Here’s another recently (as in, last night) finished project. I started these socks last September — I’m apparently terrible about not finishing my projects. Anyway, this is just a simple top-down stockinette sock with a 1×1 ribbed cuff, short-row heel, and flat toe. For the yarn, I used two balls of Crystal Palace Mini Mochi in Baby Face. They’re so fuzzy and warm, I can’t wait to wear them on snow days next winter!
More info available on Ravelry.
I started this sweater back in January and seemed to move along at a pretty rapid clip. I thought for sure I would finish it in plenty of time to still be able to wear it at the tail end of winter and into early spring. But for the life of me, I couldn’t seem to get the spacing right while picking up stitches for the second sleeve. I must have tried five or six times before giving up and packing the sweater away in a project bag. I told myself I’d only be putting it away for a week or two, just long enough to clear my head and return to it with fresh eyes.
Six months later…
I get my strongest urges to knit in mid- to late-summer. It’s that back-to-school feeling in the air, combined with over air-conditioned rooms, a desire to hurry along the rest of summer (and usually lose myself in a good Netflix binge), and daydreams of cozy autumn evenings by the fire. Last week, finding myself suddenly hooked on Pretty Little Liars and needing a good excuse to spend all day watching it, I picked up this sweater again. It still took me two or three tries to get those sleeve stitches evenly spaced (same story when picking up stitches for the button bands and neck trim — is anybody actually good at picking up stitches?!), but I was so eager to just finish the thing. This morning I sewed on the buttons and gave it a good blocking, and by dinner it was dry. I threw on a rumpled dress, grabbed a sprig of silk flowers, and ran out into the backyard to snap some photos in the fading light. It’s funny how you can let a thing languish without care for months and then pick it back up with such fervor, racing to a self-imposed finish line.
The pattern for this sweater is pretty much perfect, although I do wish I’d made the sleeves a bit shorter. I actually did shorten them from the dimensions called for in the pattern, but they grew considerably after blocking. The yarn is wonderful too — that perfect semi-solid coloring that I love so much. The only thing I would change, if I had it to do over again, would be to choose a more neutral color. This sweater is so soft and pretty, I want to wear it with everything — but the color (in addition to kind of clashing with my pink hair) doesn’t go with as many of my dresses as I’d like. Maybe a good excuse to buy more dresses. ;)
Sorry to be away from this space for so long! I’ve gotten so caught up with posting semi-regularly on my personal style blog, I’ve kind of neglected everything else. So what else have I been up to? I seem to be obsessed with floral everything lately, from beautiful stationery by Rifle Paper Co. and 1canoe2, to ultra-feminine tops and dresses, to crafting my own paper blossoms.
The paper flowers I’ve made so far have come from tutorials by Lia Griffith. The first ones pictured are tissue paper poppies, the yellow and pink ones are cupcake wrapper peonies, and the rest are kind of a riff on her technique for making a crepe paper ranunculus. I say it’s a riff because I just used birthday party streamers instead of the heavier Italian crepe paper, and I didn’t shape the petals exactly the way she did. With both the peonies and the ranunculuses (ranunculi?), I first painted the white paper with watercolor paints. That’s another thing I’ve been getting into lately. In the last picture you can catch a little glimpse of my first two paintings: portraits of my cats, Buddy and Sally.
With all of the crafting I’ve been doing, we decided to rearrange things a little bit in the dining room to carve out a corner for my supplies. I found the adorable cubby shelves at Target; below that is a little microwave cart full of paper, paints, brushes, my sewing machine, and all of my flower supplies. It’s so convenient!
Oh! I also cut off all my hair and dyed some of it pink, but the color faded away after about a week (and now I’ve just got really pretty blonde highlights). Still trying to decide whether or not to go full pink next time, but I’ve got about 3 weeks to make up my mind before my appointment.
Last weekend I attended a short workshop at my local library on how to make altered books. I’ve been playing around with different techniques, and once I get a few more pages done I’ll take some pictures and share about that project here. Until then…
Did you know that it’s actually still January? I guess that seems like a ridiculous question if you’re in New England and shoveling out from 2 feet of snow. Meanwhile, here in Kansas it’s warm and I’ve got the windows flung open wide, sun pouring in from every direction. Listening to Paul Simon and birdsong. Dreaming about flowered dresses and linen sweaters. Winter will be back tomorrow, but for today I breathe deep and fill my soul with Spring.
If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you know that I’ve been plugging away on a pretty pink cardigan this month. The pattern is Primrose, by Cecily Glowik MacDonald, and the yarn is The Woolen Rabbit Essence, in the colorway Blush. I’m having a bit of a love affair with the color pink right now, so it seemed the natural choice. I thought this would be the perfect project to get me dreaming about spring while stuck inside under a blanket of snow — but we haven’t gotten any snow this year, and it’s supposed to be almost 70° later this week! Fortunately* I’ve been sick off and on for most of the month, so there’s been plenty of downtime for knitting anyway. And I eventually resorted to making my own snow, from this tutorial, which really cheered up the mantel after the Christmas decorations were put away. [*Obviously not great that I’ve been sick, but from the perspective of getting this sweater done, it’s been a terrific opportunity!]
Besides the knitting, there have been a few kitchen projects here and there. A chocolate pie, an epic failed attempt at baking bread, some lovely apricot scones, butterscotch blondies, and my new favorite thing: the Marocchino. It means ‘Moroccan’ in Italian, but the drink isn’t Moroccan at all. Apparently the name derives from the color of the drink, which is reminiscent of Moroccan leather. The first and only time I had a Marocchino was last winter at a little bar in Milan, where Flavio and I had stopped to get out of the rain. It’s a mixture of cocoa powder, ristretto (a very short, strong espresso), and frothed milk, typically served in a glass cup with a metal handle. Yesterday we were pretty bored and discussing what kind of coffee to have post-lunch, and one of us had the idea to try making a Marocchino at home. It’s a little bit involved for such a small drink, although not at all difficult.
Marocchino (serves 2)
1.5 – 2 oz. ristretto
about 1/4 c. frothed milk
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
Sugar, for serving
To make the ristretto, we used our regular old 2-cup stovetop moka pot, but only used half the normal amount of water (and the usual amount of coffee). The trick is to pay close attention as the coffee brews, because it doesn’t make the typical hissing/gurgling sound when it’s done.
The easiest way to make frothed milk is with one of those little electric frothing wands, but you can also use a small French press or the steamer thing on an espresso machine (although I could never make that thing work). Any kind of milk will work, but low-fat and skim milk will be foamier than whole milk.
To assemble the Marocchino, first dust a little cocoa powder in the bottom of a small (about 3 oz.) cup. Glass is traditional, so you can see the pretty layers. Next, pour in half of the ristretto. Carefully pour in a couple tablespoons of frothed milk, holding back the foamiest part with a spoon, then dollop a bit of the foam on top. Finally, dust with additional cocoa powder. Serve with sugar.
Kind of getting this in under the wire before the holiday season ends, but I wanted to share some pictures of the Christmas treats I made for my family. I wasn’t really planning to do the Christmas baskets this year, because I didn’t think I’d have time, but at the last minute I decided to whip up a few goodies. Nothing canned this time, but they all got red plum jelly over the summer. Right before Christmas, I got an amazing deal on a KitchenAid stand mixer at Target, and that made a tremendous difference in being able to knock out all of this baking in just 2 days. Alright, on to the goodies:
- Hazelnut Coffee Toffee – recipe here (and also in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook — my copy had a typo re: butter amount, but the blog recipe is correct). I also made a batch of this for my coworkers. Accidentally doubled the espresso powder in the batch I made for my family, but it still turned out amazing. My mom kept telling everyone that if they didn’t like it, she’d take theirs! But the only one who didn’t enjoy it was my 2 1/2-year old niece…she shouldn’t have had it anyway, but I think she grabbed a piece right out of her daddy’s hand. Note: the recipe is designed to be poured onto a 9×13″ baking sheet. It sets up nice & thick this way. For the batch I made for my coworkers, I needed more toffee, so I multiplied everything by 1.5 and poured it out onto an 11×17″ baking sheet. It came out a little thinner this way, but was still super delicious.
- Pennsylvania Dutch Hard Pretzels – recipe from Pretzel Making at Home, by Andrea Slonecker. Meh, these didn’t turn out so great. I don’t think I baked them long enough, or rolled them out thin enough. They tasted great, and they looked pretty (well, some people thought they looked like little piles of fake dog poo, but I thought they were pretty!), but they were really hard to eat. I would’ve preferred to make soft pretzels, and still think those would’ve turned out better, but hard pretzels store better. Oh well! Wouldn’t be one of my Christmas baskets if there wasn’t something inedible in it! :)
- Iced Sugar Cookies – similar cookie recipe here, icing recipe here. A classic. I make these every year, and was so happy to have found my favorite royal icing recipe when I was organizing my recipe collection a few months ago. It’s so billowy and white, like marshmallow fluff. And the stand mixer handled it like a pro — last year, all of that powdered sugar burned up the motor in my little hand-mixer. The cookie recipe I’ve linked to here is the closest I’ve found to the one I actually use, which came attached to a polar bear cookie cutter I bought from King Arthur Flour a few years ago — just omit the ginger & nutmeg (or leave them in, because they sound delicious!). I had such a fun time decorating the cookies this year; the bells were spray-painted with metallic gold Cake Graffiti, the brown frosting was flavored with Dutch cocoa powder & ground cinnamon, and I hand-painted names and seasonal sentiments on a few of the cookies with a mixture of red gel coloring & almond extract.
- Gingersnaps – recipe here. Last Monday, I had made the toffee and the doughs for the pretzels and the sugar cookies (both of which required an overnight rest in the fridge), and still had most of the afternoon ahead of me. I decided to go ahead and make these gingersnaps, despite barely having enough ginger. Mostly I just wanted something to put in these adorable little boxes!!
So, that was my holiday baking for 2014. I’ve already got lots of ideas for next year’s baskets, including homemade sausage, something canned (maybe tomato sauce?), chocolate truffles, and of course the iced sugar cookies!
(All of the packaging was from World Market, except for the labels on the toffee boxes — those are just the standard labels that come with a box of Ball jelly jars.)
This year, one of the gifts I wanted to give my husband was an Italian-style holiday dinner. I was hoping that we’d be able to have some of my family join us, but that didn’t work out, so it was just a really epic dinner for two. Of course, this couldn’t even compare to a real, traditional La Vigilia meal, where you’d probably find two primi (first courses, typically rice and/or pasta) and maybe even three secondi (second courses, typically meat and side dishes) — so this was my take on a pared-down, Americanized version of my husband’s favorite feast.
Antipasti (clockwise from top-left):
- Salami trio – Italian dry salame, peppered salame, and sopressata
- Celery filled with cream cheese and peanut butter
- Deviled eggs with smoked salmon, dill, & chives
- Affettati (lunch meats) filled with gherkin pickles & cream cheese
- Russian salad (recipe here)
- Affettati platter – capicola, prosciutto, and roast beef
- Cheese tortellini cooked in chicken broth
- Cherry-port glazed spiral-sliced ham (recipe here)
- Cheesy au gratin potatoes
Formaggi e frutta:
- Double-creme brie
- Humboldt Fog chevre
- Hickory-smoked gouda
- Green table grapes
- Martini & Rossi Asti spumante
It was a wonderful, delicious meal, but I think we both learned that it’s not the food that makes the feast — it’s the people you share it with. I think we both enjoyed the leftovers we took to my mom’s house the following day much more than the original feast. And we’re crossing our fingers that in 2015 we’ll be able to enjoy a real Italian holiday feast!
P.S. Where’s the fish?? In the US, many Italian-American families celebrate Christmas Eve with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Unsurprisingly, my northern Italian husband has never even heard of that. Italians are resourceful and tend to eat what’s most plentiful in their region. In Piedmont where he’s from, holiday feasts are more likely to include roasted meats, risotto, homemade salame, and liqueurs made from Alpine herbs.