Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fall Baking :: Nut Lover's Granola

Continuing on with our baking spree, my middle kid and I made some nutty granola.  

We used this recipe from Heather Ballard's blog.  It was a huge hit with everyone.  I feel lucky that in these times, my kids prefer to snack on nuts and fruits, and we have no allergies.  This is also a kid-friendly recipe, measuring out the nuts and oats was right up his alley.  

We made a half batch, which was mostly easy except when it came to the canola oil, which we sort of eyeballed.  The two major changes we made were using just two kinds of nuts - what we had on hand, pecans and almonds.  We also used steel cut oats instead of rolled oats.  Again, what we hand on hand, and we didn't know the difference.  We do now, and luckily it worked out alright.  Everyone liked the steel cut, so we will use that again, actually! 

As I said, the granola went over well.  It was requested for lunches and breakfast and after school snacks, and did not last a week.  This is a great option for families on the go, quick to grab and packed full of protein.  A half batch was just perfect; we stored it in quart jars.  We may make it for gifts for teachers and neighbors, this Christmas.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fall Baking :: Challah

I don't know if it's the fall weather, or the episodes of The Great British Baking Show that I've been watching, but I've been on a baking streak.  I may start saying "that's lovely" with sincerity, and "proved" instead of "proofed."

On Wednesday, I made a challah loaf, my first!  Not my first bread.  I was afraid I would have a problem with the yeast; I believe that happened last time I made bread (not recent.)  It was fine though; I think I'm more patient than I used to be.  Maybe?  I'm working on that.  The loaf turned out very well, although I was stumped a bit on rolling the ropes - fat in the middle, skinny ends, I now know.  I used a recipe from the Kitchn, here.  Easy as pie. Er, bread.

the dough is "proved," in my grandmother's bowl

four-strand braid

not quite enough egg wash, but a lovely brown nonetheless

It was a huge hit!  It was asked for until it was gone - two days.  We will be having this again.  Now after watching the GBBS, having no time limit, I'm curious to try rye bread.  Will let you know!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

designing knitting patterns, and working on new one

In case you've ever wondered what drives me...  

Almost from the time I began knitting, I've been putting my own twist on projects.  I was reading knitting blogs and joined Ravelry before I was a knitter, so I was already seeing that knitters modified patterns to suit them before I could do it myself.  In fact, this is one of the things that drew me most to knitting - being able to make the sweater I want in the color I want.  In my observation over the past seven years, I see that many knitters make small modifications to patterns based on their own needs - making the sleeves longer or shorter; adding or omitting pockets; using a cast on, decrease or buttonhole that they prefer.  I came into this thinking that was part of the fun - being able to make it my own.  The first pattern I ever wrote and published was a cabled hat, Glacier.  I may go back and edit that pattern, now that I've learned a few more tricks!  But at the beginning, I just wanted to join in the fun.  

Now I'm more invested in the yarn business and I have other reasons to design, but basically, they fall into three categories (in no particular order):  
  ~ I can't find anything like what I am thinking of in my head / has been requested of me; sometimes just down to finding the appropriate gauge. 
  ~ I write patterns for Windy Valley Muskox, specifically for their gauge and fiber - which is not always like other fibers. 
  ~ I teach knitting at my local yarn shop, and sometimes I can't find a pattern that addresses the specific technique I'm trying to teach and / or taking into account the questions my students have. 

A lot of designers write patterns because they own a yarn company or store, or simply because it's their job.  Luckily, that's just not where I'm at.  I've got the best full-time job a girl could ever ask for (wife and mom).  If you're a wife or mom, you know sometimes that means a lot of work and not a lot of credit.  When I discovered knitting, it was The Thing that flowed from me with little effort, and I love this piece of my life that is gratifying on a personal level; you might even say selfish.  When I set off on this adventure, I was desperately in need of some adult time, of something that was my own, of being Karen instead of so-and-so's mom.  So to me, making money doing something I love is the cherry on top of life's sundae, that has allowed me to connect with other artists, explore the world, and help with the household budget.  

Okay.  All that being said, I am working on publishing a new pattern, it's a cabled hat for my beginner cabling class.  There are simple patterns out there, but I went to some effort to make sure this has some comprehensive information.  Hopefully it will at least be a jumping-off point for all the knitters I help!

A few details:
Name - Three-Grain cabled hat
Yarn - worsted weight (original sample in Malabrigo Worsted, Chapel Stone)
Sizes - S  (M, L) to fit head size 20 (22, 24)” / 51 (56, 61) cm.
More info on Ravelry here.

I have a couple of test knitters that are not quite finished, so the pattern has not been published online, but should be shortly.  I will be knitting this again for myself, only with a tubular cast-on - one of my favorites.  I did not use that for the original because I don't have time to teach that in my class, and it's not a cast on class, it's a cabling class.  Mine will be red, of course!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Colorado autumn

I have been busy...

Friday, September 11, 2015

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

September Indian Summer

What a beautiful time of year: not too hot, in fact perfect for a sweater, especially in the morning!  And yet, there is still plenty of garden goodness to be had.  My boys are in school, and everyone has a little space and independence, including me.  I am always happy to discover another rose, a neighbor out walking dogs, a few leaves turning, a good book with just enough time to crack it open, and new yarn in my local yarn shop.  BFJ and I drove up to Boulder yesterday for some pictures, and I discovered a tin of my favorite tea - which I'd just recently run out of, in one of the culinary shops on Pearl Street.  Perfect timing.

Today, I'm making some Peach Preserves. It seems like everything is so readily available these days, at the store, on the internet.  Almost takes the fun out of finding things.  However, local, organic peaches - that are hopefully ripe, are not easy to come by.  I'm settling for local, ripe peaches this year.  This time around, I am really concentrating on the consistency of the preserves.  That's the tricky part for me, getting it just-right-minus-water-bathing-time.  I am hoping to find myself in possession of a couple of flats of berries this month, too.  Strawberries are one of my favorite things in the food world.  I enjoy that fresh strawberries are one of those things that still has a natural season.  Knowing something will be gone soon makes it a little more precious.  Too bad I have not had much luck growing them!  Something to work on for next year, maybe.

I've been trying to walk my youngest son to school most days.  In spite of the fact that I hate being cold, and morning is not really my thing, never mind exercising in it, I do enjoy being out in the morning light.  The first week of school, I took my camera with me to capture the wonderful little things here and there, which are easier to notice when one is walking, instead of speeding by in a car.

I am working on my List.  (Warning:  it includes dead mice.)  I'm a little more than a third of the way through; one of my goals is to finish the whole thing - something I have not managed to do in previous years.  My latest acquisitions are #15 - the Number 2015, #88 repetition, and #69 traffic sign:

Of course, I have been knitting!  More on that soon, but here's a quick picture:

Now, to finish another batch of peaches before they go soft.  Happy end-of-summer!  What are you doing to celebrate??

Monday, July 20, 2015

my garden - midsummer 2015

It's hard to get up early when you stay up late!  But the mornings I do get up early, I really enjoy being out back in the yard.  It's the best time to weed, of course, and I find it to be a soothing contemplative activity.  During the summer, as I am sure I've previously mentioned, it is lovely to sit out back and sip - hot tea in the morning, cool beverage in the evening, and hear the city just beyond view, the birds and insects within view.  A better place to read, knit or visit is hard to find.  

Some of the things we've harvested so far this year include sugar snap peas...

Sugar snap peas are the first things we plant, at the end of March.  They're a cold-season vegetable, and just when I think I can stand winter no more, I can start my garden.  A few years, I have forgotten to start these soon enough, but luckily not this year.  We had some warm weather in early spring, so we dug up a bed and turned over soil, and planted two rows of peas.  A few weeks later, we were getting record-breaking rains, and the peas were soon poking up from the ground.  They did very well this year.  Everyone in the house loves to eat the pods right off the vine, as well as sauteed with olive oil and salt, or in a stir-fry dish.  First up, delicious, and beautiful blossoms to boot!  I'm telling you, it's win-win-win.  

For the first time ever, my own homegrown garlic...  
A few years ago, we planted garlic - and didn't know when to harvest them.  Since then, I've read up on garlic, and when I saw the plants dying back, I knew it was time to get the shovel!  Boy, I love garlic.  When my mother-in-law introduced me to fresh garlic, it changed my views on cooking forever.  And to have it straight out of the garden, to know we took care of it and raised it organically, so much the better!  Can't wait to roast some, or add it to marinara.  Yum!  I love the dried roots in this picture.  

And the blueberries...

Blueberries are something I did not like until we started growing our own.  Truthfully, blueberries do not readily grow in Colorado; when we planted these, we dug a big trench and filled it with a bale of peat.  The plants have done alright, they are still alive, and we've had blueberries every year.  Though I'm not sure we can say they do well.  However, I know my boys love them, and I know how good they are for us, so it has been worth the few handfuls (and many lovely pictures.)  

Perhaps it's all the rain, I don't know, but we've noticed more butterflies and tons more ladybugs than ever, this year.  I've gotten a few really nice pictures!  I even spotted one without spots today - ha! 

Hopefully we'll have peppers and tomatoes, soon.  I'll let you know!