Knit Together

Let one who wants to move and convince others, first be convinced and moved themselves. If a person speaks with genuine earnestness the thoughts, the emotion and the actual condition of their own heart, others will listen because we all are knit together.
--Thomas Carlyle

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Toffee Goodness

first toffee ever

I made some this year and it turned out much better than last year's batches. Everyone said the toffee was more intense. I think it's because I cooked it to just a second before burning before pouring it out. I also used a fine 70% cocoa baking chocolate.

Toffee
1 cup butter
1.5 cups sugar
3 Tbsp. light corn syrup
3 Tbsp. water
8 oz. chocolate chips or baking chocolate
1.5 cups raw almonds, chopped or sliced

Place a sauce pan over medium heat and add the butter, sugar, corn syrup and water. Stir consistently as the temperature of the mix raises. When the temperature reaches 305° F, remove from heat and pour onto a buttered 9" x 13" cookie tray; you may also line the tray with parchment paper instead of using butter. Spread the toffee evenly.

While the toffee is cooking, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler. Once you have spread the toffee on the cookie sheet, spread the melted chocolate on the toffee. Sprinkle with the almonds and allow to cool.

Serves 8-10

One a Day

I made these dishcloths for my Mom for Christmas. I ended up making four (one a day) and she loves them. I made them from Rowan All Seasons Cotton on size 7 needles.
dishcloths

Monday, December 18, 2006

Six Weird Things

Nathania tagged me, I'm it!

“THE RULES: Each player of this game starts with the ‘6 weird things about you.’ People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says ‘you are tagged’ in their comments and tell them to read your blog.”

1. I like to balance things out. For instance, if I scratch my left elbow, I need to scratch my right too. If I crack knuckles on one hand, I feel weird if I don't do the other hand too.

2. When I sneeze it sounds like an explosion. I've startled burly men with my sneeze.

3. I snagglepuss when I laugh hard, which is a sort of hissing/chucking sound. I've also laughed so hard I've broken down in sobs.

4. I don't like chocolate ice cream. I love chocolate (especially dark), I love chocolate in ice cream (such as chocolate chips) or on ice cream, but I don't like chocolate-flavored ice cream.

5. When we turn onto Bing St. to see our friends, I say, loudly each time, "Bing!" (like an elevator).

6. Once when I was six I was so mad I tore a button off my shirt and swallowed it.

I'm tagging Shirl, LaPeregrina, Endment, Diana, Gerry, and Songbird.

Soft and Rich

burgundy scarf


Four 100-yard balls of Classic Elite Waterlily extra fine merino wool, colorway 1927, lot 6209, on size 9 needles

This will be a gift. I didn't enjoy the yarn as much as I would like, because it split so easily. However, the color variation gave it depth and the stitch texture is great. I'm pleased with the overall result.

--
Update: the lower right corner of the scarf looks a little faded. That's really a dash of sunshine!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Knitters Without Borders



I gave. Read The Yarn Harlot and be inspired to do the same.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mashed Potatoes With a Little Zing

Years ago I borrowed my brother's copy of The Northern Exposure Cookbook (which, unfortunately, is only available used starting around $30). There were two recipes I adopted from the book. One is below.

Lightfeather Duncan's Mashed Potatoes

12 medium-sized red potatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp. coarse-ground black pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 325F. Wash and quarter potatoes (don't peel). Place in a large pot and cover with water. Boil until tender (about 15 minutes).

While potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Coarsely chop onion and sauté until translucent.

Drain potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add onion, butter, sour cream, horseradish, pepper, and salt. Using a hand-held mixer, whip potatoes until fairly smooth. (A hand-held masher works fine but won't be as smooth). Stir in cheese.

Transfer mixture to an ungreased casserole dish. Cover and bake for about 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Makes 6-8 servings

Monday, December 11, 2006

Quilt Pattern Inspiration

I'm writing this post for archival purposes. The wedding quilt is considered a variation of the mariner's compass. The original inspiration for my quilt came from an image of a wall-hanging about 4 x 4 feet called the Megabyte Spikes quilt. (The website is defunct, but I saved a copy of the image below for my reference.) JoEllen generated a pattern to work for a queen-size bed.

A Most Satisfying Stew

My cousin sent me a small cookbook last year full of simple recipes. Since he was visiting today, I decided to make him dinner from the book. It turned out to be so delicious, so simple, and thus rather elegant.

Saint Hubert Fish Stew

Makes 6 servings (6 Weight Watcher points per serving)

2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 Tbsp. oil of choice (I used olive)
1 pound cod or similar fish, cut into chunks
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
3 potatoes, diced (leave skin on)
4 Tbsp. parsely, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 bottles beer (I used Shiner Bock, nice and dark)
4 cups water
salt and white pepper to taste (I used black pepper)

1. Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil in a stew pot for a few minutes.

2. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, cover, and cook slowly over low to medium heat for 35-40 minutes. Stir from time to time so that the stew does not burn at the bottom Serve hot.

This is excellent with a crusty bread and butter.

Source: From a Monastery Kitchen: the Classic Natural Foods Cookbook by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette

saint hubert fish stew close-up

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Popcorn Trivia

There are five types of corn grown around the globe -- sweet, Indian, dent, pop and flint corn -- and only popcorn pops. See more at the Popcorn Board.

I'm eating some (94% fat-free) every day while I focus on losing weight. It fills me up, uses few Weight Watcher points, and is high in fiber.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Yes, Virginia, There Is Such a Thing as Customer Service

In July I bought five new Bali bras. I ordered them via Amazon and they shipped from Macy's. The entire expenditure was $182.30. (I'd used this brand of underwire minimizer for several years and liked it; a well-fitted bra is worth a little extra money).

Within days of wearing one, the underwire poked through the cloth and into my flesh. Then another, and another did it. I was dismayed, to say the least. The last two remained intact, but I decided to stop wearing them. I laundered the three defective ones gently in a lingerie bag, and in the process the wires came out and tangled around other clothes. Wrecked completely.

I put off dealing with them until two weeks ago. Some research showed that Bali is owned by Hanes (which, in turn, is owned by Sara Lee, in case business trivia interests you). I found the Hanes customer service address and wrote the following letter:
To Whom It May Concern:

Enclosed please find several bras and copies of the invoices reflecting what I paid for them. I bought the Bali bras in July and within a couple of months the underwire poked through the fabric. The last time I laundered them, the wires came out completely. Since I do not trust the quality of the material, I have included the bras I purchased that have not yet torn open.

I am deeply dissatisfied with the quality of the product. I would like a refund to my credit card. I purchased them with my American Express card, account xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, exp xx.xx. I will also accept a refund by check. The total for the bras (including shipping and taxes) is $182.30.

Please contact me if you have questions. My address and email are above. Thank you for your prompt resolution to this unfortunate customer experience.
Then I packaged the bras, letter, and copy of the original order and mailed it off on November 29. Today, in the mail, I received a simple letter:
Dear Ms. Petro-Harper,

Thank you for returning your unsatisfactory merchandise. We are sorry you've been unhappy with your recent purchases.

Enclosed please find a check for $186.35 to reimburse you for the merchandise you returned, your tax, shipping, and postage cost.

Ms. Petro-Harper, if we can be of future assistance, you may reach us at 1-800-225-4872, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EST), or on the Internet at www.balicompany.com.

Sincerely,
Judi Steelman
Consumer Care Specialist
Awesome! I'm very pleased. In an era when it's almost impossible to reach a human being at a company, I'm reassured that in some places, the concept of service still exists.

Friday, December 08, 2006

German Potato Salad

This is savory and served warm. Incredibly good.

2 lbs. red new potatoes
olive oil
caraway seeds
dill weed
2 bundles of green onions
1/2 stick butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 can of beef or chicken broth
3 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp spicy German style mustard
small jar of apricot preserves
salt and coarse ground pepper
1 lb. of crisp lean bacon

Fry bacon, cool, and crumble. Set aside.

Select good, firm small new potatoes. Boil until tender yet still a little firm. Slice with the skins left on. Sprinkle with oil, caraway seeds, and dill weed. Add chopped green onions (use the bulb too) and set aside.

Melt the butter and 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet. Add 2 Tbsp of flour and stire. Add broth slowly & whisk until mixture thickens into a thin cream sauce. If it thickens too much, add water to thin down the sauce. Add vinegar, mustard, and preserves. Salt and pepper to sates. Pour small amounts of the hot thin cream sauce to coat the potatoes (there will be sauce left over -- too much will make them mushy). Sprinkle bacon on top and serve hot. If not serving immediately, keep warm in a 150 degree oven. Add some of the remaining sauce if the salad dries out.

Makes 12 servings. Weight Watcher points per serving: 6

Whole Wheat Baguette

This recipe made two lovely baguettes. I got it from a Fleischmann's RapidRise Yeast packet.

2.5 cups all-purpose flour
2.25 cups whole wheat flour
1 envelope Fleischmann's RapidRise Yeast
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1.25 cups water
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter or shortening

Combine flours in a large mixing bowl. Reserve 1 cup; set aside. Add undissolved yeast, sugar, and salt to flour in mixing bowl; mix well.

Heat water, milk and shortening to 120F to 130F. Add warm liquids to dry mixture; mix well until well blended. Gradually add enough reserved flour to form a soft ball of dough. Turn dough onto floured surface.

Knead (with reserved flour) for about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Roll each half to a 16 x 10 inch rectangle. Roll up length-wise, as for a jelly roll. Grease baking sheets; place each loaf on a baking sheet. Slash top of loaves diagonally about 1/4-inch deep and 2 inches apart. Cover; let rise until doubled, about 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F. Brush loaves with cold water. Bake for 15 minutes. Brush again with cold Bake for 10 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

The Wedding Quilt

The wedding gift from my husband's parents arrived yesterday. It was handmade by my mother-in-law's friend, JoEllen Thompson, in Port Townsend, WA.

wedding quilt

It will go on the wedding bed (gift from my parents) over the top of our down comforter. Or maybe, because it's so delicate, we'll figure out a way to hang it on the wall above the bed to show off the piece of art that it is. Here are two close-ups.

wedding quilt starburst


wedding quilt corner

And here it is on the bed.

wedding quilt on the bed

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Oh, Deer







What is your Pagan Familiar




Your Familiar is a Deer. You are a free spirited person, and love to be with small groups of close friends. Trust in yourself, and open up to others a little more.

Take this quiz!








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Join

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code



[via Eden, whose familiar is not what she expected. Ssssssss...]

More Reasons to Get Knitting

Two friends sent me Christmas presents early: books! Among them were The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & Gauges and The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & Gauges.

I've drooled over these for quite awhile. So happy to have them!

Behind?

My husband is the elf for my brother this year (we each select one sibling to give to). However, he's insanely busy, as is my brother; my brother doesn't have time to think about what he wants and my husband can't go shopping. So, I'm making a knit object for my brother. I'm the helper elf (basically I manage all gifting in our relationship, except for his gifts to me). But I realized today just how much I need to get going for it to be ready by Christmas. And we're heading out in ten days; I'd like to have it finished by then.

I will not get sucked into seasonal stress, I will not get sucked into seasonal stress, I will not get sucked into seasonal stress, etc.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sweet Potato Casserole

This is almost a dessert, but I first encountered it as part of Thanksgiving dinner.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1 can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk (fat free)
1 stick margarine or butter
1 large (29 oz.) can sweet potatoes
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Mash potatoes. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the pecans and stir together well. Pour in to a large, oven-safe dish and sprinkle the top with pecans. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until firm.

Thanks to my friend S who introduced me to this dish!

Ornamentation

I started with Sculpey clay, a rolling pin, and cookie cutters.
ornaments stage 1

Then I painted them on both sides. I'm glad I did, because they baked a little too hard on the side that had contact with the cookie sheet. It took several days to do this process because acrylic paint takes awhile to dry. Each piece has two coats of paint and one coat of translucent gold or silver paint (except for the candy canes which are simply white).
ornaments stage 2

Today I added embellishments to both sides and painted the candy canes. Now they just need time for the glue to set.
ornaments stage 3

Voila! Christmas presents!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Fast and Tasty

I made a tasty shrimp dish from Fish: the Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking by Mark Bittman.

Roast Shrimp with Orange and Tarragon
Makes 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

3 Tbsp. flavorful olive oil
4 sprigs of fresh tarragon or 1/2 tsp. dried
1 to 1.5 pounds large shrimp, peeled (I used Trader Joe's frozen)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
Zest of 1 orange, finely minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450F. When it is hot, warm 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a baking pan on top of the stove, then add the tarragon; put into the oven until the tarragon begins to sizzle. Add the shrimp, then sprinkle with the orange juice and zest, salt, pepper, and the remaining olive oil. Roast until the shrimp turns pink, about 10 minutes.

You can also use crayfish or scallops in this recipe.

I served this with garlic and olive oil couscous and fresh steamed broccoli.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Even More Beautiful Than the Picture

I would not normally have chosen this colorway. I had a yarn emergency (showed up for social knitting at Purlescence having forgotten my supplies). From first glance it looked boring. As I knit it up, however, it worked into a lovely, subtle array of earthy shades of brown, green, and purple. It will be a gift for someone cherished.
nutmeg scarf

2 skeins (120 meters each) of Colinette Cadenza 100% DK merino wool, colorway Castagna (Nutmeg); size 6 needles; the Yarn Harlot stitch