Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas knits for the fam, Part II

I recently finished one of the most complicated knitting projects for me to date... a lace shawl for my mother. It's Laminaria by Elizabeth Freeman from knitty. It was my first lace shawl and somehow it managed to knit up well and block beautifully for my first try! No changes to the pattern as written.

KnitPicks Shadow in the Oregon Coast Heather color way

Very involved charts

Off the needles, before blocking


Finished knit

Close-up of the patterns

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Christmas knits for the fam, Part I

I decided to knit my family their Christmas gifts this year.  Here's the first batch:

1. For my sister Emily: cabled hat in a super soft alpaca-merino blend (design: Solveig by drops, yarn: highland duo aran white)

2. For my sister Julie: extra long mittens styled after Bella in Twilight (design: Bella's Mittens by subliminalrabbit, yarn: Cascade 220 worsted indigo heather and misty lilac heather held together)

3.  For my sister Julie: 1920s-style cloche hat (design: escargot by goldeniris, yarn: Cascade 220 worsted misty lilac heather and mauve heather)

4.  For my brother Michael: a slouchy hat (design: hofós by westknits, yarn: knitpicks palette fingering midnight heather, marble heather, finnley heather held double)

There's more to come... especially a major Estonia lace shawl for my mom... wish me luck!

Sunday, October 13, 2013


I decided to head a bit north to see more of the fall colors on the trees since Eau Claire hasn't yet reached its peak.  My destination was Chittamo: once an Ojibwa settlement until they were forced onto a reservation near Hayward in the late nineteenth century.

A number of white pioneers and Ojibwa natives were buried in a small burial ground, now marked with a commemorative stone:

Right across the street from the burial ground is the former (and now abandoned?) school built in 1920. It has an interesting form to it: all the chimneys and the southwestern styled grotto atop the roof:

The beautiful Derosier Lake is nearby:

Although no one was there on this beautiful weekend day, it looks like a great place for outdoor fun.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


I haven't been on a Wisconsin daytrip in a long time, so on this dreary October day, I decided to head north of Chippewa Falls for a small adventure. I wanted to check out the abandoned "Twelve Mile House" --- a once famous, nineteenth century stop for weary lumbermen along the old stage route "Chippewa Trail," now Route 124. The house stands right on the corner of 182nd Avenue and 124; it's now in a severe state of disrepair:

Just south of the Twelve Mile House is a small rural Lutheran church just east of the unincorporated hamlet of Eagleton:

Across the road is the small Eagleton cemetery, where I stumbled across some remnants of its German past:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lingonberry Gingerbread

I am in love with IKEA... I have been since my first trip to one in Germany to get supplies for my dorm.  Now that I live near the Twin Cities, I like to visit IKEA every few months to see what new things they have.  On my last trip, I picked up a cookbook (Hembakat är Bäst - Homemade is Best) which was very much in the IKEA-style.  Minimal instructions, geometric ingredient pictures, brightly colored finished products.  It's been sitting on my shelf for several months and I haven't had a chance to bake anything out of it until this weekend.

I decided to try the Lingonberry Gingerbread.  Lingonberries are a very tart small red berry which they Swedes adore.  I'd never heard of them until I came to the upper Midwest... apparently we don't have enough Swedish-Americans in Pennsylvania.  The gingerbread needed lingonberry jam and I knew just where to find some:  Norske Nook.  In fact, it was at the Nook that I had my first taste of lingonberries in one of their delicious pies.  I made a quick drive to the Osseo one, because they have a larger gift shop and picked up a jar.  The cake is moist, gingery, and (thanks to the lingonberry) a subtle tartness.

Lots of cloves and ginger

Lingonberries imported from Sweden

Ready for the oven

Mmmmm... ready for fall....

Friday, September 27, 2013


I've followed West Knits for a long while before I actually bought some of his patterns and made them. Brickstreet (last post) was the first one... and this one, Clockwork, is the second.  I LOVE this shawl/scarf --- p.s. can we come up with some kind of portmanteau for this like a scarwl or a sharf --- it's a lovely fall color, just in time for fall weather.  Though here in the midwest, we're having some fairly mild temps, so it's not been cold enough to actually wear it yet.  Knit on US 5, Cascade 220 fingering weight Ginger and Walnut Heather.

Friday, August 23, 2013


I finished another afghan last weekend.  This time it was a lovely design by West Knits.  I decided to step outside of my usual earth-tone color scheme and go for something different.  The main part is knit with Wool of the Andes colorway Jam, which is bulky weight yarn.  The border was knit with two strands of Wool of the Andes worsted: Haze Heather and Marble Heather... giving it a purplish-gray color.  I really like this one and I think I'll incorporate it into a new color scheme for my living room!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Zigzag afghan

I finally finished knitting this Zigzag afghan from Coats and Clark.  I decided to use a different yarn and went with Loops and Threads in chocolate, aqua, and grass.  It was a fun, easy pattern and the finished project is really stretchy.  Can you tell winter is on its way?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer Baking 6: Zwetschgendatschi

My latest baking experiment took on a German twist.  I chose a Zwetschgendatschi, a German plum cake, usually made around this time of year when the Damson plums are at their best.  I decided to make it with a yeast dough, rather than a shortbread crust... people are fairly divided on that apparently... and also on what it's called in their dialect. 

Yeast mixture bubbling up

Dough ready for a rise
I really enjoyed the yeast dough, mainly because you cut the plums in quarters, keeping them still attached at the bottoms.  Then you nestle them gently on the soft, pillowy dough.

Ready for the oven
And that's it.  Sprinkle with some sugar and cinnamon when it's hot from the oven and delicious... even more so with some ice cream...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Victorian Lace Photo Frame

This is the summer of lace work... I love how such a complex look can come from tiny needles, thin thread, and simple stitches.  Everything just combines into a beautiful piece.

I've done doilies before, so crocheting with a 1.7 mm hook and lace thread wasn't a big problem, but doilies, while intricate, lack dimensionality.  Then I discovered Irish Lace Crochet, a craft developed by poor, nineteenth century Irish women.  Unlike normal lace crochet work, Irish Lace Crochet is a combination of motifs and meshing.  You make the motifs first and then connect everything together with a crochet mesh.  It began in the mid-nineteen century as a great (inexpensive, portable) way to mimic expensive Venetian lace that only the wealthy could afford.  The really complicated ones look absolutely gorgeous.  Here's a nice Irish lady describing how it's done:

I'm not exactly talented enough to handle the crochet mesh for these designs... so that's something to work on, but what I love about Irish crochet is that the motifs can create more dimensionality, because they're worked on a "padding cord."  The cord is used to give weight and tension to the motif, so it can be manipulated before adding the mesh.  The result is more realistic looking flowers, vines, leaves, etc.  Here's my first time working with the padding cord:

A leaf motif, being worked around the padding cord

The motifs I used were from several old pattern books from the late nineteenth / early 20th century available here.  You can really see how modern patterns "spoon feed" us; it's often a language battle with the older ones:  "Make six times over a single cord foundation 1 plain on the 1st and 2nd and 2 plain on the 3rd of the stitches placed on the hind-loop of the stitches beneath; 1 single on the 1st plain, 1 chain."  Anyway, I perservered through and provisionally sewed my motifs onto cloth for working the mesh.... which I later decided to be just a simple (and crude) needle (Battenberg-esque) lace.

The purpose of the Irish Lace/Needle Lace project design came from one of the old pattern books:  a Victorian "frame."  Luckily, I have this bizarre hobby of collecting old photos of people I don't know, people I find interesting... wherever I find them.  So I headed down to the local antique store to see who I could find.  She is wearing a nice lace collar, which brings the lace theme more completely.  At first the non-straight meshing got on my nerves, but I think in the end I prefer the more "handmade" look.  And here it is, a nice way to revive some old photos:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer Baking 5: Shaker Lemon Pie

In contrast to some of my previous summer baking challenges, this one required absolute simplicity.  Patience to let lemons mellow in the heat of the summer sun and tenderize with sugar, and then to add to them only three additional ingredients: a small amount of sugar, four eggs, and a pinch of salt.  The result was a Shaker Lemon Pie.

The Shakers are a religious group, whose numbers can be counted on one hand... as prophesied by their early leader Mother Ann Lee.  Shaker simplicity is calming for me; I would love to own a Victorian house with an interior of Shaker design.  For more about the Shakers, I recommend an older, but wonderful documentary by PBS.  Here's Sister Mildred singing:

I had heard about Shaker Lemon Pie... apparently my grandmother made a variation of it, but I don't remember it.  Online reviews of the recipes were surprisingly scathing at times.  Why would anyone make a lemon pie if they don't like lemons?!  I ended up with a recipe from epicurious and some beautiful organic lemons from Just Local Foods.  It's not for the faint of lemon-hearted... and even then I'd recommend enjoying it warm with some ice cream.

Lemons sliced as thinly as possible

All that is needed for a Shaker Lemon Pie
Ready for the oven

Fresh from the oven

Warm lemony goodness

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer lace

I've been silent on the stitchery side of things.  My baking challenges and weekly festivals are taking up my down time, and since this summer is nearly all lacework, there's nothing new to report, because this takes an insane amount of time to do.  I even have two afghans to finish, but they're snoozing in a corner of my living room.  I know, I know... lace?  But I love it; it's so small and delicate.  I think it's because lace requires all of my concentration for finger maneuvering that I can't really think of anything else... just be in the moment... me and my lace... maybe even some good cold beer.

The days are nicer now and I'm really enjoying sitting on my balcony watching new flower buds come up each day and having the chickadees and hummingbirds fly around me.  I'm working on Estonian lace (knit) and Irish lace (crochet and needle lace) at the moment, so I'll post pics of those finished things soon.  Here are three more modern doilies that I've finished and are hanging above my dining table.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer baking 4: Blueberry muffins

Many people who know me, know that my favorite poem is What I Learned From My Mother.  It's about having something to offer people who mean a lot to you: a cake, a touch, a flower, or just yourself... it's what bonds friends together, reminds them how special they are to you.  This morning I got a message that a friend was coming over at 11 for a short visit... it's in my programming to always have something to offer... but two hours to make something?!  How about muffins?

Believe it or not, I've never made muffins.  In fact, I've only had a muffin tin for a few months... and only purchased one because I was making popovers to accompany a Sunday roast for friends.  Browneyed baker said that they're her favorite, so I decided to give them a whirl... they were simple, moist and delicious!

Fresh out of the oven

Lots of blueberries!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer baking 3: Napoleon

I first enjoyed napoleons at a local café in State College, Pennsylvania.  When I bought a book on French pastry arts, my mouth watered at the recipe for the napoleon.  Could I make it?  I've never made puff pastry before and that seemed like a lot of time and effort, then there was the assembly which appeared overly fussy.  But since this is a baking challenge, I decided to try... and how sweet the result!  Making puff pastry was actually easier than I imagined.  I have the amazing (and upbeat) DulceDelight to thank for that!

Adding the butter block to the dough

Six turns later... here it is!
The puff pastry is divided into three parts and spread with a vanilla pastry cream.  Finally the top piece is decorated with liquid fondant.  I made the "quick" powdered sugar version, lined with melted chocolate and scraped with a toothpick to make a fun design.  Not sure that I'll have an occasion to make this again, but I'm glad to check it off my list!

Finished napoleon with pastry cream filling and liquid fondant glaze