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Monthly Archives: December 2012

How I should have spent this week was to take the dogs on long lazy walks every day, sleep 8 hours a night, and organize my life (read, yarn. I am still looking for a skein of yarn I would like to knit into a shawl.).

Of course, I bit off more than I can chew. I thought it would be a really good idea to take a 4-day, intensive cake decorating class.

The first two days were spent making icing and learning some basic piping techniques. And we piped, and piped and piped. Piping is not like knitting. If you don’t practice/pipe on a regular basis, you lose it. You can’t pick up piping bag, pop in a #104 petal tip and start piping buttercream roses to perfection.

I have piped a few of those in my day. But beyond a few flowers that I pipe on friend’s cakes and cupcakes here and there, I have not really picked up the piping bag in about 10 years…..oh wait. 18 years. (YIKES).

IMG_1397So when it came to piping roses, my first few were looking really cabbagy. Then, they started looking a bit more like flowers and then like cabbage roses.

Then finally, after about 10, my right hand found the right pressure to apply on the piping bag, and how to arc the tip just right against the base to create a petal in a shape that sort of resembled a rose petal.

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The teacher gave us great recipes for different kinds of buttercream for icing the cake, piping the border, and piping the rose. All about the type of fat that you use, and ratio of liquids to solids. What I loved about my teacher for the class was that taste was #1 for her. So, while it would have been 100% easier to pipe with a shortening based cream, her buttercream was…just that. Even the highest shortening ratio in her recipes were relatively low so the piping is delicious beyond all doubt.

We also spent time talking about food colors — both for icing and marzipan.

And we took a turn at making marzipan fruits. Mixing colors, using petal dust to finish off the fruit…talk about Play-doh for adults! Remember I said my teacher thought taste was #1? The marzipan is delicious. And she taught us to mix in cocoa powder to get depth in the browns so the brown marzipan? Off the charts. Here’s the assortment we made:

plate of marzipan

And when I came home, I took photos of some marzipan fruits next to their real life counterparts. Not bad for some almond paste, sugar, and food dye!

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IMG_8560The most fun I had was probably making the “chocolate plastic” (it’s basically chocolate and either glycerin or corn syrup) and learning to work with that. We made bows and streamers, leaves, and modeled a full rose!


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And of course, as this was a recreational class (…ok, for semi-serious, crazy people), our chef had baked cake for us to decorate and take home.

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I am having a bit of a knitting get together today, so we will be cutting into this cake today. I hope it is delicious!

If you knew me well, you would know that there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with this photo.

presents

I do NOT like to wrap presents. I have all kinds of excuses….”It’s environmentally incorrect”; “My presents are good enough that they don’t need to be wrapped”; “We’re all adults now, wrapping is for children”.

When it comes down to it, I’m just too lazy.

So.. you ask…why are all the presents wrapped and beribboned? It is a picture of the state of my mind. I am trying to hide the contents in pretty wrapping. Yes, it’s that bad. My mantra this year: “It’s the thought that counts.”

On another front — there IS something good. Jim Lahey, you’re my hero.

bread

I have one more day until the big Christmas Eve family dinner.

I have already decided that the bulk of my knitted presents will be given in its deconstructed form…partially done to intrigue the receiver, with an option for them to finish themselves. I suspect all but 2 people will be leaving their presents behind for me to finish for them.

Yes, very sad, I only finished two presents. Granted, one of them hasn’t even been cast on and my present is the intent to knit this specific object.

Once I was resigned to my avant garde presents, I was free to focus on the bigger problem at hand — our Christmas feast. Our dinner is seemingly simple. It is all about great ingredients, but almost all components are hand made. Which means I am usually running around doing the prep for the dinner for a couple of days preceding Christmas Eve.

Tomorrow is all about making the Vichyssoise and the pasta and shucking the oysters — leading up to it all the base components have to be made.

And what I consider my big present to my family — my Pate du Canard. A three day ordeal. At last that is done and being pressed. (That’s chicken stock in the back ready to go into the refrigerator, and 10 onions sliced and sauteed for the pissaladiere.)

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Off to mix the bread dough so it can proof overnight. Have you ever made Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread? It is incredibly easy and amazingly good — chewy and crusty, just as a bread should be.

Merry Christmas!

Knit, of course. In fact, a knitter may actually look forward to a 14 hour stretch of time when she is trapped in one place while hurtling through the air at 1,000,000mph in what appears to be a large tin can.

I travel a lot. I have almost, since my teen years, never flown without knitting. Except for a few occasions (once in Mexico and once in Korea), my knitting has made it on board without issue at the security gate (this in more recent times, TSA has relaxed now though, making things a bit easier for domestic travel).

Preplanning your travel knitting is quite crucial. One has to be extremely realistic about the amount of true knitting time that she may have, but she may risk a psychological meltdown should she run out of knitting during a long flight (where, as I mentioned before, you are strapped into a chair inside a tin can far above the earth’s surface).

My strategy in thinking about knitting on-flight is two fold — bring one project that “needs” to get done, and bring one project you “want” to work on.

The “need to get done” category could be the never-ending-stockinette/garter portion of a larger project; a project with a deadline; or something that needs the last 10% push to get through the “boring” part. My “need” category for this trip, of course, consists of socks. It’s actually perfect for travel since socks are pretty compact. And, I finished a sock on this flight — the Solfar sock in Plucky Primo Fingering. To be fair, I was already up to the heel turning (my favorite part of a sock) on this sock before the flight. (Please excuse the photo quality – at least hotel sheets are white for a good background!)

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The “want to get done” category for me generally includes a new project that I may want to work on. A word of warning here. READ THE PATTERN first. Otherwise, you may get all excited to cast on only to realize that you don’t have the waste yarn on hand, or the right stitch markers, etc. My way of combating this mistake (and I have made this mistake before) is to cast on for the project before the flight. I finished most of a mitten on this flight as well, the Octopus Mitten in Cephalopod Traveller.

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I have 2 more inter-continental trips (which are always longer flights than you think), and of course, I have to return home (with the jet stream so this is a shorter flight at ~11 hours). I have big aspirations for how much knitting I am going to get done on this trip, along with my jam packed schedule of work (yes, this is a business trip).

Perhaps a bit of a travelogue if I have time, although this is a really really short and jam packed trip.

…Because December is all about socks. As you all know, I’m not much of a sock knitter.

Unless there is a goal. And, I have to finish 3 more pairs of socks by the end of the year to successfully complete my 12/12/12 in 12, also known as the Crazypants Plan.

Irisberry socksMy latest pair is Cookie A’s Cubist Socks. It’s knit out of Iridaceae Colorworks Cypella — 80% BFL/20% nylon yarn with high twist that I really loved knitting. (Loved so much that as soon as I finished these socks, I ordered 3 more skeins in various colors from Ali’s shop). These were destined to be gifts from the get go, hence the colorway that I used is Irisberry, which variegates from periwinkle to purple. Very pretty, for a big purple lover. These socks will be packed up in my friend’s bag so she can take them to her Mom in Shanghai.

I’m sprinkling my knitting all over the globe!

And, I’ve 4 more pairs on the needles:

sock design1. I have resurrected what I’m calling My Innovation Socks. I took a sock design class from Cookie A at Vogue Knitting Live in January. I have 1/4 of a pair done, and I have pulled this out from the depths of my cabinets. It’s a sock full of twisted stitches (because I was way too ambitious in my foray into sock design), but at least it is being knit out of Wollmeise 100% in Himbeere, which is a fuscia!

IMG_85032. For the friend who is going to take the Cubist Socks to its rightful owner, my go-to sock in sport weight, which is Adrienne Ku’s Simple Skyp Socks. These are being knit in Sanguine Gryphon Bugga in Golden Orb Weaver. They are relatively quick…knit on US/2.0 needles, and simple yet not boring. After my standard of 64-72 stitches cast on for regular sock weight yarn, casting on 56 seems so few! (I should have really researched worsted weight socks!!!) ┬áHow can I send a pair of socks off to China without putting some socks on the carrier, right? These should be nice and squishy as the yarn is 80/20/10 merino/cashmere/nylon blend.

IMG_85053. Sarsaparilla Socks by Cookie A (October Sock Club exclusive pattern). These are going to be for Dad — and are actually the first club pattern I’ve cast on with the club yarn. The yarn is an exclusive, Super Duper Sock Club Yarn milled by Green Mountain Spinnery in the color…Sarsparilla. I believe the base is the same as Green Mountain Spinnery’s Forest yarn (70% fine wool and 30% Tencel). I’ve JUST cast this one on, and using US1.5 instead of my usual 1.0. This yarn feels scratchy in the skein and a bit rough as I am knitting it, but the knitted fabric is surprisingly soft. I’m thinking that blocking will further soften the final product.

solfar4. Solfar Socks by Cookie A (June Club pattern) in The Plucky Knitter Primo Fingering in a really pretty blue called Vintage Icebox. Another pair out of the club yarn. I really like this base so the knitting is going relatively quickly here.

If I knit #3 and #4, then I am also all caught up on the Cookie A Sock Club patterns for the year. Which enables me to rationalize how I should (and I already have) sign up for this Club again in 2013. Which you should, by the way. The patterns (you get 2 every other month) are worth it all on their own — because honestly, Cookie A has singlehandedly made me like knitting that second sock — but you get 2 cookie recipes every other month as well, and the yarn she has sent with the club has been very nice. (If you think about it, with all the intricate patterning in the socks, you will never get clown barf in this club).

The December shipment is here as well, and depending on how the above socks on the needles go…maybe I can cast those on before the end of the year, as well.

Can I finish?

I think I talk far more about Finn. He is, afterall, The First Dog. However, it is actually Lucy who is the source of all things funny in my household.

I still think of her as a puppy. But today, Lucy is turning Seven!

I named her Lucy because when I got her, she was such a peanut, at 17 lbs. Her proper name is Piccola Bella Luna, because (when she is clean) the white fur on her gleams like moonbeam against her very black fur. Her name is Italian because she is built like an Italian sportscar (the engine is definitely German, though). I have all these reasons for her name, but in reality, I think she is actually a border collie reincarnation of Lucille Ball.

She’s a clown.

IMG_8459First of all, her ears. Have you ever seen ears that big? Finn outweighs Lucy 2:1, almost, but Lucy’s ears are the same size as Finn’s. (See scientific evidence, left). When I hold her head in my hands and mush her ears down to the side of her head (tough to photograph without another pair of hands), she looks like either (a) Princess Leia (if I “bun up” her ears) or (b) Yoda (if I let her ears go au natural but angle it sideways just so). (And thanks to a friend with some Photoshop skillz, she definitely looks like she could be a Jedi knight.) You know what this means, right? The Force is strong in her.

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And indeed, it is. Or at least, in her own mind it is!

I submit to evidence this photo (below). Taken right after she “figured out” (OK, so she observed another, much taller dog just reach in and grab toys out of the hamper) that she did not need to ask me to give her a toy. So much for THAT training. Thanks, Molly (the tall dog). Look at her going at it, with eyes all green with The Dark Side Force. This incidence earned her the nickname, “Lucyfer”. You will see, her name is very fungible and mutates with her actions.

Lucyfer

flying lucyThere’s nothing she loves more than running. She folds back her ears against her head — we must be aerodynamic since we are inspired by Italian sportscars, you know — and just FLIES. And boy, is she fast.

There is one thing, perhaps, that she likes more than running. And that is being chased. In particular, by Finn. There are not many dogs, sheep, ducks or cows who want Finn behind them. He makes them move with a glance. Not Lucy. She wants the full on chase. Her favorite game happens when I call Finn to me. She positions herself in between me and Finn, and waits, ready to pounce, until he comes running.

IMG_5686It rarely works (Finn values the potential cookie in my hand over chasing Lucy 99% of the time). It sometimes backfires (see below. I’d be scared too.). But when it works, Lucy is in hog heaven. This game has earned her the nickname of “Looney Lulu”, because she really is crazypants, picking on Finn like that.

finn gets pissed

There’s more.

I have (or had) a rule about dogs and furniture. About how they do not belong on furniture except for very very rare occasions when I invite them up. I know, this rare occasion nonsense could have caused some confusion — but honestly, I don’t think so since Finn seems to fully understand the rules. Lucy’s interpretation of the rule is that when I’m not in the room, this furniture rule does not apply. In fact, I believe she thinks it is her rightful place to “warm up” my various places on furniture for me. So while she always jumps off of where ever she is (nestled on my bed in the pillows, curled up in “my seat” on the couch, or buried in the pillows on the daybed) when I enter the space, she is a creature that fully appreciates human furniture. All over them.

I have long given up trying to eradicate all dog hair from my apartment, and I’m probably getting Lucy fur (get it? Lucyfur = Lucyfer = Lucifer?) all over the place as I move from places kindly warmed by my little girl to the next.

The best thing about Lucy is that she is great at acting like she loves you. And I mean all humans. Be careful. It’s a total ploy. She LOVES getting petted, will basically command you to pet her in all the places she likes to be scritched. Oh, and she will return these pets with her tongue. In fact, I got a warning label for her just the other day. So…if you ever happen to meet my girl, just keep your mouth closed because you really do not want tongue to tongue contact with a dog. Ick.

The last secret about Lucy? She will think it is way TMI. But I have to tell it, since it’s way too funny. Ready?

She spins clockwise if she is going to pee, and she spins counter clockwise if she is going to poop.

See? She IS a clown.

Happy Birthday, my little girl!

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