February 26, 2013

Small Projects

Bobbles. Snoflinga Hat
Black Slouchy Hat Untitled
1, 2, 3, 4

Matt and I have been watching an episode (or three) of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine almost every night this winter via Netflix, and we're finally almost through the entire series. When we started watching it, I didn't think it was nearly as good as The Next Generation or Voyager, but the show really picked up for me around season three or four, and I've been glued ever since.

Funny thing is, the more I like a show, the more I gravitate toward simpler projects that call for flat garter stitch, or stockinette in the round. I don't think this is a coincidence, either. I want to be able to work on something - anything! - but I also don't want to pay that much attention to what my hands are doing. That's why I often choose to knit the same project twice in a row. After I've finished something once, it's a lot easier the second time around, and requires hardly any effort at all.

Anyway, over the past two weeks, I've finished four hats (two of which were gift knits), and almost two pairs of wrist warmers. My current knitting project should be finished around the same time we're watching the series finale, either tonight or tomorrow, and then I think it's time for a long break from the tv. While I enjoy our nightly shows during the winter, the weather is starting to warm up around here, so I'm craving a change in routine.

February 18, 2013

Unraveled

Finished cowl.

Remember my textured shawl? The one I was thinking about unraveling because I knew I'd never wear it? Well, I finally went through with it, and from the liberated yarn was born two projects that I'm incredibly happy with.

For my first project, I paired the yarn (KP gloss dk) with some old mohair stuff in my stash, and made a really simple, sturdy, loose cowl. Luckily, the unraveled yarn is a wool-silk blend that helps counteract the itchiness from the mohair, so it's really comfortable and warm. I wear it constantly.

Hinagiku Hat

My second project is a Hinagiku Hat, which is something I've had in my queue for a long, long time. I had two balls left of the gloss dk after finishing my cowl, so I had just enough leftover for this pattern. And if there's one thing I learned from my frogged shawl, the gloss shows off textured stitches really well, which is perfect for the daisy stitch featured in this hat.

Daisy stitch, by the way, is not fun. My hands were super sore after I was done, but it's one of those situations where the finished product is worth the effort. This is now my new favorite hat, and it's going to be perfect for spring, too, because it's lighter than some of my other hats made with bulky or super bulky yarn.

So here's the thing: unraveling yarn from my textured shawl, and turning it into two completely different projects that get constant use, makes me want to do the same for some of my other unloved projects. For instance, my Claudia scarf is really beautiful while hanging on a coat rack or a hook, but I never wear the thing. It's slightly too short for my tastes, and the center of the scarf, where you have to change directions so the ends match, looks really sloppy to me. So, my Claudia scarf is next on the chopping block. Perhaps I can repurpose the yarn for some nice, comfy socks.

February 15, 2013

Sunlight

Untitled 

Well, I had a completely different post planned for you today, but the sun is shining bright, and I don't want to think of anything other than my growing indoor plants, my order of late winter/early spring seeds from the Seed Saver's Exchange, and playing outside in the dirt. It's funny how a little sunlight has completely changed my attitude and priorities. And since the days are starting to lengthen noticeably, I feel like I'm finally thawing from a long winter hibernation. It's not spring yet, but I can feel it coming.

houseplants  Baby spider plant.
christmas cactus houseplants

I've been slowly adding to our houseplant collection. The more plants I manage to keep alive, the braver I am about bringing in new ones. I get pretty attached to them, and I'm constantly trying to figure out how much water they need, and where they might be happiest in the house in terms of sunlight. There are a couple plants I should probably give away soon because they're not good for nibbling cats, but I need to find good homes first. Some of these plants have been passed down to us, and are many, many years old.

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Matt Instagramming Untitled

Outside, we have plans to turn an old dog house left from the previous owners into a small chicken coop. I doubt we'll be able to do chickens this year- there's just so much more that needs to be done before we're ready for that. In the meantime, we've got a vegetable garden to prepare for, a fence to put up, and a bathroom to remodel.

late winter/early spring seeds Peas

It may seem a little early, but I couldn't help myself. I went ahead and planted some small peas on our front porch last weekend. Whenever I push seeds down into the dirt, I find myself skeptical about whether they'll ever come back up again, but plants continue to amaze me by actually growing. I guess some things never get old.

Anyway, you may have noticed that every photo in this post is from my Instagram feed. For awhile, I quit using my DSLR almost completely because it was so much more convenient for me to whip out my phone. I love it for that reason - it's always there when I need it in a pinch. As a result, I've been able to capture so much more than I would have otherwise. Definitely a worthwhile purchase if you're like me, and you don't like to lug your big camera around with you everywhere you go.

Speaking of Instagram, I changed my username to awoodennest, and I think it's going to stick. Come find me there if you're on and say hello.

February 12, 2013

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

The first time I tried to make homemade English Muffins, the whole process was a complete disaster. My pan was too hot, so the sides of my muffins were scorched black while the insides remained raw and doughy. At the time, I was new to cooking at home, and I didn't have the patience to figure out where I'd gone wrong, so I labeled English Muffins as too difficult for me, and put them out of my mind. It's a shame, too, because they're really very fun and easy to make at home. I especially like to watch them puff up from the yeast the minute they hit the griddle.

If you're like me, and you've had trouble with homemade English Muffins in the past, I've written out a few tips at the bottom of this recipe that I hope you'll find helpful. Enjoy!

English Muffins
1 ¾ cups lukewarm milk
3 tablespoons softened butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
Cornmeal, for dusting

Pour all of the ingredients minus the cornmeal into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Turn mixer on low, and allow mixture to knead until smooth and elastic (about ten minutes). Turn power off, remove hook, and gather dough into a ball. Place ball of dough back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Set aside to rise until doubled in size (1 or 2 hours).

Once the dough has risen, lightly grease your skillet or griddle, and preheat to medium-low. While your cooking surface is preheating, sprinkle some cornmeal onto a cookie sheet until evenly coated, and set aside.

Homemade English Muffins

Punch down the dough to deflate, and gather into a ball. Sprinkle your flat working surface with flour, and roll the dough out until it’s about an inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or an inverted wide-mouth jar, punch out biscuits and place on cookie sheet. Flip to coat both sides with the cornmeal, and repeat this process with the rest of the dough.

Homemade English Muffins Homemade English Muffins

Place dough rounds on your skillet or griddle, leaving at least an inch of space between them. Flip every five minutes or so until both sides are a nice golden brown, and the center is no longer soft and doughy (this usually takes 15-20 minutes per batch). Remove from heat and place on a wire rack to cool for five minutes before serving.

A few tips:

-If your skillet/griddle is too hot, the sides will brown too quickly while the inside remains uncooked. If you encounter this problem, simply cook those biscuits in a 350◦F oven for 10 minutes with a sheet of foil draped over the top to prevent further browning. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

-Cut your English muffins with a fork instead of a knife to create nooks and crannies similar to those found in store bought English muffins.

-If you have leftovers, perforate the edges with a fork (so they will tear easily in half), and store them in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. Re-heat in the toaster until the edges start to brown.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

February 7, 2013

Endpaper Mitts Finished

Endpaper Mitts

After overcoming a couple obstacles over the weekend, I was finally able to finish my Endpaper Mitts on Tuesday, and I think I'm in love. I love the design, the colors, and now I think I'm turning into a fan of stranded colorwork as well. Aside from a few beginner's hang-ups, this was a really fun project, and I'd definitely make it again. In fact, I probably will.

First, I should say I didn't follow the pattern's advice for the cast-on. I used a long-tail cast on instead because I didn't want to deal with too many new things at once. Next, upon reaching the thumb gusset on my first attempt, I realized that my gauge was way off, and that there was no way I was going to be able to fit the mitt I was making over my hand, so I had to rip it all out and start over on my 3.5mm circulars. From there, it was smooth sailing.

Endpaper Mitts - One Down

I still need to work on my tension when it comes to projects like these. My second mitt is noticeably looser, tidier, and more comfortable than my first because my tension improved as I went along. Still, it's not that big of a difference, and I'm really happy with them. Now I just need to weave in those ends...