Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Promised Toy

Here he is!  A sweet bear, naked as a the day is long. The toy that I promised Steve long ago.

A little background about Steve and why this toy was important to him.  Steve was something of a child protege and because of that he missed out on a typical childhood.  He came from a no nonsense family and at an early age he was hard at work around the house mowing the lawn or in his bedroom constructing a ham radio or doing a physics project.  By age 12 he was a budding entrepreneur and began the first of his many business ventures, which was selling customized Christmas cards.

After only 2 years of college he began medical school.  At the time he graduated from medical school he was one of the youngest doctors licensed in the United States.  He went on to become a highly respected and skilled eye surgeon and had patients that traveled from as far as the United Kingdom for treatment.  All the while he was furthering his education by obtaining a law degree from the University of Notre Dame, publishing a textbook, and pursing his entrepreneurial interest and adding a string of other awards, degrees, and professional licenses.

But with all that drive and focus on education and developing his profession, he never experienced what should have been the fun and carefree days of childhood.  Which is enigmatic to me, because I had a very different childhood.  Mine was filled with fun and endless Summer days of camping, tennis, sunbathing, picnics and getting lost in story books without a worry or thought given to the future.  I guess opposites really do attract. 

Fortunately it's never too late to have fun, or a stuffed toy of your own.  At least that's what I think.

Particulars:  Sweet Bear by Twins; this is a well written pattern and easy to follow but I did modify it for a heavier gauge yarn and larger needles to make a bigger toy (pattern instructions are for a 9" bear and Steve's is 15").  I also modified the pattern by making my own sweater and scarf set. I wanted this toy to be exactly right so I had Steve choose everyting from the pattern to the yarn and finishing buttons.  Yarn:  Lush (50% angora / 50% wool) by Classic Elite Yarns - 2 skeins sky blue and 1 skein root beer; the white yarn is angora left over from my Netsuke Wrap; US 6 needles.  The pattern calls for all pieces to be knit flat and seamed together, which is not my preference, but wasn't too bad.  The scarf I based on the free pattern by Jared Flood (Noro striped scarf) and the cardigan I made up as I went along.  The hat is only slightly modified to be a bit slouchier (Ravelry Link).

The MisAdventures of Simcha

The other man in my life, Simcha, is also filled with strong drives.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, we have possibly found him a vocation.  Ta da..... sheep herding.  Bet you didn't know there was a need for sheep herding in Southern California.  Think again, we have something here for everybody.  So off we went to Drummond Ranch (Malibu location) for Simcha to be evaluated for his herding instinct. 

Simcha was eager to begin.  But Steve was concerned that we would be eating Shishkabobs for dinner after paying for the sheep.  What an absurd worry.

His concern was obviously misplaced as all Simcha did was gather the sheep together in the middle of the ring, as he was supposed to do (albeit with a few nips here and there).

We were as proud as punch.  I'd like to quote from his evaluation "Simcha had a lot of enthusiasm and drive.  He went right to work exploring his instincts.  He brought his sheep into a group and would regroup them.  He read his livestock well - all instinctually.  Nice dog.  He was showing his ability to think well with the sheep."

All that chasing sheep is hot work and afterward he jumped into a tub of cold water.  He had a blast and so I think we'll sign him up for a few lessons.

Until next time, be well and love well and it's Summertime so remember to go outside and have fun.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Shawl for the Ages ~

Sometimes when people think of wearing shawls they are uncomfortable with the notion. How would I wear it? It would make me look old, wouldn't it? Is wearing a triangle pointed at my rear end really a good idea? And other such nonsense. But these days shawls are no longer worn as they were in times past. Modern knitters are transforming the shawl into an accessory that is very wearable by everyone regardless of age, or gender, as you will see.

For example, I rarely wear a triangle shawl in the traditional manner.  By traditional manner I mean with the triangle pointing down my back and the ends tied in front.  Instead, I prefer to wear my shawls as I would a scarf.

This is the third time I've knit this particular shawl, the Diamond Fantasy Shawl.  It is a shawl that appeals to all ages, is very wearable, easily adapts to everyone's style sense, and is always noticed.  But it was last Christmas while I was visiting my parents that I realized how versatile this shawl really is.  It was Christmas eve and I was sitting in church with my parents next to my mother (who is 84) and realized she was getting cold.  I took off my Diamond Fantasy shawl and wrapped it around her shoulders.  Not only did it keep her warm, I was struck by how great it looked on her.  And, as further proof, my dad who is not one to make an insincere compliment, enthusiastically agreed.  So I told her I would make her one in green, her favorite color.  And so I have. 

Particulars: Diamond Fantasy Shawl by Sivia Harding Knit Designs, Sundara Yarn (sock) 100% Superwash merino yarn, colorway: Lush Tropics; US 5 needles (Rav link).  This is the third time I've knit this pattern because I really like this design.  One caveat, though.  This is a shawl where the design has lace pattern throughout.  As a result it takes a little longer to knit (requiring more concentration) than shawl patterns that have a large segment of plain stockinette.  If you are looking for a quick shawl project this probably isn't it.  Posts on my earlier versions are Diamonds are Forever (red) and A Modern Take on Gothic (blue); and a picture of Mr. Puffy modeling the blue shawl at the beach is on Flickr.

Incidentally, I also knit the cardigan I'm wearing in this post (finished in 2007).  It's the Rowena Cardigan from Knit 2 Together (Rav Link). 

And to finish my point on gender, manly men can, and do, wear shawls too.  I think Simcha proves that Stephen West of West knits is not the only guy that can rock a  shawl, although Mr. West does wear them well.  As it happens, I've bought the Daybreak Shawl pattern from West Knits so we can make a fair comparison at some point.

Something Sweet to Finish ~ A Rustic Raspberry Tart

This is a recipe for a Rustic Raspberry Tart from the Kerry Gold butter website.  It's a very easy recipe and makes a wonderful dessert.  I did prefer it cooled completely to room temperature (rather than still warm from the oven) so allow sufficient time for it to cool.  It's very nice with a dollop of ice cream.

A couple of quick tips.  Use only sweet fresh raspberries and sponge them off gentling to reduce water absorption.  I cooked my tart a little longer than the recipe stated because a berry filling is not cooked through until it is bubbling.  You can cover the tart with aluminum foil to prevent it from browning too much, if that is a concern.  I used Kerry Gold butter and followed the recipe exactly.  However, I did use my standard pie dough making tips which are to 1) add white vinegar to the ice water and 2) allow the dough to rest for a few minute in the refrigerator prior to rolling it out.

Until next time, be well and love well.  If you have heretofore thought you can't wear shawls, it's time to change your mind!