Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Wonderful Bird is a Pelicun

A wonderful bird is a pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak,
Food enough for a week;
But I'm damned if I see how the helican.

"The Pelican" (1910) by Dixon Lanire Merrith

This little ditty came to mind as I was contemplating my recent purchase of some fabulous Rowan plaid yarn. Point in fact, I was feeling a little like my bill was holding more than my belican. What I’m referring to, as you have no doubt guessed, is my yarn stash. It’s not a large stash ~ not by some comparisons (I’ve seen some that are truly staggering). But it is a stash that is certainly ample for my needs.

But then, there were extenuating circumstances. I already had the book, Rowan Plaid Collection. I have loved the design Raindrop by Kim Hargreaves for some time. And the yarn was practically being given away as it’s being discontinued. All in all, I couldn’t reasonably refuse. Plus, when I knit this sweater, I’m going to wear it and look just like her. *Sigh*

BTW, the above picture of a Pelican was the best I could do on a whim. I perched on a rock and patiently waited for one of the abundant local pelicans to present themselves. However, once I resolved upon taking a picture of a pelican there was simply not one to be seen. I feel fortunate to have snapped this shot, even though I would have preferred it to have been closer. The problem was that when I finally spotted one I almost dropped my camera in my excitement and thus nearly didn’t have a photo of a pelican at all!
In case your stash could use some enhancing, I bought my yarn here (Cucumberpatch UK). I'm using the color Sea Thistle (it's a nice combination of purple, red, and light green) and the sweater takes 7 skeins. It will be a warm sweater as the yarn is a combination of wool, acrylic, and superfine alpaca, and I would call it a super bulky yarn (you use US 11 needles). There are some real fans of this yarn which convinced me to give it a try (before it disappears).

Update!!!  Well, to my great disappointment I do NOT look as good as her.  But I did finish my sweater and it is very cozy to wear ~

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Morning After

I always love the morning after a storm. The air is crisp and the plants glisten with moisture. It was all the more enjoyable this past weekend because it had been so very long since Southern California has gotten any measurable rain. It also happened to coincide with the first day of Fall and in celebration I baked spiced pumpkin bread. This is a particularly nice recipe (that I've made for years) and you can find it on Epicurious here.

Not even Steve can resist freshly baked pumpkin bread hot from the oven!

What's more, the morning was even crisp enough to pull on a vest - so nice! I simply hate the long hot summers (in case I haven't mentioned that before).

It's amazing what one storm can accomplish ~ it looked positively lush on the mountain! All the plants look revived and as you can see in the picture below my wild rosemary seems very happy. It's so convenient having herbs grow wild where you can wander out and snip some off for your evening meal. In particular, I like to use the rosemary to season roast chicken and/or potatoes. It's hard on the plants as we are gone so much and the Topanga climate is very harsh. Most plants require more care than we are able/willing to provide ~ but happily the rosemary seems to thrive despite the hostile conditions, as do the wild grasses.

The vest I'm wearing is knit with Noro's Silk Garden (5 skeins US 7 needles) and the pattern is a simple vest pattern from Ann Budd's Handy Book of Knitting Patterns. It's hard to go wrong with a basic pattern and a beautiful yarn ~ although I tend to prefer to add some side shaping as I have found that even a minimal amount of side shaping does wonders to improve a garment's fit.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm Done, I'm Done!

I'm Done, I'm Done! Ta Dah......

I'm done with the center square, that is, of a Shetland hap style shawl. Let me see, I've use approximately 2.5 balls of the total 14 balls in the project. Hum. Now that is sobering. I guess I didn't fully appreciate how large a 68 inch square really is. In hindsight, I should have gotten out a ruler and measured a few items around the house to have a better perspective on the finished dimensions. Maybe even lightly chalked the dimensions on the floor. Something. Oh, in case I neglected to mention, I'm using US 3 needles to knit this 68 inch piece of lace. It's a Sharon Miller design called The Cora Shawl and I'm knitting it in the blue colorway using Jamieson's Ultra. One thing's for sure, in the land of instant gratification, I don't think I'll bump into too many people wearing this particular shawl on the streets of LA.

Never mind, it is pretty. I also, with great effort, found a finished one in blog land that has re-inspired me. You can see it here. I love the colors I am using and I'm about to get to the fun stage where I knit in the round and add bands of color. And, as Steve astutely observed, there's a reason these patterns are called "heirloom" knitting. He, by the way, is particularly impressed with this piece of knitting. He likes it so well, he will even occasionally enquire how it's coming. Don't get me wrong, he's always appreciative of my FOs, but it's not like him to ask about UFOs. For example, he's not one to ask "how's that sock coming along?" Or, "I haven't seen that cardigan you were knitting lately." You know what I mean? Curious.

I think a cup of tea is in order ~ and a review of Mr Puffy's day at the beach. These pictures are right in front of our house. We are at the North end of San Clemente and actually have a pretty good view of Dana Point, which this picture doesn't do justice to. It's nice when the sail boats are out and occasionally a tall masted ship is on the horizon. I like to pretend I'm at Portray Castle (you have to have read Anthony Trollope's, The Eustace Diamonds to understand) or perhaps that's a ship Captained by Horactio Hornblower from CS Forester's seafaring tales. The illusion, I must say, is helped by the fact that there are no oil rigs drilling off shore in San Clemente.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's a Fall Thing

I'm wearing Blue Sky Alpaca's Fitted Tank top. The wrap is Fleece Artist's Goldilocks' yarn. Neither of these knits is terribly compelling on it's own, but together I think they make a nice Fall outfit.

The change in seasons is very subtle in Southern California. But you know it's Fall when you go to the Mall and feel compelled to buy to corduroy pants, candles that smell like cider donuts, and it seems like a good idea to buy chocolates shaped like leaves wrapped in colored foils. Yep, it's Fall in So Cal.

Since we have been very busy lately Mr Puffy and I are going to relax in San Clemente this weekend. He has asked that we go for a long walk on the sand tomorrow and I've agreed. He loves to feel the wind on his face and the sand under his paws. So do I, for that matter.

This is a closeup of the Fleece Artist Goldilocks yarn (mixture of mohair/silk/nylon). It's light weight and warm and if I had to judge something by how often it gets worn ~ this wrap would rank high. I have another in blue that I wear constantly as it's very denim friendly.

The top is a very simple knit and and quite comfortable to wear. The only thing I would have done differently is the finishing around the neck. Even with steaming I find the front neck and back tends to curl a little. I should really treat myself to a knitting book on finishing techniques. Mr Puffy, please make a note of that.
Now, where did I put those chocolates....

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Waiting Game!

For those of you who watched ND's opening football game, I think Mr Puffy's wincing reaction to hearing the score says it all. Nuff said.

Moving right along, I am happy to announce joining the Second Wave Clapotis KAL. Yeah. I have wanted this scarf 4ever. Bridget is kindly hosting this event and making it happen for me. Thanks Bridget!

I wasn't sure what yarn to use, so Mr Puffy rummaged through my stash and chose some Tess' Designer Yarns, Ivory and Silk (50% silk/wool blend) ~ sport weight ~ he's so helpful. I think the color was a good choice for a scarf.

Since this is a sport weight yarn, I'll have to go down to US 5 needles, but living in So Cal this weight should make a great scarf. Fortunately I have 2 skeins so I'll have enough yarn to knit the full size even though I'll be knitting at a smaller gauge. The KAL begins on the first day of Fall, September 23, 2007 so if you are interested, there is still time to knit along.

While waiting for the Second Wave KAL to begin, I've been working on Cherry using Classic Elite Yarns, Premiere (pima cotton/tencel) which is nice to knit with despite its being cotton. I have wanted to knit this pattern for some time but hesitated because cotton can be hard to knit with but so far, so good, with this yarn.

Here's a close up of the pattern stitch. I really like the textured effect that the slip-stitch creates. And, yes, it is that pink.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Weekend Shawl

This is my interpretation of the La Lana Wools Sea Foam Shawl using their Phat Silk Fine (sport weight) 50/50 bombyx silk/fine wool. The silk wool blend with the plant dyes gives this yarn a wonderful feel and a very elegant look. Simple but beautiful. It is one of my favorite shawls, although I haven't had the chance to wear it too often. For those familiar with the design, you will notice that it is missing the fringe! I decided it fit my personality better without the fringe.

It is a great shawl to take on a weekend trip as it can be dressed up or down and does tripple duty as sweater/blanket/jacket and that saves me tons of packing space! In fact, I'm taking it with me this weekend to Northern California on a quick trip to visit with some of Steve's family who live in the lovely town of Sebastopol. We are staying at a place where they have mud baths ~ should be interesting.

It's awfully hot here in Southern California. But, never fear, I continue with the ritual of tea regardless! However, at this time of year I keep my tea treat very simple, such as a shortbread cookie. This is a pretty basic shortbread cookie and can be jazzed up a bit with the lavender as I've done or with any type of seed/spice. They are also wonderful plain, and are more traditional that way.

Lavendar Shortbread Cookies
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Extra Fine Baking Sugar (White Granular Suger)
1/2 lb. Unsalted butter (sweet butter)
1 tsp. Lavendar that has been crushed (may be omitted for plain shortbread cookies)
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
extra sugar for sprinkling on top

1. Melt butter and cool slightly.
2. Finely chop lavendar and mix with sugar (I find a coffee bean grinder works great).
3. Combine flour and sugar mixture (lavendar, lemon zest and sugar).
4. Add melted butter and mix until evenly combined.
5. Form dough into a log (wrap in waxed paper) and refridgerate until firm.
6. When ready to bake - set formed log on counter to slightly soften to allow easier slicing.
7. Slice into rounds and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
8. Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Let cool slightly on baking sheet.
9. While still warm, sprinke with white sugar.

This recipe can easily be halved or doubled, as need dictates. While I imagine you can pick lavendar from your garden ~ I am a fan of the Lavender Lounge Tea Company's French Lavender. The Lavender Lounge is a tea company based right in San Clemente ~ it's so cool to have a tea company so convenient. I also like the lavendar to sprinke in my drawers to fight you know what!