Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Some Good Stuff

It just occurred to me I neglected to mention I finished my Baltimore shawlette back in July, right before my summer went from being a bit too busy to plain crazy. Not to mention it was a positively steamy day in July when I blocked it, so I cooed over it, then put it away for cooler weather. It's cooler now, and I've been enjoying it.

Lionberry FO

The pairing of pattern and yarn was most enjoyable. The pattern, Lionberry by Narniel of Endor, has a little bit o' everything – lace and fancy texture, nicely curved crescent shape, just-right size. The tails of the shawlette fall in adorable ringlets. The yarn, Neighborhood Fiber Co. Capital Luxury Lace, colorway Del Ray, is a beautiful 80/10/10 MCN, so nice to knit. Ah, some good stuff... for a change.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Pits

Oh hai. Happy... Halloween? All Saints Day? Where was I? Right, canning along and dealing with an abundance of pits, which made August, September, and October fly by bloglessly. I missed the U.S. Open.Peach pits I missed Rhinebeck. While that's a sadness, there may be consolations. As gentle readers may know, when life gives you pits, sometimes that implies peaches or possibly cherries or possibly both, which is not so bad. But other times it's just the pits.

So. Back in August I canned peaches. The FIJ August Challenge was a twofer, low temperature pasteurization or steam canning. However, as both challenges require specialty equipment, impecunious renegade that I am, I just chugged along hot-packing peaches. It wasn't a good year for peaches, too cold during critical bloom times during the spring and too wet, flooded, and overcast when the developing fruits needed sun. Out of the various peaches I tried this summer – from New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina farmers markets – NJ peaches were the sweetest, which ordinarily is not the case.

Prepping peaches for canning requires blanching and peeling, slicing (halves and even quarters seemed too big, I tried sixths), then simmering until hot in canning liquid. It was a surprise to see that blanched, peeled peaches retain a lovely blush...

Blushing peeled peaches

... that vanishes with simmering. More accurately, the slices lose their blush, but the canning liquid takes on a pretty pink tinge that eludes my poor digicam.

Simmering peach sixths

For canning liquid I tried recipes that use apple juice or heavy syrup (in the Ball Blue Book). My plan was to be able to eat the peaches and drink the juice, but some of the hungry peach-eaters at casa Jersey Knitter greatly prefer peaches in heavy syrup because they find juice pack too acidic. I wonder if a touch of honey would help smooth that out.

Processing is straightforward. I had some trouble with syphoning and fruit float, then read the former is caused when the contents of jars are either too hot or too cold relative to the water bath, especially with larger jars, and the latter happens when the specific gravity of the fruit is less than that of the canning liquid. Adjust accordingly. Eureka! (Alas for the peach-eaters, I think that means light syrup is more appropriate.)

Peaches processing

The results were very good, far superior to store-bought canned peaches, which encouraged further production. Also a certain amount of backwards progress when the hungry peach-eaters helped themselves to the peaches in heavy syrup. For quality assurance purposes, of course. Only one heavy syrup pack jar made it to the class photo.

Peaches of August

That is the most canning of one thing I've done so far, but not enough to see casa Jersey Knitter through the dearth of fresh peaches. I'd hoped to continue canning peaches through September, but the knowledgeable farmers market dude told me there's a magic moment that usually happens around the third week of August when peaches still look good, but no longer taste good. I'd never really noticed, but that is exactly what happened. Then other things happened, I was away a lot, and missed the FIJ September challenge, fruit butter, altogether. I was looking forward to trying a recipe for tomato jam... although this hasn't been a great year for tomatoes either, at least not in my tomato patch. Ah well.

I knit a loud sock for September Sockdown and was disqualified for being inattentive to the rules. Shrug. My DQ sock is a modified version of Socks on a Plane, and indeed was knit on a plane, and on trains and automobiles, too. Progress has been the opposite of speedy. I've been using a counting thread to keep the 3x3x7 cable crossings correct.

Socks on a Plane wip, with counting thread

Carole fortuitously reminded me I had a bag of pitted Bing cherries in the freezer, prepped and set aside during the surfeit of cherry season for a purpose now forgotten. I decided to repurpose them for brandied cherries (recipe in the Ball Blue Book), to be used in festive cocktails and boozy desserts, except I substituted Amaretto for brandy as I find almond more sympatico with cherries. Freezing and canning were not kind to the cherries' texture, but otherwise the boozy cherries are incredible – sweet, dark, and quite alcoholic, definitely a consolation for missing the FIJ October challenge (dehydration or pressure canning). Indeed, the canning syrup was so good, I canned the excess too.

Amaretto cherries

The trouble with any -along is too many inspirations/patterns/recipes, too little time. And boy howdy, do I have too little time at the moment. So let me just note these recipes (Fikira Honey Candy and Canned Lemon Curd) and the fond hope I can get to them later. November, November, that's how I'll remember!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tabi or Not Tabi?

Gentle readers, behold what happens when one attempts to finish a pair of socks during a week of legislative drama but several months have intervened between sock the first and sock the second, one has a roaring headache, and one has forgotten what one was doing. The pair in question: a shortie, beaded-cuff version of Send in the Clowns by Adrienne Fong. I CO on Inauguration Day and finally BO last night. As it happens, it was not for the first time, for the socks or for another failed attempt to repeal Obamacare.

Tabi and not tabi

Oops. Happily, fixing a toe is no big deal. I just picked up stitches, unpicked the graft...

Toe going

... frogged back, and reconditioned the yarn. (That mushroom-cloud-like tangle seems like a fitting image for this crazy week.) The yarn, Scout's Swag 100% Superwash Merino, colorway Ballooney, was my very first club yarn, from way back in November 2007. It's lovely to knit with and comfortable to wear, but sadly is not durable.

Toe gone

My formula of 36% sts for the big toe and 64% sts for the rest worked out to 24 sts for the big toe and 40 sts for the rest when I re-knit a tabi toe.

Send in the Clowns FO

That's better.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July Catch Up

After much to-ing and fro-ing and repeated trips up laundry mountain and email mountain, I've finally made some progress, begun to catch up, and am even getting my summer projects in order. I started my TdF project, spinning lovely Cobblestone Roving in colorway Sandtown-Winchester. I don't have a specific goal beyond simply enjoying spinning along. Let me just say this stuff is easy to enjoy – a good choice for the over-busy. I recommend it highly.

TdF spinning

Then there's my woefully neglected Camp Loopy projects. This year Camp has gone chthonic – it's all about things forgotten or undiscovered in the earth, dinosaurs and caverns and the like, researching which led me to the delightful but apparently defunct blog Dinosaurs! WTF?, source of all dino links in this post. Ah, the irony, and its converse, the wrinkly.

Anyway. The yarn for the June project was ordered with such high hopes in May. It's Cascade Ultra Pima, colorway 3777 African Violet, and came with an assignment to the extremely chatty Camp Stegosaurus and a Velociraptor totem. I cast on a CeCe by Bonne Marie Burns, DNF on time. I'll get back to it... eventually.

June Camp yarn: Ultra Pima

The yarn for the July project was ordered in June. It's Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Lacegarn, colorway Kornblume, and came with an assignment to Carlsbad Caverns Campers and the Nearly Headless Nick of dinosaurs, Parasaurolophus [almost crested lizard], as a totem. My plan was to knit Spelunking Cardigan by Anna Dalvi, but I have yet to cast on. I may never do so. I blame the busyness.

July (?) Camp yarn: Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Lacegarn, Kornblume

And the yarn for the August project just arrived. It's Hedgehog Fibres Merino Lace, colorway Harajuku, and came with an assignment to Camp Loopasaurus and a Styracosaurus totem and an Ankylosaurus sticker (<-- do click the link). Hedgehog Fibres Merino Lace, Harajuku

The yarn is really, really bright. I swatched a bit and discovered when knit single it's too spindly for what I have in mind and when knit double it's too robust. Before I saw it IRL I had thought about swapping it for my July project... but now? Mark that with a resounding, Er....

As long as I'm contemplating antiquities, let me offer a series of three serious and one daft links on Hobby Lobby Robby Hamurabi. I'm not in the market for antiquities and hadn't really thought about this pro tip – when no provenance is given for an item, it almost certainly is stolen – but I'll pay closer attention in museums going forward. Not to mention I've never shopped at Hobby Lobby, and have no intention to start.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Baltimore Convention Consolations

All the to-ing and fro-ing has wreaked havoc on my knitting, spinning, canning, blogging, etc but one consolation is when in Baltimore for a convention I was able to visit Neighborhood Fiber Co. It's in a converted firehouse – there are still lunettes in the ceiling where the poles for the firefighters to slide down used to be. They really, truly used to do that.

Neighborhood Fiber Company

For conventioneers, the shop is easy to get to (from the Baltimore Convention Center it's a short ride on the light rail) and well-worth a visit. I splurged on a braid of absolutely lovely Cobblestone Roving (75/25 BFL/Silk) in colorway Sandtown-Winchester for my Tour de Fleece project and some other goodies. I dunno when I'll have time to start it – the Grand Départ was July 1 – but that's another matter. At least I'm ready to start.

Cobblestone Roving, colorway Sandtown-Winchester

There was a lot of sitting in large groups during this convention, ideal for working discreetly on a small project like a Lionberry crescent shawlette. Mine is knit in Neighborhood Fiber Co. Capitol Luxury Lace (80/10/10 MCN), colorway Del Rey.

Lionberry wip

When I bought the Sugar 'n Cream at the big box store I had the foresight to also buy a circular needle. While I've had decent experiences with some big box store knitting needle brands, such as Susan Bates, Clover, or Boye, alas, this no-name one turned out to be very poorly made. The suffering inflicted by the poor quality needle almost canceled out the pleasure of the lovely yarn. Note to self: don't do that again.

Some of my fellow conventioneers had good views from their hotel rooms into Camden Yards, which indeed is a most beautiful baseball stadium. I just had a view of the convention center complex. Interestingly, one of the buildings has a green roof. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the plants are very closely spaced and some appear to be three or four feet (0.9-1.2 m) tall. I don't know if this green roof has much impact on pollution or the urban heat island effect, but it was more pleasant to look at than an ordinary roof.

Baltimore Convention Center green roof

During free time while some people took in a baseball game and others went to the Inner Harbor, I visited Lexington Market to try crab cakes and soft-shell crab at Faidley's, which were pricey and very good. Many crab cakes are too highly seasoned to my taste, but these were just right. As for the soft-shell, I was told that the proper way to eat a soft-shell crab is fried, in a sandwich with the legs dangling out. I was veddy proper. (Faidley's also has all kinds of other seafood.)

Soft-shell crab

Thanks to the conference I spent the Fourth of July traveling, then at home blissfully making up my sleep deficit. Sigh. Every year I vow: Never travel on a holiday. Then I end up doing it anyway. Ah well, at least this time there were consolations.