Friday, October 30, 2009

Racing the Yardage

I'm a quarter of the way through the knitted-on border of my second Aestlight and I think I'm not going to have enough yarn. When will I learn? This is Aspen Sock by Red Rocks Fiber Works, a really wonderful superwash merino in the colorway Lemon Zest. I've bought a few Red Rocks products at my fave LYS, Knitting in La Jolla, and I've loved all of them; this particular yarn, though....I bought it on sale and I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it so I only bought one skein, about 410 yards. When I cast on I knew it would be close but I plowed ahead.

So now I'm faced with this dilemma: I can forge ahead, knowing I'm going to be close, and then rip out. Or, I can just admit defeat, rip out now and finish it off without the points.

Or maybe I can figure out another knitted-on border that wouldn't take as much Maybe I'll explore that possibility. Maybe even a picot bind-off; that would be better than nothing.

Isn't this color amazing? It has depth and flecks and saturation and everything I love.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Boil for one minute, then stand back and carefully ignite the Kirsch."

First let me state for the record that I despise cherries in baked things. After being subjected to heat they always looked like some kind of organ to me, and organs in my dessert? No thank you - I'll pass. Cherries from a tree eaten out of hand, yes. Maraschino cherries? Double yes, especially accompanied by rum, fruit juice, and a tiny umbrella. But cooked? No. No thank you. Not even chocolate can change my mind on that.

But here I was faced with this week's Tuesdays With Dorie selection: Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte. I figured I'd just knock it out and get it over with and take it with me on the bus to the Head of the American River, to be consumed by a horde of hungry teenaged girls. That was when I pre-read the recipe and came upon these directions: "...stand back and carefully ignite..." and I thought, maybe I oughta wait until John gets home from work so he can either: a) man the fire extinguisher or b) call 911 or c) all of the above. Plus...mousse filling. Not really roadtrip friendly.

So last Thursday after John got home (so I'd have a don't need one too often in the kitchen but every now and then when you attempt a particularly adventuresome maneuver it seems like a good idea) I made the brownie layer, cooled it, and left it in the fridge all wrapped up so I could go off on my chaperoning adventure and find it waiting for me when I got back.

The mousse layer was simple to put together and delicious to clean up from - I don't often lick the beater blade but if you were trying to seduce me with food and didn't have any chocolate, a mixture of mascarpone, sugar, and heavy cream would probably do the trick.

Would you like to see a little video of me almost losing my carefully tended eyebrows? I knew that you would:

And would you like to know how the torte turned out in general? I ate the little slice you see pictured above, just to try it before I served it to my family. It was the bomb! It's more like Cherry Garcia than weird cooked cherries, and the bottom layer was fudgy and chewy with little chunks of chocolate still whole. I ate it and then I wished I had time to lie down because it was definitely kind of heavy, but the flavors were interesting and went together very well. Thanks for this week's pick, April!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Head of the American River

After being home for what seemed like 20 minutes this week, Anna and I loaded ourselves and a few possessions onto a bus with the rest of the ZLAC girls and headed up to Sacramento for the Head of the American regatta. A few of you have expressed your deep sympathy for my situation, i.e., being trapped on a seemingly endless bus ride with 40 teenaged girls, but don't worry. I had my iPhone, my iPod, a book, some knitting, four other adults and a stream of teen movies to entertain me.

You can tell it's Anna by her black cap...she's the 2nd one from the left.

I hadn't seen (and was unlikely to, in other circumstances) Step Up 2 The Streets or Fired Up!...I actually laughed during Fired Up! so I either must've been really tired or suffering from all the teen hormones in the air on that bus. And Step Up 2 The Streets...well, I do secretly want to join a dance crew, so I was bound to enjoy that. We also watched Get Smart and Blades of Glory, which I slept through.

They remind me of my kids when they were still in high chairs!

The place the girls raced was very pretty: Nimbus Flats there on the American. It's surrounded by oak foothills and I was able to hike around on a couple of really nice trails while the girls weren't actively racing. I'm sure this place is a birder's paradise when there aren't a zillion rowers, and even so I got to see a flock of wild turkeys and lots of ducks and geese.

Really, how hard could a duck bite you with that bill?

The weather was fine and our canopies were right in front of the finish line, and we were shaded with the sun at our backs for the whole time...amazingly comfortable compared to the freezefest on the Charles last week!

I tried to sneak up on it, but the goose would have none of my petting, even for spaghetti!

The biggest entertainment came from the local waterfowl. We had a pan of leftovers that they went nuts over! After gorging themselves for a few minutes, they all ran down to the water, drank and drank, and then ran back to finish. You know how ducks shake their heads when they eat? They made a huge mess of themselves.

Sacramento Sunset

Belated Birthdays

I finally gave my friend her birthday Aestlight. Isn't she the very picture of fall? And she gave me this beautiful new project bag, stitched with her own hands. I needed a new bag, too - I'm all in Ziplocs right now!

Belated birthdays are so fun - presents when you least expect them!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Tried to Look at Yarn!

The view from my hotel window.

It turned out that I was in Portland for an afternoon/evening by myself so I decided to go out in search of a few yarn stores. A quick Google revealed that there were two yarn stores within walking distance of my hotel, so I bundled up and headed out.

The first one was really close, but there was nothing too interesting to see. It was kind of old school, but it had a decent enough selection of the usual suspects. I was hoping for something local or unavailable in my neck of the woods, but there really wasn't anything like that so I kept on walking.

I had high hopes for the next place, KnitWit Yarn Shop and Coffee Bar. I was totally willing to walk the mile necessary to look at yarn while drinking coffee. Imagine my sadness when I got there only to find they were closed.

I know, I should've called first, but I didn't. Color me stupid. Doesn't it look like someplace you'd like to visit? They have giant wall mittens!

Amber Grove (I was going to link to their website here but when I searched I just found a link to Amber Grove, human being!), the place next door, was closed too, and that was a bummer because I really wanted a better look at these lampshades that appear to be made of felt, or maybe really really thick and pulpy handmade paper. Either way, intriguing.

Anyway, I walked back to the hotel and consoled myself with room service clam chowder and NCIS, and I did make a lot of progress on a second Aestlight that I'm working on.

The next morning I got in the car and headed back to Boston, determined to see at least one decent yarn store. In Brookline I found A Good Yarn, which was a nice little place. They did have some yarn that I'm not used to seeing in person and they had a nice little selection of Koigu, but at that point I was all packed up for the airport and I left with only a few stitch markers and the holiday issue of Interweave Knits. I realize that I was in the general area only a week after the whole Rhinebeck opportunity...maybe next year!

Friday, October 23, 2009

LL Bean

While I was on the east coast I stayed a couple of days after the regatta and drove up to Portland with Fiona. That's the other Portland for those of us west of the Rockies - the one in Maine, not the one in Oregon. I'd never been to Maine so I was especially eager to see it, and as a bonus I got to drive through New Hampshire so now I've been to all the New England states.

It snowed big fat flakes all the way north from Boston to Portland, but the heater in our rented Corolla worked just fine and the radio had enough classic rock to keep us entertained all the way there. We had a lovely dinner with friends (haddock chowder and brie brioche - how brilliant is that, brie melted into the brioche? You put it in when you add butter to the dough, as opposed to wrapping a brie in brioche and baking it whole.) and on the second day we went up to Freeport, Maine, the home of LL Bean and a whole lot of other stores and outlet I didn't have time to visit. As it turns out, LL Bean does not consist of a warehouse with a bunch of telephones and ladies on rollerskates packing your order as you call it in - it's actually a large complex of stores, each with a theme like hunting/fishing, home, or what-have-you. They may indeed have a warehouse with rollerbabes but I didn't see one.

I made Fiona pose in the trout aquarium bubble and then I wandered around taking pictures of the stuffed animals. I love stores with giant aquariums. Out here the Fry's in San Marcos has a couple of them - awesome. But LL Bean has actual taxidermy - how great is that? The moose here were found locked together like that - they starved to death!

Here's a video that explains:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Head of the Charles

Andrew is wearing shorts. He grew up in Fresno, which I'm not sure really explains this.

One of the only things that's lacking here in La Jolla is the change of seasons as traditionally depicted by the cover of Martha Stewart Living. I mean, you know the old joke about SoCal seasons: summer, fire, mud and earthquake. And we do have some seasonal differences in LJ. If you consider May Gray/June Gloom as our own private winter, we have three: Too Cold for the Beach, Not Too Cold for the Beach, and Too Touristy for the Beach. Everything else is a Santa Ana or one of the 10 days it rains around here.

We are clearly not far enough SOUTH.

So imagine how happy I was to be a chaperone for the ZLAC girls on their trip to the Head of the Charles - real New England fall, right in the middle of the beautiful foliage season! Luckily San Diego is full of sportswear stores that are all too happy to fit you out for any kind of weather just in anticipation of an excursion such as this, so I purchased a bunch of North Face layers and fleecy things (and these really cool longies from Lucy) and set out.

My whole lunch is inside that vest and it still tasted like it came straight out of the fridge.

You see me there? I am only smiling because my face is so cold it froze in that position. This was not fall. This was every kind of winter weather all wrapped up into one three-day period. Rain. Frozen rain. Hail. Snow. That's right, snow. Do you know how hard that is for someone who lives in shorts and flip-flops? Good thing I knit, people.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Sweet Potato Biscuits

Okay, here's the reason I decided to join Tuesdays with Dorie this month: It was all for the sweet potato biscuits. You may recall that I made these last year after finding the recipe online (and don't miss the All-in-One Holiday Cake posted on that link - that's awesome). I'd never in my life bought a can of sweet potatoes until I tried this recipe, and then I bought two cans once a week all through the winter.

The biscuits are particularly good if you are serving any kind of pork, but they're also good for breakfast, or when you want something juuuuuuust a little sweet. And you can fool yourself into thinking they're good for you because they have fiber and Vitamin A and beta carotene from the sweet potato, so really, why not eat two? In fact, in the spirit of eating two, I do tend to cut these out on the small size. They don't rise very much so smaller biscuits look better proportioned to me.

Thank you, Erin of Prudence Pennywise, for picking one of my best-loved fall recipes. I can't wait to see how everyone else's sweet potatoes turned out!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Halloween Self-Portrait

I know, I know...another picture of my feet. I don't know what's up with that either, except that they're always a handy subject. (Get it? My feet are hand-y. I just crack myself up.) In any case, I'm leaving for Boston tomorrow night and I don't believe I have proper footwear for the weather, but if I could wear flip-flops, I'd be stylin'.

PS This is the only Halloween decor I'm currently rocking, inside the house, outside the house, or anywhere else on my person. I may have to go straight to Thanksgiving this year. Or maybe Valentine's Day. I'm sure nobody will notice if I skip everything in between.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Purple Aestlight

What's not to love about this little shawl? It starts with a garter stitch triangle, so you can take it with you and knit without worrying about screwing up a complicated part. It continues with a fun-to-knit lace panel that stretches like crazy when you block it. It ends with a knitted-on border so you only have a few stitches on the needle at any time so you think you're making a lot of progress. It can be worn as a scarf, so you never have that moment where you wonder where the heck you're going in a shawl or whether you're the kind of person who can pull that off. It's made with Koigu, which is always fun to fondle as you knit.

And it's purple, just as an added bonus. Timeless, regal, and oh-so-in this season (Okay, my fashionista friends, I know it was oh-so-in last season, but I live in SoCal. We're three timezones and a full 365 days behind New York. Be happy I'm not wearing white after Labor Day, at least today.)

I've had to wait on posting finished pictures of this project because it's a belated birthday gift for a certain redheaded friend of mine who gave me this, and yes, it's taken me over a year to reciprocate with a handmade of my own.

I enjoyed knitting Aestlight so much that I've already cast on and am well through the garter triangle of another, this time in a golden yellow. I'm hoping to have it done in time to wear it in Boston when I cheer on the ZLAC girls, but hey - no pressure!

I'm also still plugging away halfheartedly on a Lacy Baktus in Malabrigo sock. I'm not really feeling it, though, so it might end up frogged yet. I don't know why certain projects take off like your needles are on fire and others just putt-putt along like that...yeah, I'm talking to you, navy scarf, and you, all you other half-finished projects lurking in drawers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Allspice Crumb Muffins

This week's entry for Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Kayte (Thanks Kayte!) of Grandma's Kitchen Table: Allspice Crumb Muffins. I don't do a lot of baking with allspice as the main flavor note - usually it's just one component in a blend of spices - so I actually went all-out and bought a little packet of fresh allspice instead of using the 100-year-old bottle that's been languishing in the back of my kitchen cupboard gathering dust. I had to move the 100-year-old mace to get to that one.

These muffins were pretty good - John and the girls liked them, and I didn't have the sliding streusel problem some other bakers seemed to have. I'm not sure why, because I didn't press the crumbs down into the batter or anything; what I did do was load each one up with so much crummage (crumbage? That seems wrong...) it seemed like overkill, but I figured there had to be a reason there was so much of it and I suspect the sheer weight of it kept it in place. I followed the recipe just as written and included the optional grated lemon rind because I'm always all about the grated lemon rind. The crumb topping was the best part - isn't it always? - and I had just about decided that I probably wouldn't make these twice when I tasted one the day after baking was actually a little better and it was still moist and delish. Maybe I'll try these again with cinnamon or a blend of spices. Or maybe I'll bust out the allspice again. It did feel very much like fall was in the air....

Monday, October 12, 2009


This morning I visited a local nonprofit where they let me ride this Segway despite the fact that I was wearing my Coach pumps in an attempt to look respectable. I can't see myself ever actually owning one but I did want to ride it around some more.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Not a Tuesday...

Somewhat misshapen, altogether delicious.

Some of you might've clicked on Dorie Greenspan's link in my post about Split Level pudding and seen that she was talking about brioche on her own blog. I myself went beyond the clicking and straight to the baking. Two batches of brioche later, I think I'm in love. Some of the dough went into little breakfast brioches, which made up for the inevitable argument I have with someone in the morning ("Are you wearing that to school?" Stomp, stomp, stomp.) and reminded my family that they should keep me around for while longer. The rest went into a tarte au sucre...I got a little crazy folding the dough over in the pan and I think the next one will be more beautiful to look at, but even the lumpy one was delicious.

Here's the 2nd rise in the early morning. They are about to make my house smell amazing.

Pardon the terrible iPhone photos of the lovely brioche - I forgot to recharge my camera battery and desperate times call for makeshift measures, I guess.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Blocking Aestlight

Love that bird's-eye lace...

Now that it's finally fall in La Jolla (temps below 70, heh - and that doesn't include the Santa Ana or two we're sure to have any time now) all I want to do is cocoon in my house with something warm on the needles and something warm in the oven. If it would only rain I'd be so happy.

Disclaimer: This image was photoshopped to cover a little more of my skin than actually showed because much as I love you, you just didn't need to see it. I did resist the temptation to give myself the much-needed tuck-and-lift, though. PS I'm the one on the right, in case you were wondering, "Which one of these women has had three children?" - HA! My partner is in the middle, and the hottie on the left is one of the professional dancers, too.

Perhaps you recall me talking about my crazy "celebrity" appearance at Malashock Thinks You Can Dance? Well, it happened, and I'm happy to have lived through it. If you missed it, I'm so sorry - there won't likely be a repeat performance because there's no way I'm getting in that outfit again in this lifetime unless Fiona marries someone I don't like, in which case I think it will make a perfect mother-of-the-bride getup.

This was the day after the Malashock event. I already had chipped salsa nails, because I'm apparently still not grown-up enough to maintain a decent manicure for more than a day.

In any case, now that the salsa is behind me and I've retired into advisory status for Las Patronas, you might be thinking, wow - Lydia must be so bored, right? Well, no. I am so behind on so many things that I'm actually filling my time with as much stuff as I can to avoid doing everything I've procrastinated for so long. Today, for example, I'll be at the La Jolla Wine & Art Festival manning the LJ Historical Society table in the afternoon. I'm taking Anna and Mary with me so that I may even be able to accomplish a little knitting between visitors. Aestight is blocking and I've cast on a Lacy Baktus which will be a perfect project to take with me.

We know it's fall because the tourist have gone.

In addition to Baktus, I'm starting to plan some other travel knitting for later this week. On Thursday I'm heading to Boston with Anna and some of the other ZLAC girls who are rowing at the Head of the Charles. I'm excited because not only is it an amazing event, but Fiona will be joining us over the weekend and I haven't seen her since August! On Sunday Anna will fly back with her team and I think Fiona and I will drive up to Portland (Maine, my west coast friends, not Oregon) for a day. Then she will go back to Vermont and I'll have a day in Mass before I fly home...should I go to WEBS? Or where? Suggestions?