Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

Wherever you are, we are neighbors in this world. We wish you blessings of the seasons and peace in the new year - the McNeils

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's a Blizzard!

After a gorgeous, sunny weekend with temperatures all the way down in the 50s at night, we finally have snow in Windanseaville! Okay, it's fake snow made of egg whites and dipped in chocolate, but still. It is a little misty with a tiny bit of drizzle outside, which is what passes for winter weather around here.

The snowcaps are from Tyler Florence's recipe and they are super easy to make. I had the egg whites left over from making sabl├ęs yesterday, so I whipped these babies up and popped them in the oven last night so they could sit. The meringues are very sweet, but the semisweet chocolate balances them nicely. If you make them, you can make your own superfine sugar by whirring regular sugar in the food processor just a bit; also, they're sticky to the touch - they stick to each other and they will stick to your fingers, so have a little powdered sugar on hand and dip your fingers into it from time to time so they'll slide right off.

PS Just in case you doubt this is Southern California, witness the avocado next to the snowcaps in the top never know when you'll need a little guac.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shortrow Sideways Hat

Just a quick FO! In between my other projects, I had to cast on for this little donation hat because I knew it would be quick quick quick, and it was! It took less than 100 yards of cotton dishcloth yarn, but I might make it again using some variegated yarn in a larger gauge. The pattern is here (scroll down) if you need a fast gift.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Beginning to Smell a lot like Christmas

In another blog-inspired impulse, I just finished enjoying a rainy morning in the kitchen baking molasses cookies. I followed the recipe as Ree has it, except that I made a double batch, I whisked my dry ingredients together to distribute everything evenly, and I rolled the cookies in demerara sugar before popping them into the oven. I think I rolled them a little smaller than hers too, because I ended up with about five dozen cookies instead of the expected 36 and they're still a nice size. The fragrance is incredible - I shelled and ground my own cardamom in my old coffee grinder (not because I'm crazy - it's because I bought it a few months ago for another recipe and I could only find it in the pod - right now it's in the stores pre-ground probably cuz it's in a bunch of Christmas recipes) and between the spices and the molasses and the demerara sugar baking, I wish I could bottle the smell and sell it as Eau de Noel.

PS John came home for lunch today and proclaimed these the best molasses cookies he's ever eaten...he's something of a connoisseur, so that's a great recommendation! If you bake them, and you should - they're easy - don't overbake. They're best after they've cracked but are still a little on the chewy side.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rainy Day Baking

The rainy weather here in Windanseaville is just another excuse not to leave home, in my opinion. This is as close to winter as we get, and with a pot of chicken tortilla soup on the stove and the fire lit it's heaven on earth. A little knitting, a little baking, a good movie on tivo....even if I have to do a little work, the rest of the day is fantastic. Directly after reading this post by Bea this morning, I went to the kitchen and baked donut muffins. I even doubled the recipe so I could deliver some to a friend I had a meeting with and still have plenty for the girls.

Did I mention that Fiona is home for winter break? The tortilla soup (the Barefoot Contessa recipe with leftover roasted chicken shredded into it) was for her - I promised I wouldn't make it until she was home to eat it! The soup was last night's dinner, accompanied by a pumpkin tarte. The tarte was a hit, so you're seeing what's left over, i.e., not much. The filling is basically the recipe on the Libby's can except that I used eggnog from a carton in place of the evaporated milk, and I baked it in a tarte pan with a gingernap cookie crust. Topped with maple whipped cream (3 cups heavy cream, whip until soft peaks, add about 1/2 c maple syrup - not pancake syrup - whip until the consistency you prefer) it is all kinds of good things on one plate. It makes enough for a 10" tarte plus 4 little 4" tartelettes (cuz you know you've gotta taste it before you serve it to people!).

The muffins are pretty fab, too - I only dredged the tops in powdered sugar so they're not actually too sweet - good with a cup of coffee on a rainy afternoon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mitered Mittens

We <3 the LJ Christmas Parade!

December is always such a busy month, I barely have time to catch my breath! Last weekend alone we had a parade, a triple birthday party, and a regatta...these were just the main events and don't even include the errands and life in general, or the things we couldn't do because we were busy with parades and regattas. And if you think I've made any progress on stimulating the economy, guess again. No progress. No stimulation has taken place.

I did make a gorgeous chocolate cake for the birthday people, though. It's the Chocolate Buttermilk Cake from Magnolia, with their chocolate buttercream on top. It may well be the best chocolate cake I've ever eaten. I ended up short on the unsweetened chocolate called for in the cake and had to substitute some very nice cocoa and even more butter, most likely bringing the butter-to-person ratio up somewhere in the this-cake-will-kill-you range, but it was definitely worth it.

On the knitting front, I've been working away on mittens, mittens, and more mittens. I just love them. These are the Elizabeth Zimmerman's Mitered Mittens and they are super fun to knit.

The pattern shows the Noro Silk Garden off beautifully, and the mittens are matched but mismatched at the same time - very cool. I cast on 40 sts, knit 5 rounds of garter stitch, 2.5" of cuff, and away we went.

Rather than using EZ's thumb method for this mitten (snip a stitch and unravel live sts), I used Kathryn Ivy's technique and put in a thumb gusset right after the cuff. She's right, it distorts the palm of the mitten less. I also quit decreasing at the top when I had 12 stitches total and kitchenered the fingertips. I bath in Eucalan and a rest flattened them right out to the shape you see here - they were a little gnarled before blocking.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Target Wave

Isn't this a great pattern? These Target Wave mittens are from Knitting Nature, one of my favorite books for knitting inspiration. I'll admit I haven't knit very many Norah Gaughan designs, but I love the organic quality of her creations.

The gray is Malabrigo Worsted in Frost Gray, and the cream is some wool I had in my stash...Lana Gatto, I think. The pattern calls for knitting these mittens flat, but you know me, I hate to seam. I adjusted for the seam stitches and knitted the cuffs in the round, knit back and forth for the thumb hole, and joined again for the fingertips.

For the thumbs, I picked up stitches all around the thumb hole, adding a couple of extras where it looked like there might be gaps. Those I dispatched with a k2tog on the first round of knitting and then continued to the thumb tips.

The finished mittens were a little wobbly looking, what with all the curves and color changes, but I cut out a hand shape from an old Amazon box and steamed those babies smooth. I love them!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Crew Hats

With the holidays here I'm working on a lot of smallish projects: mittens, hats, cowls, etc. They're my standard instant-gratification knits, even given my usually severe case of second-mitten syndrome.

Pretty chipper for 6:00 am!

Last week, between two pairs of mittens, I whipped out some hats for Anna. Anna rows every afternoon and Saturdays starting at, really, the crack of dawn (good thing John likes the early morning because I'm just starting my coffee infusion when it's time to drive down the hill), and it gets pretty cold on the bay (at least until she starts really going, and then it's hot). These crew hats are super easy basic beanies knit in thick user-friendly yarn. In fact, the checkered one landed in the bay on its first outing and lived to tell the tale. I used Encore Chunky for both hats in black and a light yellow - not my favorite yarn, but these hats are probably destined to meet a bad end.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's Anna taking a pecan pie over to our next-door neighbors...I wish we could share with you, too! Have a wonderful day, everyone!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Care Package Knits

Just a quick post today - I mailed a care package off to Fiona this last week containing the multicolored scarf I finished last week, a brown cabbage rose scarf based on this design (and modified to be a little asymmetrical in the points) and a Noro striped scarf based on this. I think she's keeping the sideways striped one so the other one's for her Thanksgiving host, and the cabbage rose scarf is for her roommate.

I had to have cataract surgery this week (!!! Get your eyes checked! I'm not that old!) so I've been taking it easy and getting used to my new bionic eye. I'm still adapting to reading and looking at my computer screen and focusing properly, but knitting and TV are definitely doable so I'm entertained. And I can drive, so hurray for that. I'm more than halfway through a pair of mittens I started yesterday, so stay tuned for more knitting before our thoughts turn to Turkey Day cooking!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tastes of Fall

Sweet potato biscuits. Need I say more? I need not. But I will: the cake recipe in that link is equally fantastic. And in fact, so far, every Dorie Greenspan recipe I've tried has been amazing. Some day I'll join the Tuesdays with Dorie movement, but for now, I'm just a happy visitor in her land of baked superbity.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Multicolored Scarf

Last night I bound off a scarf made entirely of leftover scraps of worsted yarn. It's from this formula, which works for any kind of leftovers in any weight - pretty cool.

For mine, I cast on 240 sts of some nice charcoaly Noro Kureyon and then switched colors and yarns (mostly different remnants of Kureyon and Malabrigo worsted - the bright blue is some extremely wonderful Malabrigo silky merino) whenever I felt like it...I kept the ends all on one side and then worked them into the fringe so I wouldn't have to weave them in - let's hear it for not weaving in! I just made a half hitch to keep them in place and the added fringe anchors them well.

The pattern creates a pretty firm fabric, so I was a little afraid it would be sort of misshapen or scrunchy when it was done, but a nice bath in Eucalan relaxed the heck out of it and the finished dimensions are 7' without the fringe and about 6" wide. I considered pinning it out and hitting it with a little steam to make it a bit wider, but decided against it - I like it this way! Off it goes to Vermont, as a thank-you gift to the nice person who invited Fiona home for Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I had to go to the doctor today for my annual check-up, where I was made to step on a physician's scale. Fully clothed. With tennis shoes on. Those Nikes, they say they're light but I'm pretty sure they're a full five pounds.

I then came home and baked a pear tarte tatin, so I can have fruit for dessert like the French women do.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

November in Paradise, 2008 Edition

Last year, I posted about November in Paradise, aka Windanseaville. This year we had a perfect Halloween weekend: warm on Friday into the evening, sunny on Saturday, and a little rain on Sunday just to make it cozy.

Mary was Cleopatra, as you can see. She's surely in denial about something. Probably homework. Anna was the grim reaper, but she was out the door so quickly in the morning that I couldn't even get my iphone out fast enough for a photo.

Saturday was lazy (at least, it was for me - Anna had rowing so she and John were up and down at the Bay by 6:00). We had lunch by the pool down at the can see the aftermath of the Halloween festivities and glut of candy here:

So Mary swam the afternoon away, and then Sunday I knitted and watched reruns of House. I hope to have some FOs pretty soon for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October Sunset

The sky has been so beautiful at my house lately. October tends to be warm here with Santa Ana winds, and in the evenings this week there's been a dense marine layer (fog) just below us at the beach. I drive down from my house and descend into a big cloud reminds me of the cloud wall in Winter's Tale.

I sent Anna & Mary into the upper part of our yard to take these pictures a few days ago. Isn't the sunset gorgeous behind that palm tree? Don't you wish those phone lines were gone?

I look out at the sky when I'm cooking dinner, which happened to be quiche that day. The camera was out, so here's the quiche portrait as well. The crust is a snap in the food processor, although you could fake it with frozen stuff if you want, and the ingredients are anything you've got handy. In this case: a cup of finely chopped onion, a cup of diced ham, some broccoli florets, about of cup of whatever cheese I've got around shredded up. Beat four eggs in a bowl, add about two cups of milk/half & half/heavy cream or a combination thereof, a little salt, a little pepper, pour it over the filling. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 300 and bake until done, about 30 minutes more.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I just love neckwarmers. They're a great project and they look so polished! I only wish I could wear them here in Windanseaville - I'd knit a bunch for myself, because I like how they hide a questionable neck. I even have several in my Ravelry queue. Luckily, someone in Vermont has a cold neck, although I doubt she's pulled this particular garment out yet.

This little number is Tudora, knit in Malabrigo in the Red Mahogany colorway. It's a beautiful color...deep. And I fastened it with a hammered copper button - gorgeous in person. It takes no time at all to finish, and would make a great holiday gift. Go cast on, you'll love it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fall is Knitting Time

Dear readers, it's been almost two months since the last time I posted! In that time, I've been a busy little bee. I've been to Vermont twice - once to deposit Fiona at school, and once to visit over parents' weekend. I've been working. I've been cooking. I've been knitting.

I've also been trying to work on a few graphics projects and pay attention to my family and friends while doing this. See me? That was the day I learned a) not to wear white in photos and b) not to let the skinny broads push me into the middle ever again. But it's okay, my hair was really straight that day.

The project shown here is my version of Dark Victory. It's one fat luscious piece of knitting, so warm I nearly passed out trying it on here in La Jolla. You can see how happy Fiona looks in it, back in August. I think it was about 80 degrees that day, and that sweater was the knitted equivalent of locking yourself in the trunk of your car in the parking lot of Costco (I'm not sure how that would happen, now that I think about it. But I ask you, why is the Costco parking lot always hotter than the sun? Global warming: actually caused by 10-gallon vats of mayo.). It lives in Vermont now, more in its woolly natural habitat. I'm hoping it won't come back looking like a potholder with arms.

Seen at Whole Foods

I wonder if they're organic?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Noro Cinchy

For those of you complaining about my lack of knitting content - this one's for you. Two posts in a row about knitting! But don't get used to it. The subject matter of my blog posts will just have to be one of life's little uncertainties for you. It disappoints me too, my friend. If only I had an extra pair of hands.

Anyway. This is a Cinchy Hat, knit up in a random Noro Kureyon and black yarn of similar weight I had in my stash. I ended up using about 75 - 80 yards of the Kureyon and a little less of the black, and I knitted half the hat at the dermatologist waiting for Fiona, another quarter at the pediatrician waiting for Anna, and the last quarter watching Michael Phelps win another gold medal, no waiting involved.

Weaving in the ends took a long time, because I just hate doing it and for some reason that makes me do it sloooowly instead of racing through the horrible weaving like I should. In fact, I'd intended to knit this hat in only Kureyon to avoid weaving in, but the color was just too bland. The black makes it sing, at least in person.

And, serendipitously, I spent the better of part of the day today cleaning out my office - a heinous task, because unlike cleaning out your closet, during which you can fantasize about all the new clothes and shoes would now fit in there, if only you were rich and thin, cleaning out your office is basically so you can do more work. So that's not the serendipitous part. The serendipitous part was I found some black satin ribbon under a bunch of papers on the little couch on my office (Yes, there's a couch in my office but it might as well be a table.) and so I was able to thread up the back of my Cinchy and scrunch it up for pictures.

Cinchy's going to Vermont with Fiona, but Anna was kind enough to model it for us.