Finished! White Roses Lace Scarf

Finally, FINALLY, this thing is done. What I thought would be a quick project and Mother’s Day present ended up taking over a month: a loooong time for me. I like to finish projects quickly and work on them constantly until they are done, so this was a killer for my project mojo. The white Knit Picks Aloft yarn knitted up nicely and is so so lovely and soft and fluffy…but it was my first time working with lace weight yarn and I swear I was about to go blind.

The pattern itself is fairly straightforward and simple: there is a three-stitch garter border around some easy lace. The chart is about 46 rows and repeats 13 times…silly me thought “I will just keep going until I run out of yarn” but by the time I reached repeat 13, I was DONE. I wanted to move on to something else before I lost my mind and all my vision.

Washed and blocked, it measures about 5″ across and maybe 45″ long. I would have liked it a little bit longer but it is long enough to wrap around your neck without getting in the way. My mom loves it and was wearing all day on Sunday, despite the fact that it was about 92 degrees.

Pattern: Traveling Roses Lace Scarf

Yarn: 1.5 skeins Knit Picks Aloft in White (75% mohair, 25% silk)

Mods: none

Rav Project Page:  Mom’s White Winter Scarf

New project: White Lace Scarf

About three years ago, my mom had one of those white fun-fur scarves that were trendy for a hot minute. She loved the thing, and she especially liked to wear it around Christmastime with a red dress. Long story short, she ended up losing it somewhere at a Christmas dance and has been questing to find the “perfect” thing ever since.

Since I have forbidden her to ever buy fun fur again, she bought some beautiful chunky-weight alpaca wool to make herself a new one and crocheted a scarf that is dreamy to wear: it is so soft and cuddly, I’m quite jealous of it. She seems disappointed with it, however, as I think she was looking for something a little more frothy and a little less bulky. Not surprising as bulky scarves don’t have much of a place in California weather (although tell that to my 62 degrees in June today, wtf?)

So as soon as Knitpicks came out with their new line, Aloft, a mohair/silk laceweight that is fluffy and airy, I knew this would be the right yarn for something for her. I was hoping it would be a Mother’s day gift, but I bounced around from pattern to pattern for a while before finally settling on the Traveling Roses Scarf. It’s beautiful, but a beast to knit – I don’t have a lot of experience with laceweight and I can only work about one 44-row repeat before having to put the needles down and work on something else due to eyestrain. I feel like an old lady!

Anyway, I have a feeling this one will take me a while, but here’s hoping she’ll love it.

Finished! Hemlock Throw

I can’t believe I finished this is in just under a week! It turned out so pretty and snuggly!

Pattern: “Hemlock” by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed.
Very easy, even to newbies of lace or feather-and-fan. The inner star goes very quickly and the lace repeats on the outside are an easily recognizable pattern, so you can almost leave the pattern behind. The pattern is charted out to a standard-size throw and beyond, just to make sure you fee the feel for it. With 2 skeins of wool, I got about 65″ across at the widest points. It is shown on the queen size bed here.

Yarn: As recommended, I used Casacde Yarns Ecological Wool. I had my reservations, as it is very scratchy on my sensitive skin, but it did not give me any problems while working on it. A tiny bit of shedding while washing and blocking, but that is to be expected with all wool. It also has a wonderful sheepy smell to it (when dry – when wet it smells a little like a rainy barn).

Notes: Next time I think I would finish it without the lace bind-off, which I think looks a little wonky (probably just my fault). The bind-off does take up a LOT of yarn, so start it well before you think you need to. I was planning on keeping a little bit of yarn for the scrap bucket, and barely made it to the end! You will also need large circular needles to work comfortable, I used a 60″ and could probably go a little bigger.

Not sure what my intentions are with this yet, I’ve currently got it up for sale. If it doesn’t sell I will have no problem keeping it as I think it turned out beautifully.

Yarn Stash Update

Still working slowly but surely through the yarn stash I have accumulated over the years. I was so close to almost finishing – I made a ton of scarves for charity and a few baby blankets for Project Linus. Sadly, my grandmother passed away in mid-March….I will miss her a lot, as she is the one who taught me how to crochet and instilled my love for yarn projects and reading. As my grandpa was cleaning out some of her “stuff”, he passed on two me two huge containers of yarn!! Now I have more yarn that I know what to do with, and I am working through that as quickly as possible.

I will admit I broke my yarn diet: I had to buy some of Knitpick’s new Aloft for what I was hoping would be a mother’s day gift, and WEBS was having a big sale so I bought some Cascade Eco. Aside from that, I’ve been good, I promise! Here’s the results of the past three or so months of stashbusting:

A baby set and toy for my cousin’s new baby, due August:

A baby blanket for charity, practicing my lace:

A hat for my Deedeekins:

Plus a bolero and mitts for myself that I don’t have pictures of, and a ton more scarves and washcloths. Just gotta keep on truckin’ so I can start work on an afghan for myself and a thousand other projects I have queued up.

Review: Medium Raw, by Anthony Bourdain

I am an Anthony Bourdain fangirl. From the minute I picked up Kitchen Confidential, I can’t get enough of his snarky humor and irreverence in an industry that too often seems to take itself way too seriously. I watch, riveted, every episode of No Reservations I come across, and love his guest judge appearances on Top Chef. I firmly believe that the only way to redeem the tragedy that is Jersey Shore is to give him and chef Eric Ripert their own reality/sitcom/travel show. So when I saw he had a new book out, I waited maybe five minutes before grabbing it off the shelf, desperate to get my fix.

That being said, this is not the Bourdain of Kitchen Confidential.  Not to say he’s lost his edge, but the book is filled with valuable insights and glimpses into the restaurant biz that aren’t so much spiteful as fascinating. The Bourdain of Confidential was a train wreck–you were reading to see how many more drugs he could score, women he could sleep with, restaurants he could scandalize. Medium Raw is, conversely, a series of thoughtful vignettes about the evolution and growing popularity of the food world.

First of all, what we have here is more of a collection of essays than a cohesive story: a format that lends itself in an excellent way to Bourdain’s rambling storytelling style. He’ll spend a chapter on the devious ways in which he tries to get his daughter to hate McDonalds (leaving a moldy sponge in a cheeseburger, anyone?), only to follow that up with a comprehensive list of who are the true heroes and villains of the industry today. An analysis of David Chang’s personality and career (someone at the forefront of the trendy food movement) is followed by a day in the life of Justo Thomas (a less- but certainly not un-known fish butcher at Le Bernardin).

Bourdain has by no means lost his sense of humor, irreverance, vulgarity, or crude imagination. Reading this book, for me, was an experience in bipolarity. One minute I was laughing out loud as he called [GQ food writer] Alan Richman a douchebag, the next reflecting on his point that both men and women should once again be taught to cook in school. He has no qualms about naming names and his no-holds-barred attitude gives us, the outsiders, an inside look at the intentions and art of the chef rather than the sometimes crusty practices of the cook.

All in all, this book was a riot.  Bourdain has managed to hit all the right notes between hilarity and seriousness, respect and irreverence, familiarity and wide-eyed wonderment. In Kitchen Confidential, we saw a man who had gotten into the restaurant business almost by accident–in Medium Raw, we see a man who is eager to share what is a true love of food and its artists.

Easy & Quick Coq Au Vin

When we were in New York over Christmas, we absolutely had to stop at Les Halles for an early dinner. Both Tom and I are huge Bourdain fans and we were dying to see where it all started, not to mention eat the food that we’d heard so many things about. The place was slightly underwhelming in many ways – it was small, incredibly dark for 3pm, and the servers were–if not outright rude–a little brusque. The food, however, was incredible, and the thing that blew me away was the coq au vin that Tom ordered.

Coq au Vin is similar to Beef Bourguignon–a tough rooster is seared in fat, then braised slowly in red wine. From my understanding of French cuisine, usually Burgundy wine is the top choice, although others could be used as well. Though delicious, it’s never been something I’ve tackled in the kithcn: mostly because I lack the foresight for multi-day preparations, and many recipes (especially traditional ones) span two to three days.

This, however, is brilliant. Not too far from the original preparation, but with a significantly shorter prep time, the dish doesn’t lack on flavor in the least.  I wouldn’t call it ‘quick’ – total prep and cooking time clocked in at just under 90 minutes for me, but certainly an improvement over a few days. This is the perfect dish for a long winter’s night – one that warms you up nicely from the inside out, especially over some creamy mashed potatoes or fluffy rice.

Easy Coq Au Vin
Adapted from Cooking Light

1/2 lb. thick-cut bacon
1 whole cut-up chicken
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh-cracked ground pepper
1 c. white onion, chopped
1/2 c. (about 3 stalks) celery, chopped
1/2 c. (about 2 medium-size) carrots, chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 bottle red wine (Burgundy is best)
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp. olive oil
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered
8-10 pearl onions, halved
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped

In large, deep skillet or dutched oven, fry the bacon until very crispy. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels, and drain all but about 2 Tbsp. from the pan. Sprinkle chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper and to hot pan (they should sizzle when they hit the bacon fat – if not, it’s not hot enough!). Cook for about 10 minutes, turning once, or until skin is nicely browned, and remove from the pan.

Add the onion, celery, carrots, thyme, garlic, and bay leaves and cook 5 minutes until onions are clear. Add tomato paste and stir to combine well. Stir in wine and bring to a boil – allow to boil for 10 minutes or so or until the mixture has reduced by half. Make sure you stir it once in a while so it doesn’t burn. While you’re waiting, chop the bacon into small pieces.

Add the chicken back to the pan, add the chicken broth, and simmer for 35 minutes or until juices run clear. Turn the chicken pieces after 20 minutes so they cook evenly. Remove the chicken from the pan again and cover. They’ll be purple – don’t freak out!

Boil the remaining liquid over high head until reduced by half (about 10 minutes). While it’s boiling, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Once it shimmers, add the mushrooms and pearl onions. Saute until they are a nice brown color. This will take about ten minutes – by the time they are done, your sauce should be reduced.

Remove the bay leaves from the sauce and add in mushrooms and onions. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes or until warmed through.

To serve, plate chicken and fair amount of sauce. Top with parsley and bacon. Makes just enough for four–or two with enough for lunch the next day.

 

**This recipe is Metabolism Miracle Step-Two friendly, and can be made Step-One friendly with the exclusion of the carrots, although it will change the texture slightly**

Finished! Baby Tree of Life Afghan

So here it is: two and a half weeks of determined knitting and I have finished this sucker. Admittedly, it wasn’t too bad: the cabling is intricate enough to keep it from getting boring, but not hard enough that I couldn’t watch TV at the same time (just no intellectual thrillers, please!).

Final measurements turned out to be a little short of the 24″ by 36″ promised by the pattern here…it measures about 18″ by 30″. This is probably user error, however, as I know I knit tightly and never check my gauges. So this is more a blanket for snuggling with, not in. I’m not sure how if I like how the middle flower garden turned out: there are large loops tat look a little wonky and don’t seem to be too baby-friendly to me. I can only imagine little fingers and toes getting stuck in them.

I will say that the border is a pain in the butt. I knit the center of the blanket in one square piece, then knit the border on, attaching row by row to the center piece because I didn’t want an obvious seam around the edge. It ended up looking okay, but it took the majority of the time I spent working on the blanket. The pattern itself was easy to follow, with both charts and row-by-row instructions. It can be found on Lion Brand’s website here. There’s also a larger version, which I don’t think I’ll be tackling anytime soon.

All in all, I’m hoping this can be a nice heirloom for any child, boy or girl. I think it would look really pretty in a nice hunter green! As it only took half a skein of the “Pound of Love” yarn, I’m thinking about making another one, perhaps with just a simple crocheted border.

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