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.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Beyond Categorization

Per expectation, thus far the month of June has been a whirlwind of busy. If June were a mountain in a stage of the Tour de France, the term hors catégorie or HC – beyond categorization – would not be inappropriate. But there's no point in saying, "I told you so." Onward and upward!

Water bottle cozy

A minor annoyance amidst all the to-ing and fro-ing has been the persistent clanking noises emanating from my tote bag, caused by divers things striking my fancy stainless steel water bottle. To reduce the noise and to prevent damage to its finish, I went over to the dark side and crocheted a water bottle cozy from some Lily Sugar 'n Cream acquired on the fly at a big box store. (The colorway is Lava Lamp. Really?) There's no pattern, just granny-ing along. It works pretty well. Ah, blessèd freedom from clanking!

Dried Apricot Jam

The FIJ June challenge, jam, posed a vexing challenge at the beginning of the month: there's not a lot of fresh local fruit roundabout Exit 151. Thus the appeal of this unexpected recipe for Dried Apricot Jam. Although perhaps by now gentle readers know better than to be surprised that intrepid canners can put up almost anything. And although it's no surprise a plant-rich diet has a great impact on curbing global warming, according to the rankings in Drawdown, eating imported fruits and vegetables has less environmental impact than eating local beef. Put another way, a plant-based diet is so much better for the planet than red meat, transportation considerations become negligible. Also, while eating local seasonal produce is great taste-wise and it supports local farmers, it doesn't do that much environmental good. Huh.

Dried apricots, rehydrating

Anyway, the jam technique is simple: dice dried apricots, rehydrate overnight, cook down with sugar and a bit of lemon juice until jammy. (That's a technical term.) My poor digicam could not capture how variable in color and texture the rehydrating bits looked – some bits were almost white, wrinkled, and tough, some bits were deep orange and very soft. In the pot the bits broke down and deepened in hue in a most satisfactory way, and the results were excellent in all ways: delicious, convenient, and a spot-on yield. I put up one half-pint jar to use in jam cake and three quarter-pints for other uses. Happiness.

Time passed, and lovely fresh apricots became available in the markets. So I did the obvious, bought some fresh apricots with the intent of doing a jam-off. Unfortunately more time passed, and about half the apricots went bad before I could do that (oops, food waste). Ahem.

Fresh apricots

The recipe for Simple Apricot Jam is as minimalist as it gets: two ingredients, chopped fruit and sugar in a 3:1 ratio by weight, let macerate overnight, cook down. That's it. The formula works for other peel-on, high-acid fruit, too. I neglected to take a pic of the chopped fruit, but the bits were deeply colored and firm-textured, with velvet skin. In the pot everything cooked down into a beautiful golden paste that was thin at first, but slowly thickened into jamminess. The odor was heavenly.

Fresh apricots, boiling

I started with 27 oz. (.765 kg) chopped fruit and 9 oz (.255 kg) sugar, and ended with four quarter-pints and some well-licked implements.

Simple Apricot Jam

Initially I'd thought of a doing taste-off between apricot jam made from dried fruit and apricot jam made from fresh fruit. Now I know there's no comparison. Dried Apricot Jam is excellent; Simple Apricot Jam is early summer in a jar. I could tell by the smell when it was cooking down that it would be too good for putting in jam cake, so I changed the put-up to all small jars. One may as well call it HC Apricot Jam.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What They Were Thinking

It's been a cool and soggy Memorial Day weekend roundabout Exit 151, and I don't mean the uproar over a certain sportswriter's selective unease about the Indy 500 winner or the pushback to a certain First Blogger's let-them-eat-cake recipe. No, no, fluff-filled brain that I have, the observation is merely meteorological – the weekend was cool and rainy.

In between the raindrops I managed to visit the Presby Iris Gardens, which lived up to their nickname, A Rainbow on the Hill. And there were plenty of buds, so the display should remain lovely for at least another week.

Presby Iris Gardens 2017

Gentle readers may recall that last month's quick pickled asparagus disappeared fast, which prompted me to put up the shelf-stable version for the May FIJ challenge, cold pack. This time I used Marisa McClellan's recipe for Pickled Asparagus Spears, put up in 12-oz jelly jars. Compared with the quick pickle, the processed version (unsurprisingly) is wrinkled and softer, although not as overcooked as commercial canned asparagus, and the extra heat infused the brine with the color of the red pepper flakes. There was some siphoning, nothing too distressing, and the yield was perfect. All good, except it turns out the happy hope of preserving spring bounty was mostly foiled by the insatiable munching jaws at casa Jersey Knitter. As fast as the asparagus is prepared, just so quickly it disappears! That's mostly gratifying, only slightly frustrating.

Pickled Asparagus Spears

Somehow Sock Madness 11 has managed to reach Round 5, leaving me far, far behind, even for a patterns-only non-competitor. After a personal best last year, there are too many distractions this year! And my wandering attention has wandered to June Camp Loopy (and the Tour de Fleece 2017). Here's my yarn for camp, Cascade Ultra Pima. I'm wavering (again) on the pattern. This year's theme is dinosaurs; I've been assigned to Camp Stegosaurus. Although my dino totem is a Velociraptor. Perhaps that bodes well for fierce and fleet knitting? Surely it doesn't signify much frogging and shredding?

Ultra Pima for June Camp Loopy

Alas, cruel reality intrudes on these pleasant knitting musings: I expect to be crazy-busy in June (and traveling on the day of the TdF Grand Départ, July 1). What am I thinking???