Sunday, August 31, 2014

Honeycomb Hat and Simcha Hijinxs!

I'm so excited that it is almost fall!  For me fall begins the first day of September and lasts until Thanksgiving no matter what the Farmer's Almanac says and it's my favorite time of year.  With a Harvest Moon coming early this year (September 8, 2014) I'm sure that must be a sign of an early fall too.  To celebrate fall's early arrival and to kick off my fall knitting I chose the Tweedy Honeycomb hat.  Or rather the Tweedy Honeycomb"Toque" whatever that means.

Usually I select my knitting projects because there is something about the design that resonates with me.  With this hat the obvious appealing element is the honeycomb stitch and I do love my honeycomb.  Every morning I have a large slice of homemade bread toasted and slathered with honey and for a treat I'll splurge and add the actual honeycomb.  Not everyone likes to eat the honeycomb but I love it.  When I was a teenager my dad kept a hive and we all ate a ton of the honey and most of that was right  from the comb. He kept the hive on the side of our house and on a sunny afternoon when you stepped outside you could smell the warm honey wafting in the air.  I used to like watching the bees land and and trundle into the hive laden with pollen.  It was a sorry day for me when my Dad gave up keeping bees and although it was but a short time in my life the appeal of eating honey right from the comb has stuck.

Another reason that I look forward to fall is that the season awakens within me a desire to craft.  I think an apt analogy is "spring is to lovers as fall is to crafters." Snort.  Anyway, I always like to try different types of craft projects and this year I've been playing with watercolor paints.  I have no background whatsoever in painting or drawing which will be apparent.  But I've discovered that watercolors are a very forgiving medium and work well with stamping, drawing, and collages.  The small journal pictured below with my hat is made with watercolors used in combination with stamping.  I've actually found that my favorite medium is to sketch a picture and then paint it with watercolors and I'll be doing a lot of that in the coming months.  There's just an endless number of things that you can make and decorate with watercolor paints.

Particulars:  Tweedy Honeycomb Toque (free Ravelry pattern) by Kent Turman; US 6 and 9 needles; 2 skeins The Fiber Company - Terra; My only modifications were to a) increase the CO stitches to 88 (instead of just 80) b) twisted rib for 12 rounds; and c) I eliminated rows 24-27 of the chart because I prefer a more fitted toque.  Finished dimensions: 8.5" x 7."

For those interested in honeycomb, I've tried a variety of honeys and some are too sweet for my taste. If you don't like a super sweet honey you are best off with an organic honey or any local honey otherwise I suggest trying the sage honeycomb by Honey Pacifica that I find at Wholefoods. If you would like to decorate your own note journal I purchase small moleskine journals (sold in packs of 3) on Amazon.  Lastly, if you are interested in making your own bread, my post Easter SundayWrap has more about the recipe I follow.

  Simcha Hijinxs ~

Simcha looks so happy here because he is playing a game.  He has control over his ball which he thinks I want.  Therefore whenever I try and pick it up (to throw for him naturally) he will snatch it away at the last second.  He finds this game much more enjoyable than I do and he can play it endlessly.... 

Until next time be well and love well and enjoy an early start to your fall and all the crafts, colors and treats that go along with the season!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Catching Butterflies ~ and Blueberry Pie

How many pairs of fingerless mittens does a person need?  If you love them like I do, then apparently a lot of them!  They are cute, wearable, and are perfect for a climate like Southern California from early fall to late spring. What's not to love?

These are my Catching Butterflies mittens and were a natural choice for me because I'm a self described "nature lover."  That is someone who appreciates the beauty of the outdoors and likes to feel close to nature. 

And these Catching Butterfly mittens are a great way to bring along nature wherever I happen to be. 

It is too easy these days to spend our lives indoors in front of a computer or absorbed in other electronic gadgetry and forget the importance of being outdoors, sans cell phone.  It is only then that time can slow down and you can truly be "in the moment" and enjoy the simple pleasure from standing in the shade of a tree, or sitting with the warmth of the sun on your back, or feel a breeze caress over your skin. And if you stay still long enough you will see nature come alive around you as the birds and other garden inhabitants slowly resume activity as they become used to your presence.   These are simple things that restore the soul.

And naturally all of this can be much more enjoyable if you are properly attired with some cute Catching Butterfly mittens.  I truly enjoyed making these and I know I will love wearing them this fall.  I did have to modify the pattern because the gloves run on the small side (probably intended more for children but don't let that stop you - as it didn't stop me) and I have written out my modifications below.

Particulars:  Catching Butterflies design by Tiny Owl Knits; US 2 and US 3 double pointed Needles; Sun Valley Fibers 80/20 merino/nylon fingerling.  Because this pattern seems to run a little small I made the following modifications:

1.  I only used the smaller (US 2 needles) for the cuff.  After than I switched to US 3 (even for the ribbing on the hand I stayed with the US 3 needles);
2.  I used a twisted rib for both the cuff and hand ribbing;
3.  For the thumb gusset increases I increased to 16 stitches (versus only 12).  Then when it was time to knit the thumb I picked up the stitches with US 3 needles + 3 additional stitches in the gap (total of 16+3 = 19 stitches).  I then knit 3 rounds and then switches to US 2 needles for the twisted rib (a total of 4 rounds). On the first round of twisted rib I decreased 1 stitch to have an even number of stitches (19-1 = 18 stitches) for the ribbing; and 
4. I knit an addition 6 rows in pattern on the hand before BO;

Incidentally, the nail polish I'm wearing is "Some Lilac It Hot" by Sumbody which is a skincare line that I'm in love with.  If you want to splurge on some soap I recommend their Milkyrich and you too can feel like Cleopatra. I have no affiliation with the product, obviously.  I'll also give a plug to my current favorite bath soak which is Nectar (whole milk bath soak) by FHF Farmhouse fresh , going along with the milk and Cleopatra theme.

Classic Blueberry Pie Recipe ~

In the month of August blueberries are always bountiful and relatively inexpensive and so I like to make a pie around this time of year.  This is my father's favorite pie and might be mine as well although cherry pie is a strong contender too so maybe not.  But I do love a blueberry pie, no question about that.  I hope you will enjoy it too.

Blueberry Pie filling (recipe very slightly adapted from the Minute Tapioca box):

4 heaping cups of blueberries or more depending on the depth of your pie pan.  You want a generous filling.
1/4 cup Minute Tapioca
1 cup Sugar
1 Tbs. Lemon Juice
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbs. Butter

Pie Crust Recipe (my own recipe compiled from various sources):

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 Tsp. salt
1 TBS. sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter - cold and diced
1/2 cup shortening - cold and diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Splash of white vinegar

Egg Wash:

1 egg white
1 tsp. water
(whisked together)


1 Tbs. sugar (approximately)


A. Make pie crust as follows:

1.  Prepare ice water by adding ice cubes to a small bowl of water.  Add a splash of white vinegar to water mixture.
2.  Add flour, salt and sugar to a mixing bowl.  Whisk together.  Add butter and shortening and using a pastry cutter or your fingers work into flour until you achieve a consistency of small flecks.
3.  Begin adding water 1 tablespoon at a time.  Using a fork toss the water with the flour and shortening mixture adding water until it comes together as a dough.  Divide in half and shape into 2 flat disks.  Wrap each disk separately in saran warp and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling out to make crust.

B.  Make Blueberry Filling as follows:

1. Toss blueberries with Minute Tapioca, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon.  Let stand for 15 minutes.  The butter will be added later.

C.  Assemble Pie:

1.  Roll out the bottom crust between 2 sheets of wax paper covered lightly in flour.  Remove the wax paper and transfer to your pie dish.  Add the blueberry filling and dot the top of the mixture with 1 Tbs. butter.
2.  Roll out the top crust similar to the bottom and use any extra for decoration.  Cut slats in the crust to allow steam to escape.
3.  Brush the top of the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar garnish.

D.  Baking:

In a preheated 425 degree oven bake the pie for 10 minutes.  Then drop the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 40 to 50 minutes.  Make sure to bake pie until you can see the juices bubbling in the slashes made in the crust. After about 20 minute baking time begin checking to make sure your crust is not browning too quickly.  If it is, the loosely place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the pie to prevent burning/over browning until finished baking.

Cool in pan on a wire rack.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Until next time, be well and love well and may your late summer days be filled with the beauty and bounty of nature which is as close as stepping outside your door.