Category Archives: Inspiration

Advent Season

Hello friends!  It’s been a crazy busy couple of months here as we continue to adjust to our high school/middle school schedule.  We were not prepared for the increased work load and all the issues that come with that.  It kind of threw us all off mentally and left hardly any time for extra things, especially during the week.  Oddly enough, now that the older one is swimming 2 hours everyday, our schedule seems to be settling down.  Maybe he just needed regular exercise to help his mind focused?  Or maybe we’ve all just adjusted our expectations.  Anyway, I’ll take it and run with it for now!

And now, it’s time for Christmas baking to begin!  Squeee!!!  I’m super excited this year for all the baking.  I think the early Thanksgiving holiday really helped us to get a head start on all things Christmas.  Already this week, I have tried three new cookie recipes:

Pfeffernusse from Classic German Baking by Louisa Weiss

Springerle, also from Classic German Baking

and Bakery Style Butter Cookies from Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen

I have literally been waiting for months since I got Classic German Baking to start baking some of the recipes in the Christmas chapter.  I love that that she has a special section for Christmas!  I chose to make Pfeffernusse and Springerle first because they are long keepers.  In fact, they are supposed to get better as they age.  This is perfect for including in packages that might go a long distance, like to a different country.  Neither one of these cookies has any butter in them, which makes them a different texture than most cookies out there, but we don’t mind that.  Actually, it’s probably better for our waistlines at this moment!  Both cookies are really yummy.

The Pfeffernusse are like a dry, bready, and chewy gingerbread.  The lemon glaze on that one really compliments the cookie well.  It was a very stiff dough. Next time, I might try a cake flour to get a softer dough.

We also made Springerle last year, but I used a different recipe, which I actually like better.  These are drier, but that could be because I baked them too long.  Next time, I will pull them out earlier.  That being said, those of us who like anise, preferred this recipe.  I preferred the fruity/floweryness of the recipe from King Arthur Flour.

The third cookie I made mostly because I had two egg yolks lying around and a container of sprinkles I wanted to use up.  These were a bit of a fiasco to make, only because of my choice of equipment.  I did not have a big star tip for piping and I actually dislike piping anyway (it hurts my hands).  Instead, I decided to use my cookie press.  We had a hard time getting them to press out evenly (a lot of them curled into strange shapes) and making them a uniform size was also quite challenging.  Not to mention, loading the press was a three person job (one to unscrew it, one to hold it, and then one to fill it).  Good thing there were three of us!  Anyway, despite all that, they are quite delicious.  I could do without the chocolate dip and sprinkles.  I left some plain, with just jam sandwiched between and those were my favorite.  The kids prefer the sprinkled ones, so everyone is happy, really.

This is a great start to the Christmas baking season.  There’s still a lot left.  So far, we are up to 9 different breads/pastries and 10 different kinds of cookies.  We just need to add a few more and we’d have enough to populate an advent calendar!

New and Shiny

Every year, when Fall arrives, I have the urge to drop all my summer knitting and start a whole bunch of new projects.  This September, the urge has been especially strong.  All through August, I faithfully worked on my light summer sweaters: Ivyle

and Westbourne Kinu Love.  I stopped working on this one because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to continue the stripes down the arms or not.  Any thoughts or opinions would be welcome here.

However, as soon as September 1 rolled around, I was casting on new things, on an almost daily basis.

First, was a Recoleta sweater by Joji Locatelli.  I didn’t get very far with this one yet.  It’s one that needs my full attention, so not a good one to knit at the end of the day when I am tired, which seems to happen most days now.

Then, Ysolda started her annual gifty knitalong, Knitworthy 4, and I felt compelled to cast on an Elska hat.

The next day, after a lot of stash sorting, I also started a What the Fade Mystery Shawl.  I am somehow strangely compelled by these knitalongs that use a lot of different skeins of yarn.  Part of it is that they are a great way of using up single skeins of yarn in my stash.

I got through clue 1 on this one when I discovered that I failed to do a couple of increases along the left side (a mistake that seems to be common among those knitting this shawl) and I decided to start over.

The second time, I chose more neutral colors because the first set of colors was not agreeing with me and I was afraid I would never wear it.

This is my first time knitting the brioche stitch and I have found that it is not as hard as I thought it would be.  There’s a certain rhythm to it that makes it interesting.  My only complaint is that since each row has to be done twice, the rows seem to take forever.

I’m not sure about this dark brown color on the back.  It’s a laceweight that I am using doubled and it seems a bit too heavy compared to my other yarns, but I am hoping that will become less noticeable as the shawl gets bigger.  Perhaps I will even leave it out in the rest of the shawl.

Sometime in there, I also started the September project with A Year of Techniques.  I thought this would be a great thing to knit while I was teaching.  It turns out, however, that I really don’t have a lot of time to knit during the school day.

Then last Monday, the new Knitworthy 4 pattern came out, and I had to start that one right away.

Unfortunately, that project suffered a little setback during which I had to rip out about 10 rows.  After moments like that, projects often lose their momentum and this one is no different.  It is languishing while I go on to knit other things, like this hat that I’ve had on the needles since May.

However, lest you think I never finish anything, both hats that I had on the needles are finished now.  Hats are such wonderfully quick knits.  Maybe I should just stick to hats?

Oh, I don’t know.  I think it might be time to cast on a new sweater.

After all, I already did the gauge swatch and got the right gauge on the first try.  It’s almost like it is meant to be.

 

Back to Reality

Hi friends!  Remember me?  I know I’ve been gone a long time, but this summer was just crazy busy.  There’s no way that I’m going to be able to fill you in on all the details, but I can give you some highlights.  This is actually harder than it sounds.  You know in school how it is harder to summarize a long passage into a few sentences than it is just to retell the whole thing?  That’s true here in real life, too!  But, I will try, if only to prove to my kids that this is a skill worth learning and maintaining.

First off, we took an “mind blowing” trip to Jasper National Park in Canada.  The words in quotes are not mine, they belong to my teenage son.  I’ve tried to include a good selection of pictures below, but I’ll say what everybody says–that the pictures just don’t do the place any justice.

From our drive into Jasper until our last moment there, the place enchanted us with its amazing views.

There were gorges.

Waterfalls.

Glacial rivers

Lakes

Views of glaciers.

Challenging hikes.  (This picture in particular does not convey how difficult this part of the trail was to climb.  See all the switchbacks?  That means it was too steep to go down in a straight line.  I’d guess it was at least a 45 degree incline.)

We even had a few triumphant moments.

And we had an amazing half hour on an actual glacier.  (pro tip:  It’s cold on a glacier.  You should probably wear more than I did, which was basically shorts and a light jacket.  A full length down jacket would be appropriate.)

Four days in Jasper was not enough to do everything we wanted to do there.  We would go back in a heartbeat if we could.  The only consolation we had in leaving was that we were moving on to Banff National Park, which was equally enchanting, but in a different, less wild kind of way.

In Banff, you never feel too far away from civilization.  This picture is taken just a short walk from Banff town, which is quite a hub of activity.

In Banff, seeing the most popular views also means seeing some interesting hotels and sharing that experience with hundreds of other strangers.  Still, there are moments where you can feel like you have the place to yourself, such as 7 am in the morning at the shores of Lake Louise.

One of the most charming things about Banff is that there are several trails that have teahouses on them.  So you don’t even have to bring your lunch!

This makes up for the crowds of people that you have to share your incredible views with.

Ok, maybe crowds is a bit of an exaggeration here.  But, there were a lot more people on the trails in Banff than Jasper.

One interesting thing we saw in Banff was an ice cave.

Another nice thing about being closer to civilization is eating incredible ice cream.

We sadly only really had two days in Banff before we had to move on to a place that felt more like home, but was no less amazing because of that.  If I could only go to one national park for the rest of my life, it would probably be Glacier National Park in Montana.

Even though we had been there 4 years before, there was no shortage of new things to see.  Some things we had seen before looked new and different.  The view of the mountain next to our campsite glowed red with the sunrise when I got up one morning.

The Highline trail gave us incredible views, albeit a bit smoky/hazy.

We saw waterfalls we had not noticed before, even though we passed right by them on the road.

Here, in Glacier, we also had more wildlife encounters, like this moose having her lunch right next to the trail.

Some places, we visited again and loved them just as much as we did before, maybe even more for having seen it twice.

When it was time to leave Glacier, we left with mixed feelings.  We were tired of camping and a little footsore.   Ten straight days of camping without any campfires (There was a fire ban.  There had been very little rain in the Rockies over the summer.) was probably one or two days too long for us. There’s only so much you can do to make an airbed more comfortable.  But, I was loathe to leave the mountains behind.

However, there was more adventure ahead as we had planned to end our trip with a couple of days in Seattle.  In Seattle, we all got to see something that interested us.

My younger one wanted to go to the Boeing museum.

And my older one wanted to go to the Smith Tower and see the old fashioned elevator.

The husband got some great food.

And I got to go to the amazing Chihuly Glass Gallery.

If it looks like an awesome trip in the photos, it was exponentially more awesome to be there in person.    It was actually a lot harder to pick which pictures to include here than it was to write this paragraph.  This is partly because, between the four of us, we took over two thousand pictures!  I’m glad we have those pictures, though, because you never know if we’ll ever go back to those amazing places.  The pictures will help us remember them and I hope you enjoyed them as well!

Now, we’re more or less back into the swing of things at home with school and work and life.  I’ll be back soon with some details on some fun things I’ve been working on.  How was your summer?

 

 

 

 

A Little Busy

Well, the last few weeks here have been quite a whirlwind!  We had some houseguests, which meant we had get ready for houseguests.  It’s great to have houseguests because we finally get around to cleaning the whole house all at once.  There’s a brief moment when one can enjoy an entirely clean house (well, except for that closet where you shove everything to make the rest of the house look nice:)  Then, there’s the super fun of having people in your house.  I got the chance to try making liege waffles.  Those were fun and totally tasty and gone so fast I didn’t have a chance to take a photo.  But, I did have a chance to take a picture of the funnel cakes we made.

We love having guests because we can make stuff we might not make for ourselves.  I mean, when else can one make 6 funnel cakes and not have any guilt?

We also get to play tourist in our local area, which, to be honest, is not hard since we haven’t lived here long.  This is my favorite picture from the whole week.

These pouffy flowers at the Boston Public Garden had us scratching our heads.  Such interesting plants!

We also watched the ducks and swans.

And tried our first cannolis from Mike’s Pastry in the North End.  Really tasty, by the way.  Totally worth the wait, which we did not have, but if we had to wait, it would have been worth it.

One highlight was a little organ music at the Old North Church.  It wasn’t a concert.  He was clearly practicing for a future event, but it was fun to listen to him practice in that space.

On our way to and fro, I even got a little bit of knitting time on these new socks.

They are the Head Over Heels Foothold socks, by my friend Helen.  Yarn is from IndigoDragonfly.

I also had some time to order some new yarn to make a strokkur and a cabled sweater.  I think I’ll wait a little while to get started on those, though.  It’s been hot here and I don’t fancy a thick woolen sweater at the moment.  Instead, I’ve cast on a laceweight sweater: Ivyle.

The chances that this will get finished before the summer is over are very slim, but I will try.  I’ve also got a couple of shawls on the needles that I’d like to finish up.  More on those next time.  Summer is looking busy!

 

At the End

I’ve been a knitter for about 14 years now.  One thing I have noticed over those years is how whatever project I am knitting somehow gets associated with whatever is going on with my life at the time.  In other words, each project has memories attached to it that come to mind whenever I see or wear that knitted item.  For example, there’s a pair of socks that I remember knitting one year at the beach.  Every time I wear those socks, I remember back to those happy moments knitting contentedly while on vacation.  There’s also a sweater that I worked on while the husband was in the hospital following a serious car accident.  When I wear that sweater, I am reminded of those anxious times and feel grateful that things turned out ok.  We knitters spend a lot of time with our projects and sometimes those projects become part of our lives during that time.

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Two years ago, I started a sweater.  Two years ago, we were also deep into house hunting for our move.  Somehow, I was never able to really get into the groove of knitting that sweater.  I think now that it was perhaps a reflection of how I was feeling at the time.  Moving is stressful and as much as I knew it was the right thing to do at that time, it was also something I very much did not want to do.  And, just as I struggled with adjusting to all the changes that the move brought to us, I really struggled with being motivated to knit that sweater.

Occasionally, I would pick it and work on it.  A few times, I even managed to finish a piece of it.

This was the state of things at the beginning of May.  All the pieces were finished except for the sleeves.

Sleeves don’t usually take too long for me, but I was not feeling particularly motivated to finish these.  So, I did something that sometimes helps me to make some progress on a stalled project.  I took it with me on a road trip and did not take any other knitting that I could do in the car.

It worked.  At least, it worked for that first sleeve.  The second sat around waiting for a bit until  I decided that enough was enough and I cast on on that second sleeve.

A few days of dedicated knitting was all it took to get the second sleeve finished.  All that was left was the sewing up.

Instead of diving into that, I found myself distracted by other things again.  But, on the eve of going to the MA Fiber Festival last weekend, I wondered if I might be able to finish the sweater to wear the next day at the festival.  Nothing gets a knitter motivated to finish something than the prospect of being able to wear it around a bunch of other knitters!  I did not end up finishing the sweater in time, but it got me started and I did manage to finish by the end of the weekend.

It just needed a bath and rest after that.  Now, two years later after I started the sweater, it is finally finished.

The sweater is really comfortable and I like it a lot.  The pattern was great.  It must be because every time I came back to it, I had to figure where I was and what I was supposed to be doing.   And that’s sort of how I have felt on and off over the past two years.  Where am I and what am I supposed to be doing?  I would ask myself this often as I adjusted to our new normal here.  I can’t really explain why I was so unmotivated with the sweater except that maybe it was somehow a reflection of how unsettled I have felt this past two years in this new place.

And now that it is finished, I think it is also a reflection of how I am feeling these days here; more comfortable, more settled, more at home.  This is not to say that I am totally at home here because I still don’t feel like I really “belong” here.  To be honest, I’ve never felt like I “belonged” anywhere but that’s a topic for some other time.  I think there is always a part of us that lives in the places we leave behind, but those places also go with us and live in us.

There’s nothing magical or mystical about this sweater, but I do think it will always remind me of these last two years when my world was shifting and changing and I was struggling to figure out how to live in it.  Thankfully, the sweater, just as this life, fits pretty well, looks pretty, and is really quite comfortable.