Man Mittens.

The last time I made mittens they were the most colorful and playful little things ever. I still wear them, especially if I want to venture out on a day like today. The internets say the high is 0 Farenheit, but I believe I saw a bank sign that advertised the temperature at 6. Maybe that was just in the sun.

The pattern is ‘Cruiser’ from The Daily Skein. When I was thinking about mittens for my man I had to take into account a couple of things.

1. He doesn’t like loud colors. His claim is that he doesn’t like drawing attention to himself- a result of his midwestern sensibilities.

2. I didn’t want to knit plain boring mittens.

3. I had to do something exciting that didn’t involve colors.

4. Without bringing to mind Bella’s mitts from ‘Twilight.

5. And then I came across the Cruiser.

Since the recipient of the mittens is determined to ride his bike through the winter, I decided that the least I could do (besides supporting a purchase of studded bike tires so that he doesn’t wreck and break his collar bone) was to knit him something warm.

But, because I am me, I had to add a little bit of color. I just couldn’t resist.

 

Happy New Year everyone!

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Hot Buttered Rum

Here’s to holiday drinking.

I am no teetotaler: I enjoy a good microbrew, a fine bottle of pinot noir and, also, good whiskey. Unfortunately, my taste is sometimes out of my price range- so I stick to microbrews mostly. Something about the holidays gives people a reason to imbibe just a little bit extra than they would during other months. Whatever drives you to drink (friends, family or cause for celebration), I support your decision wholeheartedly (within reason).

Last year I spoke of the Tom & Jerry fondly. I am still so fond of it that I have whipped up a couple of batches already this month to enjoy on particularly chilly evenings. I am always willing to expand my repertoire in the kitchen (and behind the metaphorical bar), and so, this year, I will be adding to my hot, boozy drink list to include the Hot Buttered Rum. The thing that is great about the HBR is that it is a very low-fuss drink. You don’t have to worry about scorching the milk and the batter keeps in the freezer very well (unlike Tom & Jerry’s). It’s the perfect thing to have next to you while wrapping presents or for your thermos when you go out to check out a lunar eclipse!

For clarification’s sake, this is NOT the ‘traditional’ Hot Buttered Rum from Mr. Boston- if you have tasted rum diluted with hot water and sugar topped with a pat of butter- THIS IS NOT THAT (to our friend Joe, I am sorry if this drink is ruined for you. I hope that you might try it again, with the following recipe). The Hot Buttered Rum I present to you is a delightful mixture of ice cream, brown sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. This particular recipe originally came from family friends, John and Bonnie Bradley of Bradley Vineyards (their pinot is great). I remember the batter fondly from my childhood. My mother would make up a big batch and put it in an ice cream tub to be administered, as needed, throughout the month. I still fondly remember sneaking fingerfuls of the hot buttered rum mixture, sometimes which resulted in a tummy-ache. I also have fond memories of the over-21 version as well. Anyway. However you like to serve the mix (hot in a drink, or on your finger) this makes a big batch. Feel free to share with your friends.

Hot Buttered Rum:

Batter

  • 1 lb butter
  • 1 lb brown sugar
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanila extract
  • 1 tsp imitation rum flavoring
  • 4 c vanilla ice cream- softened

In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. When butter has melted, remove from heat and gradually stir in sugars until the mixture is creamy. Add vanilla and rum. Fold in vanilla ice cream. Transfer to container(s) and keep in freezer until you’re ready to imbibe.

For a hot drink:

Pour 2 oz dark rum and a Heaping spoonful or HBR batter into your favorite seasonal mug. Bring water to a boil and add to the mug. Stir briskly until batter has disolved and has created a light froth at the surface. Sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg. Imbibe.

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Home for the Holidays

Last year I did a lot of traveling for the holidays. We took a week-long whirl-wind through Oregon for Thanksgiving week. Sadly, I mostly remember the exhaustion from driving 10 hours from Bozeman to Portland (and back). The loving company of friends and family is a close second- but is still second.

Christmas was a little less whirl-windy but did involve air-travel from Montana. Montana is one of the most difficult places to fly in or out of. Thankfully the hubs of Denver and Salt Lake are readily available. This means that you’ll be facing at least one layover if you’re headed to another main hub. If, for example, you’re headed for Cleveland, Ohio, you’ll have at least 2 layovers. Alas, this is something you resign yourself to and accept a day spend in airports (did you know the Charlottesville (I think?) airport in North Carolina has rocking chairs available to those who can spare the time- we couldn’t). For me, Christmastime in Ohio also meant meeting new family. The family is, of course, wonderful and generous and made me feel like part of the family, but is still a different dynamic from the folks back home.

I am not complaining about last year’s holidays at all- I am just stating why I am so excited to be spending the holidays this year not going anywhere. And by not going anywhere I mean staying within the state and not checking luggage. While we will be spending the Christmas weekend with Nic’s mother outside of Billings, the run-up to Christmas will be spent well within our basement apartment walls. I am bound and determined to be as festive and cheerful as any Christmas elf should be. I will do this by crafting and decorating and cooking and baking and sending tidings of comfort and joy to all corners of the United States and beyond to friends and family who are distant but still close to my heart.

Here are a couple of items that are in the ‘finished’ or ‘almost finished’ pile of Christmas gifts (sorry to sort-of spoil the surprise).

 

Also, on one last note, I’ve helped start the Bozeman chapter of Mustaches for Kids. The Mustaches are in their last week of growing for donorschoose.org. Do me, them, and the schoolchildren of Montana a favor and throw $20 their way (or whatever you can afford). I’d greatly appreciate it. www.donorschoose.org/m4kbozeman

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Just in time.

I’m now 2 for 2 as far as consecutive (adult) sweaters and years. Last year there was this gem, and my first actual garment. Now, just in time for the snow and the cold, this:

The other great thing about this sweater (compared to my last one) is that it was knit in one piece. So, instead of having 5 large pieces to seam up, there was nothing extra to do except to sew on the buttons.I also really love the asymmetry of the piece: the off centered buttonhole band and, especially, the cables.

The cardigan called for a ribbon interfacing on the insides of the button hole band. For the life of me, I can’t find any nice ribbon in this mountain town (perhaps I just don’t know where to look, or I might just be too picky). I then remembered that I HAD ribbon- a gift from Nic- that I don’t remember unpacking. I almost tore apart the back room looking for the mysterious ribbon that I hadn’t laid eyes on in well over a year, and the manic, but fruitless search for ribbon reinforced my resolve to either burn everything in the back room, or begin upon an epic cleaning binge. The binge hasn’t quite happened yet- for my sanity it might be better to do it in bits and spurts. However, I did pull out a dresser that was less than useful and burned that to ashes as a warning to the rest of the back room to shape-up. This was not only an excellent decision for reasons of stress-relief, but also a great way to get some pent-up aggression out. I highly recommend burning some furniture if you have a useless piece readily available to you.

Anyway, back to the sweater. Isn’t it lovely? I splurged on some super-cushy merino yarn that I would only be more pleased with if they hadn’t knotted the yarn sporadically througout the ball.

So. The sweater was finished and the snow fell as did the temperature outside. Yesterday, I decided not to go outside, and so needed something else to occupy my time- more knitting! I have purchased the French Press Slipper pattern in hopes of becoming a little slipper factory for certain people for the holidays but didn’t want to leave my house in search of more yarn. I don’t subscribe to the yarn stash club just yet- as my financial situation prevents me from buying up yarn, willy nilly, without a pattern in mind. However, I do have a small bag with some remnants from other projects- where I found some yarn that is perfect for felting. In this bag I also discovered the ribbon that I tore apart the room looking for over a week ago. Of course, it’s perfectly logical to put ribbon in a yarn bag.

Also, in the future, I plan on posting some projects-in-process photos so that it won’t be so long between posts.

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Ravioli

Nic gets pretty excited about winter squash- just last week he brought home 1 acorn squash, 1 butternut squash and 2 sugar pumpkins. I don’t know how many pounds of winter squash that is, suffice to say, it’s a lot. What does one do with so much squash? We had made soup the week before, and I get sick of roasted squash chunks pretty quickly. So we decided to embark on a great undertaking- ravioli.

My friend, Elsie, who is currently in Panama with the Peace Corps had gifted me a ravioli maker, one of few gadgets that has set idle in the kitchen cabinets, but one that I knew would make a marvelous afternoon activity.

the last time I pulled out the noodle maker machine, I remember thinking “I should do this more often.” Well, that was months ago, and now it’s fall and, since we’re trying to resist turning on the heat, spending more time in the kitchen is pretty effective at keeping the house comfortably warm.

The labor was pretty evenly divided- I made the pasta and Nic took care of the ravioli filling. Uncharacteristically for me, we hip-shot the filling by combining various amounts of winter squash, roasted hazelnuts, a garlic and leek sautee, and gorgonzola cheese.

Fresh pasta is in a category all on its own. I may have stated this before, but one of the small luxuries that I afforded myself in Portland was to purchase fresh pasta from Pastaworks, which they custom-cut to whatever width of noodle suits your fancy on any given day. Luckily, in Butte, America, there’s a little gem of a store called Front Street Market which makes the best Portobello mushroom ravioli in Montana. I make a point to stop there every time I drive through Butte. Fresh pasta is something I always think takes more time than it really does, not to mention the fact that it’s fun to operate the pasta crank.

Not wanting to drown or over-shadow the beautiful, pillowy ravioli in some unremarkable sauce, I sizzled sage leaves in butter, infusing the butter with the warmth of the sage and crisping the sage leaves into crunchy tidbits of deliciousness. It was quite the compliment.

Squash-Hazelnut Ravioli in Sage Butter.

To make pasta dough:

  • 2 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

This is actually pretty fun, if you like getting eggy, doughy fingers. Mix the flour and salt into a mound on your countertops. Make a well and dump in the eggs. Working in small circles, begin to mix in the flour from edges of your flour/egg volcano. By keeping the walls of the volcano in-tact you have much more control over the mixing process. If a wall breeches, you might have a more frantic time mixing things together. Don’t worry, it will all work out in the end. If the dough feels too tough or doesn’t hold together with just 2 eggs, you can add some water.

Knead pasta dough for 5-10 minutes and then let sit for 15.

Roll out pasta to desired thickness (the thinner the better), or use your pasta maker to roll our sheets of dough.

Ravioli Filling:

  • 1 sugar pumpkin
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 small leeks
  • 1/2 c hazelnuts
  • Butter
  • Gorgonzola cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Roast 1 pumpkin- slice pumpkin in half and discard seeds. Brush with oil and place face-down on a pan. Roast at 375 for 45 minutes or until a knife meets no resistance when stabbed.

While pumpkin is roasting, dice up 4 cloves of garlic and 2 small leeks and sautee in butter, seasoning with salt and pepper and whatever other spices your little heart desires.

In a food processor, pulse hazelnuts until there are no large chunks, but not so small that you’ve got hazelnut meal. Toast hazelnuts in a pan until lightly toasted and fragrant.

Once Pumpkin has cooled sufficiently, scoop out the insides and mash thoroughly. Add hazelnuts, leek/garlic sautee and stir. Add gorgonzola to taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.

Making ravioli:

I know there are cute little ravioli cutters that give you a crimped edge. You can do this or use one of these little ravioli presses- which seemed to me to be a little bit time-intensive. A generous teaspoon of filling seems to do the trick as far as volume goes. Place ravioli on a sheet pan to dry a little bit and so they don’t get stuck together.

Grease a pie plate and preheat oven to 200.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

In a separate small saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter over med-low heat and add 10-12 chopped sage leaves. Let simmer until milk solids are brown (do not burn!) and sage is crispy.

Add 6-8 ravioli at a time, boiling for about 4 minutes or until they float and look and feel like little pillows. As batches of ravioli are cooked, add to pie plate and drizzle lightly with oil (or sage butter) so that each raviolo (singular of ravoili) does not stick to other ravioli. Repeat until you have enough cooked ravioli to feed your dinner party. Drizzle sage butter over ravioli, distributing sage leaves evenly.

Enjoy!

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Tomatoes.

Summer is waning here, in a big way, I guess that makes sense since we’re 2 days away from the equinox. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at canning, but a high school paper on botulism did a really good job of scaring me away from that in my younger days. The larger influence on my life in regards to canning was my father. The most precious commodity in the dreary, wet winter months of Western Oregon were the golden peaches that were squirreled away in the ‘canning room’ (the room had much, much more than just cans, but for all intensive purposes we will call it that today). The prospect of peaches in the morning or after dinner would elicit a mild kind of excitement from my brother and I who would have decimated the peach-supply if it wasn’t monitored and rationed by my father.

In my quest to become a domestic goddess and do-er of things, I thought it was probably time to try it myself. Just to give you an idea of how long of a time this was coming, Nic and I own the Complete Book of Home Preserving (since before we left Portland) and had purchased new canning jars… and still we didn’t can. Then summer turned to fall and our vegetables stopped ripening… and still we didn’t can. Then we saw a basket overflowing with local (and sustainable) Roma tomatoes… and it was time to can. We bought 11 pounds of tomatoes and I spent the following morning (and afternoon) in a steamy kitchen fretting about what ‘finger-tip tightness’ was and if none of the jars sealed up, what on earth I would do with 8 almost-canned jars of tomatoes.

So, I called my father for the purpose of getting some re-assurance for such concerns as were voiced in the paragraph above. And then I was ready. I washed and sanitized jars and lids, I blanched and skinned tomatoes, and I boiled more water in preparation of filling the jars. Then I set up a kind of production line that went something like this: put lemon juice and salt into bottom of jar, add tomatoes, fill with water, wipe the lip and threads of jar, place lid on top, and apply screw-band to finger-tip tightness. I did this eight times and then placed the jars in a water bath for 50 minutes (adjusted for elevation), and the have been cooling on my counter since then.

Upon inspection last night I believe the seal has set which means, in the words of Greg Brown, I’ll be able to ‘taste a little of the summer’ well into the 5 months of winter, which will be here soon enough.

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Foliage Lace Mitts

As you may have seen in my last post, I have been working on a lace shawl.  I began knitting it last summer but was a bit too frustrated with the pace of knitting lace (slow) as well as the amount of concentration required for such an endeavor (lots). I put it away with the best intentions of coming back to it at some point. That point happened to be a full year later on the eve before I embarked to California. I hadn’t been knitting anything, and decided that I needed a project to work on while waiting in airports, train stations, or needed some downtime. I remembered this little number that was so compact and yet time-intensive. Lace, as it turns out, is the perfect travel project.

Alas, after all of the progress I have made on said shawl, the weather is turning colder and I am hearing the beckoning call of worsted weight yarn. I have put away the shawl for now, and have decided to move on to more weather-appropriate projects but, for some reason, I can’t quite quit the lovely femininity of a touch of lace.

You remember the time I was without internet? I was not only unable to blog, but also unable to access Ravelry- where I get all of my free knitting patterns. Being of resourceful mind, I decided that it might be a good time to try something on my own. Since I had been knitting lace, I decided to find a nice stitch pattern in Vogue Stitchionary, and incorporate it into some lacy fingerless mitts. What follows is a breakthrough for me. I realized that with some experience and a frame of reference I can not only design things, but I can make them as well. This is my most profound knitting breakthrough yet. I hope you enjoy these (find them on Ravelry)!

Foliage Lace Mitts

These cozy mitts are embellished with a lacy foliage stitch. Don a pair and enjoy the waning sunlight and changing leaves.

Gague- 6 sts/inch

Needles- US 5 DPNs

Yarn- Mission Falls 136 Merino Superwash sport weight- 2 50g balls

Notions- Row counter, tapestry needle, scissors

Cast on 40 sts. Transfer 20 sts to one needle, and split the remaining 20 sts between 2 needles.

The lace stitch pattern is to be worked on the needle with 20 sts, with the remainder of the mitts in stockinette stitch. Mitts to be worked in the round.

Right Mitt:

Lace pattern is as follows with even rows ss and pattern repeating every 12 rows:

1.       k5, p2tog, k2, yo, k5, yo, k2, p2tog, k2, knit to end

3.    k4, p2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, p2tog, k7, knit to end

5.    k3, p2tog, k2, yo, k3, yo, k2, p2tog, k6, knit to end

7.    k2, p2tog, k2, yo, k5, yo, k2, p2tog, k5, knit to end

9.    k7, p2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, p2tog, k4, knit to end

11.  k6, p2tog, k2, yo, k3, yo, k2, p2tog, k3, knit to end

Knit 5 pattern repeats and begin thumb gusset while continuing lace stitch.

1.       k5, p2tog, k2, yo, k5, yo, k2, p2tog, k4, kfb, k3, kfb, knit to end

2.       knit

3.       k4, p2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2 p2tog, k7, knit to end

4.       k22, kfb, k5, kfb, knit to end

5.       k3, p2tog, k2, yo, k3, yo, k2, p2tog, k6, knit to end

6.       knit

7.       k2, p2tog, k2, yo, k5, yo, k2, p2tog, k7, kfb, k7, kfb, knit to end

8.       knit

9.       k7, p2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, p2tog, k4, knit to end

10.   k22, kfb, k9, kfb, knit to end

11.   k6, p2tog, k2, yo, k3, yo, k2, p2tog, k3, knit to end

12.   knit

(lace pattern begins 7th repeat)

13.   k5, p2tog, k2, yo, k5, yo, k2, p2tog, k4, kfb, k11, kfb, knit to end

14.   knit

15.   k4, p2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, p2tog, k7, knit to end

16.   knit 22, place 15 sts on stitch holder, make 5 stitches, knit to end

Continue knitting until there are 8 full lace pattern repeats. Cast off.

Thumb

Pick up 5 sts from back of thumb, and divide 20 sts between 4 needles

SS 4 rows

K2tog, k1, k2tog, knit to end (18 sts)

SS 2 more rows (7 rows total)

Cast off

Left Mitt:

Knit as directed for right mitt and, reverse the thumb directions as follows:

1.       k5, p2tog, k2, yo, k5, yo, k2, p2tog, k15, kfb, k3, kfb, knit to end

2.       knit

3.       k4, p2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, p2tog, k7, knit to end

4.       k33, kfb, k5, kfb, knit to end

5.       k3, p2tog, k2, yo, k3, yo, k2, p2tog, k6, knit to end

6.       knit

7.       k2, p2tog, k2, yo, k5, yo, k2, p2tog, k18, kfb, k7, kfb, knit to end

8.       knit

9.       k7, p2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, p2tog, k4, knit to end

10.   k33, kfb, k9, kfb, knit to end

11.   k6, p2tog, k2, yo, k3, yo, k2, p2tog, k3, knit to end

12.   knit

(lace pattern begins 7th repeat)

13.   k5, p2tog, k2, yo, k5, yo, k2, p2tog, k15, kfb, k11, kfb, knit to end

14.   knit

15.   k4, p2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, p2tog, k7, knit to end

16.   knit 22, place 15 sts on stitch holder, make 5 stitches, knit to end



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