January 30, 2012

Monday

This Morning

This is what greeted me from the window yesterday as I was pouring water in the kettle for our morning tea. It was a double rainbow, but the picture only gives you a faint glimpse of the second. Soon after this moment, the sky went completely overcast and it rained for the rest of the day.



Random tidbit: I've noticed something very strange about my cat lately. Whenever there's a lamp on, he'll stick his head right under the cover and sit there, inching closer and closer every minute until he finally knocks it over. I can only guess that he's trying to warm himself, but there has to be a better way.

I hope you all had a good weekend. I'm looking forward to finishing my work, and doing a little knitting/crocheting this week. It feels like forever since I've had a chance to play with yarn. I'm also looking for another book to read, like usual.

January 26, 2012

Onion Jam, Two Ways

Onion Jam

After trying two different onion jam recipes this week, I've decided it's time to invest in a pair of onion goggles. I soaked all of the onions in cold water before slicing, and it really helped with the sting... until they began to cook. It seems that once they warm up, there isn't anywhere in the house I can go to hide from the dreaded onion tears.

Onion Jam

The first onion jam recipe I tried was a simple red wine vinegar concoction based on this recipe. I like it because it's light (and pink), and a little different than the taste I'm used to from the second recipe for roasted garlic and onion jam made with balsamic vinegar. Still, the roasted garlic and onion jam is my favorite of the two. It's rich and sweet, and it makes me very happy. Almost as happy as bacon jam.

I like to eat onion jam on toast - plain or with goat cheese, over pan-fried potatoes with an egg on top, as a sandwich/burger spread, or with crackers, but there are so many more possibilities. It's quite versatile.

Of course, I'm still looking for the perfect onion jam recipe. Both of these were very good, but they were also much sweeter than I anticipated. As someone who generally prefers salty and savory foods, I'd love to find a recipe for onion jam that pushes more in that direction. I'm sad to say that more onion lives will be lost in search of the perfect balance for my palate.

January 20, 2012

Matt's Felicity

Matt's Felicity

I've been trying to reach a balance between the amount of time I spend knitting for others versus the amount of time I spend knitting for myself. That's why, after focusing on Christmas gifts for the last few months, I'm knitting only for me right now. I'm not sure how long this selfish knitting phase will last, but I'm hoping to get five or six items checked off my list without interruption.

Matt's Felicity

Unfortunately, things don't always pan out the way I think they will. This hat is one of those things. It seemed like the perfect pattern for me - huge, slouchy, green - but after I was finished, I put it on and gave it a good look. Something was wrong.

Matt's Felicity

It was the right size, and it fit comfortably, but it didn't work for me. I figured maybe I could wear it in over time, or block it out if it still didn't seem right.

And then I had Matt try it on. And it was obvious. The hat belongs to Matt.

Technically, what belongs to Matt belongs to me. We share accessories all the time, so I don't feel bad about giving the hat what it wants.

Sigh.

January 16, 2012

Irish(?) Soda Bread

Soda Bread

I ran into a recipe for Irish Soda Bread recently, and I couldn't wait for St. Patrick's Day to try it. However, after doing a little research, I've learned that any recipe for Irish Soda Bread that consists of anything other than these four main components - flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk - is not worthy of the word "traditional."

Soda Bread Soda Bread

So it seems that this recipe is a modern (or Americanized) take on traditional Irish Soda Bread. The leavening is still produced by the reaction between the baking soda and the buttermilk, but there are additional ingredients that lend cake-like qualities to the bread. It's delicious, of course, and very simple to make, but from what I've gathered, it's much different than anything you'll actually find in Ireland.

Soda Bread

I'd be very interested if anyone has anything to add on the topic.

Irish(?) Soda Bread
4 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup raisins (or any other dried fruit)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 large beaten egg
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Grease a cast-iron skillet, or line a baking sheet.

Sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together in a bowl. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse crumb. (Alternately, you can combine the flour mixture with the butter in a food processor to achieve the same result.)

Add the rasins and the caraway seeds, and stir until evenly distributed. Form a well in the center and add the egg and the buttermilk. Stir until just combined, and then use your hands to knead two or three times until you have formed the dough into a shaggy ball.

Place your dough in a cast-iron skillet or baking sheet. Score an X on the top, and place in the oven on the center rack. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Check for doneness by inserting a knife or a wooden skewer. If it comes out clean, remove from the oven. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe very slightly adapted from Simply Recipes.

January 12, 2012

Gardening 2012

Garden Journal

I know it seems early, but it's time to order seeds for the garden. I always miss out on the spring veggies because I never think about gardening until the sun starts to come out, but not this year!

Instead of using my blog as a reference as I have in the past, I'll be detailing our garden and food preservation results in a garden journal. My blog is never thorough enough, and my memory is laughable, so this should help us keep our facts straight about what works and what doesn't.

January 9, 2012

Winter

Double Thumbprint Cookies

Despite the oddities in the weather, it still feels like the middle of winter to me, and I'm enjoying it. People sometimes ask me what my favorite season is, but I don't think I can honestly answer that question. Each season has its pros and cons, and winter's post-holiday calm is appealing to me very much right now.

We took the Christmas decorations down on the 26th. I know it's more traditional to leave them up until after the New Year (we accidentally left them up until February once), but we were ready to move forward. I even rearranged the entire house to accommodate Matt's Christmas gift to me.

Rocking Chair

This little rocking chair is one of my favorite things, so I had to give it a corner in our living room all to itself. We moved one of our bookshelves up into the office where we should've moved it long ago, and the dresser that was formerly in the office now resides in our bedroom. The changes makes everything look and feel a lot less crowded, and we now have a quaint reading/knitting nook.

Toasty

Toasty  Toasty

I've been working on really simple and functional knitting projects lately. This pair of green wrist warmers are my first project done entirely by continental knitting, and I'm afraid it's obvious. My stitches are uneven, and the tension changes throughout, but it's no big deal. They sit under my sleeves, so it's not very obvious, and they serve their purpose. I have a pet peeve against long sleeves that creep up and expose my wrists when it's cold outside, so this takes care of the problem.

If you're interested, the project is based on the pattern Toast by Leslie Friend. There's also a version with thumb holes if you'd prefer fingerless mitts, and both versions are free. I've been adding 4 rows of ribbing on the top and bottom (see the stripy pair) to keep the work from curling, but that's really the only change. It'd be a great project for a beginner.

January 3, 2012

A New Year

I may be a few days late, but happy New Year! 2011 was an incredibly memorable year for me, and I'm looking forward to what 2012 has to offer (apocalypse aside). And yes, I have my New Year's resolutions carefully written down in the pages of my journal in large, colorful ink, but I won't bore you with those right now.

This is the first week I've been home since early December. In case you were wondering, my step-mom is recovering well, and it looks like she'll be returning to semi-normal functionality soon. While I was discussing yarn with her one day, I learned that she's really into natural fibers, and has quite a bit of experience with alpacas. She even has a spinning wheel that, unobservant as I am, I only recently became aware of. She's had it for years, of course. I'm not sure how I could've missed it. Anyway, it's really beautiful.



She sent me home with this basket full of goodies: a bag of washed llama fleece, carders, instructions on hand-spinning, and a bag full of rolags that she carded herself.

Fiber Fiber

The rolags look like puffy little clouds, and they're very soft. As you can imagine, this has me interested in learning how to treat and spin fiber myself. Matt likes to joke around that he knew this step in my yarn-obsessed progression was imminent. First I start crocheting, then knitting, then I get interested in natural fibers, then I teach myself how to spin...

Yes. I foresee in my future a farm full of goats and sheep and llamas and rabbits...



There's only one contraption in the basket that I don't understand. Can anyone tell me what that little wooden gadget is in the photo?