Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Oh, how I love good mail! This amazing pack of cards was printed by Kaija of Paperiaarre, and I actually won them in a giveaway she had on her blog. I am so happy that I won, because I am typically not a very lucky person! I really love her work...I have had my eye on this journal of hers on etsy for months now, and wish that I could justify the expense. I also love her bird-in-a-circle motif and was so happy that the tag she attached to the cards I won had this image on it. Imagine a coptic-bound journal with the bird-in-circle motif printed on front...hmmm...that would be amazing. Maybe someday!

I guess this mail is lucky too, but I had to pay for this bit of luck! Not quite as good as winning something...but Pigeonroof Studios' rovings are so hard to come by that it still feels lucky when I manage to get my hands on them. These two are 80% merino, 20% tussah silk...the inner braid is colorway "bitter orange," and the outer braid is colorway "bark." I love how the two different colorways coordinate with each other, and I can't wait to spin them! I've been doing a lot of spinning lately, so I'll be posting some of my handspun yarn soon...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

my first quilt!

I am very proud of myself that I pieced my first quilt over the past couple days! I can't believe that I actually made something so substantial (and so pretty). I never expected that everything would line up so well! I guess I just really didn't think that I could do this, but I'm glad I bit the bullet and did it anyway.

It's a stacked coins quilt that I made according to the instructions in Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts...I LOVE the oranges and yellows in this quilt from the book (pictured below), but I was inspired by the fabric designed by Lara Cameron of Kirin & Co., so I went with a blue-green-brown color scheme instead so I could use some of those fabrics in the quilt.

The top (and bottom) pictures, which were taken with a flash, actually make the blues in Lara's fabric look much brighter than they actually are. The picture below, taken without a flash, is more true to color (although it is fuzzy!). I used three of the fabrics from Kirin & Co., including my very favorite birch forest fabric, which I have talked about before. The rest of the fabrics I chose to coordinate, but not stand out too much...I wanted to real focus to be on the ginkgo and birch fabrics. I am really happy with how all the fabrics worked together. I love the brighter green fabric because it adds so much brightness, and the little tiny birds, and the grass fabric too...I pretty much love them all, which is good!

The quilt is around 65 inches long and 52 inches wide, so it is a good size and will hopefully someday go on a twin bed. Now I just have to figure out what I am going to do about getting it quilted. I've already decided that I will NOT be hand quilting this particular quilt...I think it would take forever, and I don't have that kind of patience right now. So either I will machine quilt it myself, or I will have it professionally machine quilted. I think I'll probably go with the last option because I'm a little daunted by the prospect of quilting it myself...maybe some day I'll work up to that, but for now I'm just so proud that I managed to piece the quilt, that I think I'll let someone else quilt it.

Update! After 24 hours of mulling over how to have this thing quilted (and asking a friend in the area how I would even go about having that done), I think I might try to quilt it myself...it could be a disaster, but it seems like it might be worth a try!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

handspun hemp washcloths

About six or seven years ago I made my first batch of these handspun hemp exfoliating washcloths...I gave one to my sister and one to a friend. In the past year or so, I visited these two recipients and happily noticed that the washcloths are still in use! So recently, when I was going through my stash of yarn and spinning fiber and found two little packets of hemp fiber from Habu Textiles, I pulled them out and started spinning.

Spinning hemp is no walk in the park. I spin because I love the tactile qualities of merino, alpaca, and silk. In fact, I'm so spoiled these days that I don't spin anything but the very softest most luxurious fibers...probably because my time for spinning is so few and far between, so I want to make the most of it. Hemp is coarse and stringy and clumpy, and the only reason I tolerated spinning it was the promise of some really cool little washcloths at the end. I spun with a little bowl of water next to me, and I periodically dipped my drafting hand into the water so I could smooth out the fibers as I spun. I ended up with a fairly fine (though not as fine as my first foray into spinning hemp so many years ago) two-ply hemp yarn.

Exfoliating hemp washcloths are best done in a lace pattern, so I turned to Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns and picked out three patterns. I aimed for enough repeats to give me an approximately 8.5-9 inch square washcloth. The top washcloth is 4 repeats of "Shell Lace" (p. 209), the one in the picture above is four repeats of "Fern or leaf-patterned lace" (p. 208), and the washcloth nearest the bar of soap is five repeats of "Vine Lace" (p. 218). I added a garter stitch border on all sides of each washcloth. I knit these on US size 3 knitting needles.

Knitting with hemp is a little like knitting with twine (i.e. not very pleasant), but it actually softens as you knit with it. Also, I threw the washcloths in the washing machine and they came out even softer. So the cloths are the perfect texture for gently exfoliating, and will definitely not be scratchy on the skin at all.

Two of these are staying in my own household this time, and the third will be a gift (along with a bar of amazing soap) for my friend Jen who just defended her master's thesis. By the way, the bamboo charcoal soap pictured above is from Purusha, who quite possibly makes the best soap I have ever used.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

sugar high

As promised, Adam made me my favorite dessert on Saturday afternoon. I love lemon bars more than anything. When we lived in Portland, Oregon, I often went out of my way on my walk home just so I could buy a lemon bar. I also think I've tried every lemon bar in the city and could probably tell you where to get the best one!

Half of the pan disappeared by the end of the day on Saturday. We slowed down a little bit after that, but I ate the last little sliver of lemon bar on Tuesday morning for breakfast. Adam said that I ate nearly the entire pan by myself, and I actually think he might be right. I looked at the recipe and realized that in the span of two and a half days I probably ate over a cup and a half of sugar and over a stick of butter. That's just disgusting. But they're sooooo good!

Here is the recipe, which we have adapted from a little recipe card we picked up at Penzey's Spices. We've tried a lot of lemon bar recipes, and this one is exceptional.

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into pieces
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 T. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
1 t finely grated lemon peel
powdered sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the first three ingredients. Rub the butter into the flour mixture (or use a pastry cutter or food processor) until it is crumbly. Press into an ungreased 9x13 inch pan and bake for about 20 minutes (until very lightly golden). While the crust is baking, beat the eggs until foamy, and add the sugar, flour, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Beat until well combined. Remove the crust from the oven, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Pour the filling over the crust and bake about 15 minutes. When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Monday, February 11, 2008

baby surprise jacket

I finally finished my first "Baby Surprise Jacket" by Elizabeth Zimmerman. It took a while because I ran out of yarn and had to track down another ball...it is a closeout yarn from Webs, Elsebeth Lavold Classic, and I thought I might run out, so I checked their stock and found that they had over 100 balls of this color (dark teal) and I figured I'd be fine. Well, when I did run out of yarn, I checked again and it was completely gone!! I called them, and miraculously they managed to scrape up a third ball of the yarn, so I was saved.

I chose the little pewter flower buttons because the jacket is for a little girl who will be born this May and I think the baby's mom will like them. I really enjoyed knitting this little sweater, and I love how it turned out...it is way cuter than my photos suggest (hard to photograph!). It's really nice because it is all knit in one piece, which makes for an easy and pretty mindless project. This is such a satisfying pattern, and I think I'll definitely be making more of these.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

homemade granola

I really love the recipes on Orangette...everything I have made so far has been really excellent. I'm actually currently addicted to French-style Carrot Salad and I always add a peeled grated raw beet to the salad, which is a delicious addition. Since I discovered that salad, the carrots from our monthly winter CSA boxes are always the first things we run out of.

Yesterday, I made Orangette's Daily Granola. I decided to make it as written, because I've never made granola before and because reading the post makes you believe that it is the most perfectly wonderful granola in the world. I was skeptical because I'm not a huge fan of sesame seeds, but I added them anyway. This granola really is excellent, and addictive too...it is now all over the floor because I couldn't resist scooping up handfuls of it and shoving it into my mouth. Adam, our primary household cereal eater, also gave it a huge thumbs up. It has the perfect balance of sweeetness, and tastes slightly fruity because of the apple sauce, which I would never have thought to add to granola. I'm not a huge cereal person, but this morning I happily devoured my bowl of this granola with milk and sliced bananas.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

river cottage

I got this cookbook for Christmas, and have been slowly perusing it...I just have to say that it is unlike ANY cookbook I have ever seen. Actually, the recipes part of the cookbook is the least exciting thing about the book, although I would guess that the recipes are also very good (I haven't made anything yet, but I have made a couple excellent dishes from the River Cottage website)...what is truly remarkable is that this book is almost a guide to the production of food. There are not only sections on how to buy produce and meat, but also how to grow vegetables, choose varieties for flavor, freeze vegetables, choose a breed of pig or cow to raise, dry-cure your own bacon, bottle-rear orphan lambs, kill a chicken, smoke fish, and forage for wild greens. And much more too, of course.

Jenn from Fat Rooster Farm has the flu, so I'm not heading out there to work today...which is unfortunate because I am out of perfect Fat Rooster eggs. Actually, I bought a half-dozen of local though mass-produced eggs last week in case I ran out of FR eggs before Thursday came along, and this morning I ate the last of the FR eggs and one of the mass-produced eggs. I just have to say that when I cracked the eggs into the bowl to scramble them, the difference was shocking. The FR egg had a large orange yolk and a firm white, and the mass-produced egg had a tiny pale yellow yolk and a runny white...I guess I'll have to head out to FR this weekend or Monday to get my fix. And we'll use those mass-produced eggs for some lemon squares that Adam promised to make me this weekend.

We got about 5 inches of snow overnight, and it looks like good snow too...not the wet snow we got yesterday. This means that I will probably head out cross-country skiing for the first time in weeks. I'm really happy about that!

Monday, February 4, 2008

birch throw pillow

I have to admit that I am a little obsessed with this birch fabric. I first came across the birch pattern as letterpress note cards (I love letterpress cards)...the cards were a collaboration between Lynn of Satsuma Press, who did the letterpress printing, and Lara of Kirin & Co, who designed the birch scene, and I snatched up a few cards with the intention of framing one of them (still working on that!). Well...then I discovered that Lara has fabric printed in this birch pattern, and I just had to have some....even though I have barely sewed anything in my life! My fabric arrived from Australia late last week and over the weekend I whipped up this little throw pillow. It is 14x14", and has a natural colored linen/cotton fabric on the back of the pillow and the birch fabric (which is also linen/cotton) on the front. It is not perfect...my corners could have been done a bit more professionally, but I am totally thrilled with this pillow. And it definitely satisfies my desire to have something made in this fabric that I can look at all the time.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

february csa share

This morning we picked up our February box of CSA vegetables from Luna Bleu Farm. It's our fourth month of organic winter vegetables, and we will get monthly boxes of produce through May. I am really happy that the cabbage is slowing down (only two red cabbages this month)...the napa cabbage was getting a little out of control...I think we still have a head of it in the refrigerator from our December box, not to mention most of what we got in January! The sprouts were a nice touch this month...we got both alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts. I imagine that as the weather continues to get nicer we'll get more little treats like that...in fact, we might start some spinach and greens in the greenhouse at Fat Rooster next Thursday, so local greens are on their way.

These were our boxes from previous months. January...


and November...

It has been amazing to get all this wonderful local produce every month, and I would definitely do a winter CSA with Luna Bleu again. Aside from the napa cabbage, we have managed to keep up with eating our monthly vegetables...although I could use some suggestions for what to do with rutabaga!