Making Do

Image

The last two weeks have been filled with challenges. An already busy time at work has been made more complicated by falling sick with whatever illness has been going around the office. Then, as I was starting to feel like I was on the mend, Keith came home with his own office flu, which, because of our living arrangement, he had no choice but to share with me. It’s been a short (thanks to ColdFX) but intense bout of flu: it began on Friday afternoon with that scratchy throat sensation, mild enough that you can almost convince yourself that you’re really just thirsty and not actually getting sick again, and hit its peak with an intense fever all throughout Saturday that finally broke in the early morning hours of Sunday. Sleeplessness has peppered the last five days. Though I’m more or less over the worst of the flu, my cough still lingers, loud, hacking and wet, and the primary cause of my sleeplessness for the last 48 hours.

Worse than the first flu and the other flu, though, is the fact that my oven had been out of commission throughout this period. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal on balance, but without an oven, my favorite meal of the day–breakfast–is nigh on impossible. No toast! No bread of any kind! Well, that’s not entirely true, and yes, I know I’m being dramatic. Because I can already hear some of you shaking your heads and saying, “why didn’t you just go buy some bread?”, well, I confess that I did. A reputedly good loaf of bread from a popular artisan chain (the incongruence of those two words together…). And, without naming names, let me just state for the record that the bread was not good. It was a perfectly serviceable loaf and I’m sure many would consider it tasty, but I’ve been spoiled by my own delicious sourdough. This disappointing purchased loaf made terrible toast. It was dry and brittle, like sawdust. No flavour to speak of. I’ll get over it, of course. My oven was fixed just yesterday and it seems to be working much better than it every has before. But it’ll be a few days more before I’ll be able to make myself any toast-worthy bread, and so I’ll need to keep on with my contingency breakfast for a few days longer. Thankfully, this contingency plan isn’t really such bad thing.

You see, before I loved toast, I loved oatmeal. I grew up eating it most winter days and, even though I didn’t really appreciate it much as a youngster, oatmeal became a place for me to get creative with food before I really cared about food as much as I do now. My early experiments with oatmeal were mostly limited to toppings and flavourings: strawberries and walnuts. Bananas and pecans. Raisins, peanut butter and grated orange peel. The goal, of course, was a tasty and satisfying breakfast, and these combinations certainly fit the bill. What I neglected to focus on with these frills, however, was the oatmeal itself. As I’ve discovered more recently, oatmeal, when treated right, can be a thing of beauty.

The oatmeal I’m talking about is April Bloomfield‘s recipe, which I came to discover via Luisa Weiss‘s blog, and it is, in a word, delicious. This recipe stands apart from other primarily because of three key components: first, the recipe uses a ratio of three parts liquid to one part oatmeal. As a lifelong two-parts-liquid-one-part-oatmeal maker, this new ratio was nothing short of a revelation. Second, this recipe calls for a combination of rolled and steel cut oats, and the result of this mix of oats and a higher ratio of liquid is nothing short of spectacular: the rolled oats soften and melt, seeming to disappear in the milky cooking liquidly, while the steel cut oats retain their texture and lend a satisfying toothsome quality to the dish. Finally, the salt. Salt in oatmeal! Salted oatmeal? Anyway, whatever. The point is: don’t skip the salt.

I love this oatmeal, and I love it plain. That’s not to say that I’m above dressing it up–it’s really tasty with a drizzle of maple syrup or topped with a spoonful of good jam or apple butter. But with a small pat of butter and a few minutes to really savour it, let’s just say that I don’t think I’ll have much of a problem going without toast for a few days more.

Porridge

From A Girl and Her Pig via The Wednesday Chef

Serves 1 (recipe is easily multiplied)

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup rolled oats (not instant)

1/4 cup steel cut oats

1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt, to taste

Toppings, to taste

1. Heat the milk, water and salt over high heat to a simmer, making sure to keep an eye on the pot so that it doesn’t boil over (this can happen very quickly). When the liquid is simmering, add both types of oats and reduce the heat to medium, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain the simmer and stirring occasionally. Cooking time will be between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on your oatmeal and your cooktop.

2. When the steel cut oats have just cooked and the liquid has become thick from the melted rolled oats, remove from heat and taste for seasoning. Serve in a bowl and top it the way you like.

Advertisements

Peak Knitting Experience

Image

A little while back, Karen, of Fringe Association, wrote about her peak knitting experience. At the time, I didn’t really feel that I had reached any sort of peak with my own knitting. I’ve definitely had a prolific knitting year and I’ve learned how to do a lot of new things, but the honest truth is that very little of it felt like a peak to me. Now that I’ve finally finished my Burrard, though, I can safely say that I’ve achieved my own knitting apex, and just in time for the second coming of the polar vortex!

ImageNeedless to say, I am very, very pleased with how this turned out. Those cables are just gorgeous and the shaping is perfect. Part of the reason it fits so well is because I knit the back piece as a size 37.75 and the front pieces as size 40 to accommodate my large bust. Never have I owned a garment that fits my body as well as this cardigan does.

ImageI learned so much from the making of this sweater: how to read cable charts, how to make different kinds of buttonholes, how to shape a garment and how to construct a garment in pieces. In fact, the construction was one of my favorite parts. Lots of knitters complain about seaming, but I found the process very logical and really enjoyable. Yes, it’s more work than knitting in the round, but I liked learning how to put a garment together from its component parts. Call me crazy, but seaming was definitely not the chore I thought it would be.

ImageThough I’m really happy with how this turned out, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. I discovered too late that the yarn I used (Lion Brand Pure Wool) was probably one of the worst choices for a seamed sweater because of the way it shredded when I started the actual seaming. I had to make an emergency trip to the yarn store for some stronger plied yarn and ended up finishing the seams with some Cascade 220 Sport in a creamy off-white. It wasn’t a perfect colour match, but it certainly did the trick.

ImageNow, let’s talk buttons. I don’t know about you, but I think these buttons really make the sweater. Because I was going for the traditional grandpa style, I knew that I wanted some classic buttons to round out the look. At first I thought I would go with some brown leather buttons, but in the end I decided that a classic tortoiseshell was what I needed. I think I made the right choice. 

Overall, this sweater is a winner: stylish, comfortable and warm, my Burrard is definitely my peak knitting experience and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. 

Image

Past and Present

Image

Hello, and happy new year! I’ve been reading a lot of 2013 retrospective posts in the past week, which I had initially decided I wouldn’t participate in. I haven’t written that many blog posts, after all, and it’s been far too long since I last blogged. Surely, I thought, my readers deserve some content. A recipe, maybe, or an honest-to-goodness finished project. And then I realized that I have lots of finished projects to show you! You see, I knit a metric buttload of Christmas gifts this year (actual count: 17), and now that Christmas is over and most of the gifts have been delivered to their intended recipients, there’s no need for me to hide what I’ve been doing anymore. I also realized that I completed 56 projects in 2013. 56!!! Many of these were smaller projects, like hats and mittens, but I also managed to complete 9 adult sized sweaters with varying degrees of success. It’s been a productive first year as a knitter, to say the least, and I’m now of the opinion that this deserves some kind of second look. Not every project I worked on this year is worthy of note, but there are a few that I’m especially proud of. So, without further ado, here are some of the highlights of my year in knitting, 2013 edition.

Image

First up are the Cadence Socks I knit for my friend Margaret. I began these socks shortly after I started my job in July and I worked on them nearly every lunch hour until they were finished, about two months in total. I love the complex cable-like lace pattern, and the yarn (Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock) was a pleasure to work with. I’m not sure I will make this pattern again–it’s maybe a bit too complex for a repeat–but if I did, I would probably use a solid coloured yarn instead of a variegated one. The pattern gets kind of swallowed up by the colours until you get really close to it.

Image

When I first decided to knit Christmas gifts for my family, I initially decided to make mittens. I quickly changed my mind, though, when I realized that I’d have to knit two for each person (17 gifts, people!) and, eventually, I settled on hats. Above is Stephen West’s Botanic Hat, made for my brother Clifford. I don’t know why, but I was so intimidated by this pattern until I actually sat down to make it, at which point I discovered how easy it is. Unfortunately, Clifford finds it a bit too itchy, but still! That’s one nice lookin’ hat, if I may say so.

Image
Image
Photo Credit: Ewe Knit, Toronto, ON
The Meier Cardigan was definitely one of my proudest moments of 2013. I knit this as a sample for Ewe Knit, my favorite yarn shop in Toronto, and it was a project that really helped me to grow as a knitter. This cardigan is knit flat from the bottom up and features my very first set-in sleeves. I liked making this cardigan so much that I made one for myself in a charcoal grey colour, though I have yet to take any pictures of it to show you. I also pushed myself to knit my own in 7 days, which includes all the weaving and sewing on the buttons. I’m glad to have been able to push myself to complete a whole garment in 7 days, but I definitely won’t be doing that again if I can help it.

Image2013 saw the birth of my niece, Khloe, and my nephew, Peter, for whom I knit these ruffle rib baby socks. As if being painfully cute and fun to knit wasn’t enough, I also received complimentary feedback from the designer, the incomparable Ann Budd. Praise from Caesar!

Image

The Hallgrim Hat was yet another challenge that helped me grow as a knitter, mainly because I found the original pattern to be completely the wrong size. When I first cast on, the ribbing was so large that it fit around my waist and it was immediately apparent that this would never fit anyone’s head. Undaunted, I modified the shit out of this by knitting fewer pattern repeats, using smaller needles and a heavier yarn. The result: a bit snug initially, but an okay size with blocking. I just love the cabling in this hat… it feels so Scandinavian to me. More importantly, though, I learned how to be patient and to figure out knitting math to modify a pattern in such a way as to preserve the integrity of the original design. I also learned how to do a tubular cast on for this hat, which I am totally sold on despite the extra work it takes. It’s one of those small details you might not notice if you weren’t looking for it, but the edging is far cleaner and neater than it would have been with a long tail cast on. I gave this hat to my Mom for Christmas, and she loved it.

And, finally….

Image

I FINISHED THE HUMBOLDT RAGLAN!!!!

So, that’s my Best of 2013. As for 2014, the headline picture shows a bit of what I’ve got in store for myself. Basically, I’m in the middle of a selfish knitting bender and I don’t plan to stop until I start to feel *really* selfish (which might be never? haha!). I have yet to finish my Burrard Cardigan (set aside so that I could finish my gift knitting before Christmas day), though I will complete it before too long. I’ve also begun knitting the Seven Sisters pullover in a green yarn that can only be described as vibrant. I love how the yarn really highlights the asymmetry of the pattern. Unfortunately, I’ll be ripping back much of what I’ve completed because I’ve found some mistakes that I don’t think I can live with. This, to me, is another sure sign that I’ve grown as a knitter: the willingness to take time and undo mistakes rather than plowing ahead without regard for the final product. It’s the whole journey-and-destination thing. Yep, I’m a grown up or something. I’ve also been obsessing over socks lately and, thus, have started two new pairs for myself: the woodpile socks in a fiery red and some variegated jaywalkers for those nights when I’m exhausted but antsy and in need of something simple to knit. That Knitting Sarah is currently leading a Socks with Sarah Knit-a-Long that I’ve decided to participate in is a very happy coincidence indeed. Finally, I’m also in need of a new hat–my Milanese Lace Topper, though lovely, isn’t exactly warm enough for the cold snap we’re currently experiencing here in Toronto–and I think I’m going to make another Gentian with that beautiful deep blue Madeline Tosh DK in the picture.

So, happy new year and all that jazz! What new year projects will you be treating yourself to in 2014?