Monday, January 31, 2011

And more snow, and more snow and then more snow, you make a scarf, right?

I do anyways. Because if I'm going to spend the next month being cold, and bundled up in my winter coat, I definitely need a cool new scarf to wrap around my neck!
I've named the pattern Sweet Vermouth.
(Because there's no way I'm coming up with a dark blue drink)

It's made out of lovely, soft, and gorgeous Blue Sky Alpaca Worsted Hand Dyes in Midnight. I wanted to do something fun with this slipped stitch lace pattern that I'd become addicted to, and it was just screaming to be a cozy, heavy accessory. The weight and drape are perfect for a chunky, cozy long scarf, and it's the softest thing to wear around my neck.

I plan to publish this one for free (yep, freeeeee!!, don't we all deserve that?) sometime next week. And of course, I'll also share some kind of vermouthy treat with it. So, if you think you might like one of your own, keep your eyes out and get some fat needles ready.
It's a good TV movie quickie.


Also, when life gives you snow, you begin a cotton top for spring.

Just so you don't go crazy when they tell you there's ANOTHER storm coming.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'm in the process of a lot of home improvement projects all at once, so the cocktail of choice today is an easy-to-prepare bottle of beer. I haven't knit a stitch in about 48 hours, which is crazy for me, but I did paint ALL the white trim in my downstairs., which is alot. I am not touching the main parts of the walls, or I'd have to shoot myself. It's been about 6 hours today, and the downstairs is done. But the upstairs beckons and I'm not happy.

I'm am happy, however that an entire a case of beer is on hand.

It's related to the sweater below, which I decided to name Naragansett, in honor of my favorite beach beer in a can. Nevermind that these are bottles. That's what they had at the store and we're not at the beach yet.

So, the sweater is taking shape and now just needs to be written and then reknit in PluckyKnitter Worsted. A light cloudy day gray should do the trick, and Moody Broody #2 will be ready. The beach is more of a springtime moody, right? My goal is to have this ready by late March/early April, but the house projects might keep getting in the way, as the list that I've been handed is looong, and I am way too cheap to hire actual talent to do any of it.

I bunched it all up so you can't tell what it looks like ;-)

My do it cheap streak didn't get in the way last week, when it was time to make appetizers for a little gathering we were having. We went all out! My grandma's recipe books have been taunting me for a while, so Craig and I decided it was time to buy the orange cheese, the toothpicks, and yes, the Spam.

The orange cheese appetizer is actually kind of great. You take little squares of cheese and big green olives with pimento in them. Spear each olive onto the cheese block with a pretzel stick. Honestly, it's the easiest appetizer ever and the mix of salty and cheesy and olivey is kind of perfect. Plus, they do look just about the right amount of crazy, don't they?

The second recipe I have to share is much scarier.
These are called surprise cubes.

And yep, the surprise is...... Spam.

Cut in squares, slathered with cream cheese and rolled in chopped parsley. It was just too weird and retro and kind of gross that we had to make them. I'd never actually bought Spam before. The best part was when people tried them and then guessed what the surprise was - loads of entertainment for me and Craig :-)

There were a few others, but the photos aren't as entertaining, so you'll just have to wait for the next party to see what we whip up again.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I've been so patient, keeping all these pics in my computer for the past 3 months. Believe me when I say how happy I am to finally be able to show you this entire sweater - front and back and sides! Keeping things under wraps is not my strong suit.

Mulled Cider is a rustic sweater coat, knit in an heavy worsted/aran weight 2ply yarn from BartlettYarns, which is a historic mill that's been spinning wool in Harmony Maine since 1821. They make gorgeous sheepy tweeds in amazing colors, and I first discovered them at New Hampshire Sheep and Wool a few years back. Since then, their booth is a go-to for me whenever I'm at an event. They do sell online as well, at the link above - but the festival purchase is my favorite way to go, so I can touch all of it and see the groovy, amazing colors in person!

(Don't worry if you can't get your hands on Bartlett. My test knitters worked it in Berroco Blackstone, SHELTER, and a number of other substitutes. The design looks great in an interesting heavy worsted or aran wool, of which there is NO short supply out there.)

Moving on from yarn choice, though:

Mulled Cider is a classic sweater coat with a few elements that make it interesting to knit and to wear. The body is worked in reverse stockinette, which I think adds to the rustic feel of the coat. A leaf and stem motif runs up one side of the back, meets at the shoulder and comes down the front. The stems from the motif are echoed in reverse seams at the shoulders, and the vertical lines of the leaves and stems also give the sweater coat a nice slimming visual element. I especially love the leaves since they add a touch of femininity to the coat.

The body has a subtle A line shape, and the fronts overlap to fasten with twisted toggles and large, off-center buttons. Once the sweater is finished, additional shaping can be added by adjusting the length and position of your toggles for less or more overlap at the center, bust or hips. My center toggle is a little shorter than the others, and it adds a subtle touch o' waist when fastened. Sneaky, right?

The collar is deep, generous and folded over in a somewhat "notched" shape. I love the statement the big neckline makes, and the balance it adds to the other deep ribbings throughout.

However, I know it isn't for everyone. With that in mind, notes are in the pattern to modify either the actual size of the collar, or to tack it down so it lies flat against the neck. (I played with this in the photos above, if you look closely!) Both modifications are simple and can be done just prior to finishing, so you can see what you think and choose when you have the entire coat done.

Additional information and actual specs are on Ravelry, and the pattern is available for $6.50 US. It can be bought on the sidebar above or on the Ravelry page.

Below are a few of the basics:

4sts, 5 rows per 1" in stockinette, blocked.
The pattern calls for two needle sizes - #7s, and #8s. Gauge is on the larger needle.

Pattern is available in sizes 32-50

Size 32-1100 yds, 34-1200, 36 -1300, 38-1400, 40-1500, 42-1600, 44-1700, 46-1800, 48-1900, 50-2000

Yarn Notes
As I mentioned, this looks best in a heavy worsted to aran weight yarn with a little visual interest. I think something rustic is best. Wooly. A tweed is gorgeous, and a subtly vareigated yarn would also work nicely. You definitely do NOT want too much drape, as it may stretch out over time and not remain closed. A yarn with a little mind of its own is good, and something that knits up densely makes a great warm coat!


As for the cider itself, I'm a fan of mulling spices, the cider AND a little added something.

The drink photo will have to wait. It's easier to make and take pics of one glass recipes, as I'm not going to down an entire gallon of cider while reading back Maya's science flashcards tonight. But, we're having a few friends over on Saturday, and it'll be the perfect time to make it and take a few pics over the weekend. In the snow, again. Perfect cider weather :-)

In the meantime, here's the recipe only:

Put the following into a large pot and let it simmer on the stove. I like putting it in a big Le Creuset. The spices can be put into a teaball for easy retreival. If not, you'll have to use a strainer when serving so nobody gets a glass full of cloves.

one gallon of apple cider
cut 4 large sections from one orange, take off the peel
8 oz dark rum

add the following spices, either free floating or in a teaball:

8 allspice berries
10 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
7 pods of cardamom

Let spices, orange, rum and cider simmer on the stove.


Just prior to serving, slice one apple into thin slices and float the slices on top of the pot of cider.

I also like to leave out the bottle of rum, plus a bottle of Cointreau and one of Calvados next to the mugs so people can add a little extra of whatever they prefer if they want! Mods aren't just for knitting, are they?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

You'd think since I'm home for a whole week when we planned to be away, I'd have had a ton of time to blog, and read your blogs, and get caught up. Not so much. However, I've been busy with you guys on my mind, I promise.

Many new projects for spring and late winter - and even next fall - are now underway. I've been messing with yarns, flipping through my notebooks, making plans and swatching. All between the shoveling and sledding, which take longer than you think they will.

SO, now that other things are coming and the beach in the photo above is currently under about 3 feet of snow, it's obviously past time to get this pattern out, isn't it?

Plus, I'm finally organized enough to do so. My testers are finishing up. Final changes and revisions are being made. You'll have your Mulled Cider before the week is out, I promise.

For now, I'll just show you one more pic.
(I've always had old lady hands but, seriously - what's up with that knuckle??? Eeew.)

( aaaand moving on)

Below is my friend Adam. His wife, Gabriella is the original drinking buddy who I have to thank (blame?) for my explan-o Baby Cocktails business and blog title. She was camera shy, so use your imagination. There's a glass in her hand and boots on her feet. She does not have old lady knuckles.

Gabriella is my like-minded parenting buddy who helped me get through the first few years of Zoe's life by agreeing that, yes, a drink would make the pre-bedtime hours go that much faster - and more importantly, by walking down the street to share said drink a few days a week.

(Zoe cried and cried and cried. For years. She thankfully got it all out of her system by 3 and has grown up into a much more reasonable child, but in those first few years, we would have returned her if she had come with a box and a UPS label, like Zappos gives you.)

So anyways, G&A arrived for dinner and the big game on Sunday for dinner, not with a six pack, but with a bag of bottles to make up Burbon Crustas. Our kind of people, right?

Apparently, Adam liked this drink at a restaurant about a year back and Gabriella not only took note, but remembered enough to buy him all the ingredients for the holidays. And he brought them over to serve up a few samples for kickoff.

Burbon, Cherry Heering, orange bitters, and a fancy orange liquor (like cointreau, but not).

You put the following into a jigger with a few ice cubes. These portions are per serving, so multiply as you need to. Shake and strain into a small glass with a lemon-juiced and sugared rim.

According to the cocktail history website, you can put big piece of lemon rind around the rim too, for a classic crusta garnish. Looks very fancy -slip it in the inside, like a citrus liner.

1/2 oz cointreau
1.5 oz burbon
1/2 oz lemon juice
.5 cherry heering (more would make it sweeter if you like)

It might have been easier to bring a six pack, but this was definitely more fun!
Too bad the Patriots lost :-(

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

They LOOK cozy, but my bathing suited ass would be frozen after a few minutes in one of these deck chairs. And there's no hot, swarthy (or sleazy with a gold tooth) guy wandering around the deck checking if I need a freshly made drink in a coconut. And you know why he's not there? Because he IS in Mexico. And I'm staying here in Massachusetts.

My plan was to spend the next 6 days on beach chairs. Thanks to Mother Nature and a crazy thunderstorm/snowstorm that's still going on, that plan's kind of shot. But thanks also to a well executed decision regarding trip insurance, we'll go in February instead, which makes this snowday still kind of fun.

Insead of the sand and sea and the aforementioned skeevy beach guys, we'll be looking at about a foot and a half of snow for the next 6 days. It's a different kind of beautiful, right? I 've shoveled once, built a snow fort, and am now waiting for the driveway to be done so I can finish up the back stairs.

After which, we'll have lunch. Without the margaritas.

Instead, we'll experiment with the amaretto from my Grandma's kitchen, or try this weird Dutch cinnamon liquor a friend gave me, or go with the kahluha. It's like an adult hot chocolate buffet right? (the kids will get the straight up kind).

We live on a street that's a little like a dorm, so I'm betting there will be a bit of mixing and matching once the shoveling is done and friends begin meandering the street, looking for a little conversation. It's a good thing it's shaping up to be a good snowday, or I'd be pissed.


And it's giving me time to think about other vacations. Cabins in gorgeous spots and crafty diversions. The new homepage on Ravelry is all about Squam Lake. Mmmmmmm. I've been checking that link out. And I just heard about a Colorado Mountain version called TheMakerie that looks just as amazing. The cabins alone make me want to go, never mind all the classes and the great food. Since you have probably not heard of Colorado one, a link is here: Check it out. See? Mmmmmm.

Rustic cabins, lakes or mountains, yummy food, interesting people, cool new stuff to learn, and a retreat from the everyday. Just perusing these two websites makes me want to book a cabin on a lake with my knitting friends and take crafty classes and snap gorgeous pictures.

Maybe next year.... when the snow stops.

I'm going back out now, and once done shoveling those steps, I'm going to take the rest of the day as my own mini-vacation with the hot chocolate and the knitting and a couple of non crafty friends. Hope you're all cozy and knitting too if you're in New England!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

More yarn! This box directly from the lovely folks at Blue Sky Alpacas.

It's soft and thick and amazing. 400 yards of their Worsted Hand Dyes, in midnight.


Turns out I was right about the colorwork. After a few exhilarating hrs, it became apparent it's just not meant to be right now.

For a few hours, it was like crack and I'm not sure I'd have even stopped to pee. Then I realized I didn't love the motif I had going - I needed something a little more delicate -- I think -- and this particular one was about 4" high and medallioned. Not what you want around your hips, no? Pretty, but also pretty big...

And yes, Carol, I needed a little green or blue as well, so I frogged it back. Frogging 3 colors in fair isle sucks, by the way. All twisty and tangly and annoying. It was enough to get the whole thing put back in a bag till next fall. Maybe it will come out a little before then, since I did like the crack part when it was all going so well, but it's definitely not getting knit this week.


Instead, I'm taking this squooshy purple experiment, making a few mods to it, and turning it into a pattern for the Alpaca. A little more on the instant gratification path, a technique I know I get along with, and -- waaaaay easier to frog, should I mess things up.

Friday, January 07, 2011

First, thanks so much for all the comments! I'm getting used to my new hair, and happily playing with the new yarn.

Above is the Cascade 220, working its way into a top down pullover. My head's thinking it's going to be something to wear to a beach picnic in April or May, when it's still a little too cold to swim, but you can hang out and play on the sand. Funny how the "where to wear it" image is coming to me first, and the design is kind of following, but hey. Whatever works, and I'm game to just follow along. This is going to be a sweater for cutoffs, Converse and a can of beer on a blanket. I'm thinking it'll be called Naragansett, since that's our canned beer of choice when we hit the beach. Makes me want summer right about now, even though we're sharpening the shovels for another snowfall tonight!

So anyways, I have no idea what it'll finally be like, but that's how it's going to go. So far, I have a fun little cable, some twisted rib, and a nice boaty wide neckline. Successful yarn purchase is what I'm thinking, as it got the wheels turning, and a spitball finally stuck. I'm about halfway down the raglan shaping and pretty satisfied with it.

So happy in fact, that all the sudden, my stray skeins of tweed and my leftover 400yds of Kathmandu have arranged themselves into two little piles that want to turn into smallish colorwork projects. I have the strange urge to begin working on these guys today, and am having fun researching color ideas -- even though I had a conversation with Amy last night about how I never do colorwork. Don't like it. All those strands. A mess. And yet, here I am today staring a these two piles and dying to do some colorwork.

I'm going to blame either the stash inventory from my last post, which got me thinking about what to do with all the stray tweeds, or the fact that I threw the gauntlet down and now have to pay the piper.

Should a knitter never say never? Will we inevitably succumb to what we haven't done? Just the urge to prove I can? Climb that mt. because it's there? My big mouth?

Either way, again, I think I'll go with it as soon as I'm done here.

And, in the spirit of combining things that maybe didn't need to go together, I may try to mess with these two tonight. Southern Comfort and Regan's Orange Bitters.

Again, dont' know why, but it's begging to be done. The wine fairy's wife is coming over, while the 6th grade gals go ice skating at the Friday Night Free Skate (Is that kind of funny? We used to roller skate in the 70s...wearing our flare jeans with combs in the pocket, some suspenders and a collection of little buttons, right??) and she's good game for a little cocktail challenge. If it doesn't fly, the SoCo will be replaced by burbon and everyone will be happy.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Guess who's baaack?

We're starting off 2011 with old friends of the human and not-so human variety over here. Remember the Great BBQ Mouse Fiasco of 2007? I think their mouse grandchild is spending the day in my family room with me, much to his dismay. (The notes were for the girls, who were asleep when he was caught.)

Craig and I saw this little guy run across the floor last night, and couldn't believe we were quick enough to get him under here. But now we're a little hmmm on next steps. Last time we did this, I was CONVINCED I could get him with the tongs if Craig just picked up the edge of the colander. Craig was skeptical, but I was totally sure, crouching there with the tongs at the ready. And yeah, he picked it up and the little dude was gone like a bat out of hell, under the fridge. I didn't even get a tong snap in his general vicinity, and my catlike reflexes have been in doubt ever since.

So he's there. And I'm here. And I'm not skittish or anything, but am feeling a little guilty that he's stuck and hanging out and I know Craig will kill me if I just let him go, so I'm going to try to ignore him until after work tonight when we can come up with a better plan.

3pm Edit: Just went to do the slide under trick and was too late. RIP mousie.

(and we won't be making pasta tonight -- with that colander anyways)

At least I have something to keep me busy in the meantime (ahem).

Stuck in a serious swatching rut still - oy! - even after the holidays had passed, I knew some kind of big move was needed to get past the spitballing phase and back into some actual knitting. Of course, the problem has to be a lack of inspirational yarn - and although you might think I'm being sarcastic, I'm not. I have almost no current stash.

Here it is:

1. random single or double skeins for swatching
2. 2 scarves' worth of worsted
3. 400 levtover yards of Kathmandu tweed
4. a sweater's worth of Sportweight tweed from Rhinebeck
5. a shawl's worth of Frog Tree Alpaca Sport I bought for a shawl I'll never make

That's pretty much IT. But not anymore, no siree. Now I'm looking at these and ready to get moving (at least in theory) I need to figure out which comes first: the brown tweed knit dress, blue worsted spring pullover, or the purple kinda dainty cardigan I have in mind. And I do think it's going to work - as soon as I'm done typing here, that Cascade's getting wound. How's that for some purchase justification? A little instant gratification goes a long way in the jump start department, dont you think?

And just to prove I was definitely in need of a little something.

While exchanging holiday gifts yesterday, I just decided I could hit Target OR..... I poked my head into a salon I'd never been to, asked if they had time for a walk in, and said "Cut it off." And they did. I warn you, this might affect my next neckline decision.