreaked havoc on this blog. Knitting was the driving force of this blog and given that I have yet to get fully back into the swing we’ll see how it goes.

I got a little pre-occupied to say the least.

Hart and I got obsessed with buying a house in Brooklyn, which 100% consumed our lives for a bit, well – a long while actually. In fact, a few of you may have seen a short lived (like 1 day) post in which I described my obsession with said house in Ditmas Park. Needless to say, we fell for a great neighborhood – the local DP blogs got a hold of my post and it became quite the rage on a neighborhood blog. As a result I immediately pulled it down because I was a little fearful that since I put everything out there - the sellers or the realtor would some how see it and our bidding position would be ruined.

And then there was Turkey – we just got back and it was an amazing trip. I have to say, one of the best things I love about Hart (and vice versa) is that we put traveling pretty much above everything. While I definitely am known to shell out some cash on shoes, outside of being diligent savers for the future – we save for big trips – both financially and in vacation time. We spent 2 ½ glorious weeks – Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus – then a gorgeous drive down the coast to Bodrum, Olundeniz (Blue Lagoon!) and Kas. I hope to post a little more on this later.

Back to the knitting. The thing that sparked my return? Demi. My progress is above.

This whole project started off dramatically back in January. I actually ripped out my Central Park Hoodie with the intention of using the yarn – Tahki Donnegal Tweed. Ripping it out? It didn’t even really hurt. It was my first true true sweater with seaming, cables, neckbands, etc. But honestly, it never fit me properly and I really didn’t love the yarn – it’s pretty – but it just didn’t work. Anyway – I was staring at it for awhile – everytime I looked it was screaming Demi. So I pulled it out, wound it back up, cast on for Demi, and frankly, I just really hate this yarn!

So I gave up on that I bought new bonafide Demi yarn back in February (that is 4 months ago, yikes). The Point had a crazy sale and I immediately ran down to find the perfect yarn. It is Naturally Harmony 10Ply 100% merino. So I got home, I cast on and…didn’t I promise not to get into another Dollar and a Half frustrating mess? Anyway – it stalled. It’s hard – it’s not like the Minimalist Cardigan (which I pretty much finished 9 months ago and just can’t muster the strength to block and seam) which is pretty calming, mindless, rewarding. Actually – it’s not hard but it requires full attention – there is no tv watching, no subway knitting – full focus.

So it did stall but then last weekend I did a massive clean up – got a stash box all readied and swore I would pick it up. At about the same time I saw what Parikha did in like a minute (okay I'm exaggerating)!! That kind of pushed me to get going. So there we have it.

This puppy is going to take a long time. I am giving myself a 3 month deadline – by October 1, 2008 I will be showing this as a FO.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dollar and a Half Cardigan - Finished!

She’s finally done! This was the hardest project I’ve ever taken on but after pulling on the sleeves and buttoning up the front, it was 100% worth it.
This is the first sweater that I know I’m going to put into a frequent rotation.
I give you, Dollar and a Half Cardigan, by Veronik Avery for Interweave Knits, Spring 2007

Pattern: Dollar and a Half Cardigan by Veronik Avery – Interweave Knits – Spring 2007

Started: July 2007
Break: September – November
Finished: Knitting was finished October 17- all blocked and sewn up – Jan 1st 2007
Yarn: Misti Alpaca
Misti International Alpaca Worsted in 4388 – about 9 skeins. I love this yarn – it is incredibly soft yet incredibly warm. The drape is amazing.
Needles: Used US 5 for the stockinette and size 7 for the lace pattern.
Size: I knitted the smallest size and blocked to a 36 – I wanted this to be tight fitting and after reading so much about how this ran slightly big and knowing I could block it slightly larger – it was the best bet.
Modifications: Not much. The only major change I made was to make the arm length shorter. To do so, I knit 1 ½” of rib (vs 2”) – and started decreasing after a total of 4” (vs 6 ½”)


First, this is definitely a project you want to swatch for. Trust me.

Second, one of the things I covet about knitting blogs and Ravelry – is that you get blow by blow details – telling you what to watch out for, how to approach a stitch or row that only when you get to it do you realize how unbelievable helpful those notes were. This has always been incredibly helpful to me, and I always try and return the favor.
To this end, check out my checklist for a lot of details I have since blocked out. Also, click here if you want the blow by blow on my progress.

This project took its toll on me – no matter how much I love the end product. I will say that without a doubt, the part that threw me over the edge was decreasing in the lace pattern. I invested hours upon hours in trying to get it to work for me but after getting nowhere, I actually had to take a 2 month break from the sweater all together. When I came back, I didn’t nail it the first time – but it started falling into place after about the 5th try. I would recommend checking out details in Ravelry, and there were some helpful tips on the Knit Along.

I will also say that that thing that helped me the most is my notebook. Here is a picture of the two things that I found comfort in, throughout the process:

Every time I start a project I take copious notes – whether it’s the needle size, when I switch balls (so that on the second sleeve, I know how much I’ll need after writing it down through the first). I never remember any of these details so I write it down. With this project I literally wrote down almost every row and what to expect. This is particularly important when doing the lace decreases. Forgetting about decreases, in the lace pattern each row you do ends up with a different number of stitches. When decreasing comes into play – it was CRITICAL for me to know how many stitches I should end up with. Again, there are a lot of tips on how to deal with the decreases in patterns but frankly none of them gave me what I needed. I think I just needed to try, walk away, and come back. Finally it worked.

Finally, I love my mom to death for getting me a blocking board for Christmas. If you don’t have one – I highly recommend it.

Viva La Veronik!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sometimes the Best Solutions are the Easiest

I’m a bit of a hopeful, but lost cause when it comes to decorating. Most of those close to me can attest to my passion for all things decorating – I consume design magazines all the time, I’m a dedicated reader of some of the popular design blogs (mainly Design Sponge and Apartment Therapy) and it’s hard for me to walk by a furniture store without going in.

The break down is that I have a hard time taking what I love, and bringing it into my home. There is some wiring missing. I am a right brain woman. I love math, I love analysis, and I love talking about strategy. I embrace this and it has done me well so far, but I also love design, creativity. But I am an onlooker – I know what I love and I know why I love it but creating it myself is less than intuitive.

Hart and I have lived in this apartment for the past 3 years and the spot above our couch has remained empty. It has been a source of angst for me. About 6 or 7 years ago I fell in love with a painting at a friend’s house and spent the last 3 years, off and on, trying to get one. Fortunately the artist is a friend of my friends, but unfortunately he is taking a “break” from painting. Up until about a month ago, this gaping hole was without a solution.

I’m not sure how or why it took us so long – but we finally decided to fill it ourselves. I am not a modernist, by any means, but if I look hard and what I like, a lot of it is color. So finally, we took action.

With all of the pain and suffering I went through with this empty piece of wall real estate, I can’t overstate how easy this was – once the ball was in motion. We measured, went to the art supply store and ordered a canvas. We had an idea in our head of what we wanted it to look like, which you now see on the wall, but to make sure, we bought a couple of red paints (@$2.00 a tube), a stack of mini canvases (@$5 for 5), a paint brush, and practiced. Once we were satisfied, from white canvas to mounting on the wall took about 24 hours.

getting ready to paint

And hence, sometimes the best solutions are the easiest ones.