Monday, January 21, 2013

Snowflake Fingerless Mitts and Rustic Pear Tart

Hum hum ~ girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes; snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes; silver white winters that melt into spring ~ these are a few of my favorite things ~  I'm sure most of you recognize this refrain from the Sound of Music.  Alas, without a proper Winter I have no snowflakes on my nose or eyelashes.  Instead I've embroidered snowflakes onto my fingerless mitts.  A wise person makes do with what one has, so I believe.  After a particularly severe cold snap our Winter has apparently come and gone in a matter of weeks.  Yet it's still cool enough in the mornings to need fingerless mitts and shall be through May!

It's the ability to add my own touches that makes knitting so satisfying and a unique expression of my personal taste and style.  And I find embroidery a quick and easy means to beautifully embellish my knitting.  I added this snowflake to the mitts by using a simple combination of the basic running stitch and detached chain stitch.  That combined with using a sparkly yarn for the embroidery helped turn these ordinary mitts into something more special.  

Particulars:  Snowflake Fingerless Mitts; this is a person pattern that I'll eventually share as a free pattern but first I want to test knit it again to eliminate any mistakes. I used 2 Skeins Manos del Uruguay (silk blend); US 5 & 6 DPN.  Over the years I've knit many many pairs of fingerless mittens but a couple of my favorites are my Kyla Fingerless Mitts and Welted Fingerless Gloves  For this design I thought the finished mitts were a bit limp so I slightly felted the finished mitts in the dryer to firm them up and make the yarn more dense and that worked beautifully.  I used a sparkly metallic yarn to embroider the snowflakes to give it some sizzle and shine.  You can find many embroidery templates online; I used this snowflake design as my guide.  

Rustic Pear Tart ~

After consuming way too many sweets over the holidays it's nice to change things up with a savory and mellow dessert and I found this pear tart to be just the ticket.  Along with pears it has cranberries and hazelnuts and has a nice kick of citrus.  However I found it does not keep well and is best eaten the same day baked.  The recipe is inspired by the nutty cranberry pear tarts published in the 2009 Southern Style Christmas Cooking magazine but modified to reduce sugar and fats and ingredients I have on hand.  My version is shared below.

Rustic Pear Tart

Tart Ingredients:
2 ripe pears (pealed, cored and diced)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbs. melted butter
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (skins removed and finely chopped).  Plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup dried cranberries (I used whole organic cranberries)
2 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. orange zest
1 Tbs. orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pinch ground cardamon
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Egg Wash:
1 egg white mixed with 1 tsp water

Pie Dough Ingredients:
I used the dough recipe I used for my raspberry tart but I think any pate brisee (pie dough) recipe would work such as Martha Stewart's.

Orange Syrup Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs fresh honey


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper;
2.  Combine tart ingredients;
3.  Make Pie Dough and roll into a large circle.  Transfer dough to baking sheet and spread pear mixture in the center leaving approximately 1 inch to fold over for crust;
3.  Brush egg wash over crust and sprinkle with sugar;
4.  Bake approx. 30 minute or until fruit mixture is bubbling.  Check tart frequently and to prevent burning cover with foil after crust is golden brown; and
5.  Serve warm with orange syrup.  Orange Syrup: combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Can be stored in refrigerator.
6.  Garnished with fresh mint and extra chopped hazelnuts and/or cranberries.

Until next time be well and love well and don't forget Valentine's Day is soon approaching.  Valentine's Day is a fun and whimsical holiday to celebrate anyone who is special in your life.  So have fun and please don't be restricted to traditional ideas of who can be a Valentine!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Winter Hat ~ at the Sea Shore

It feels like forever since I've finished any knitting and all I've got is a hat.  But it is a very nice hat and I'm very happy with it!  For a change of pace we shot these photos at the beach while we were in San Clemente for the holidays.

I always find our time at the beach relaxing and that is largely because we don't have the internet, cell phones or even a TV to watch and that forces you to slow down.  If you can possibly manage it I think everyone benefits from  time spent away from constant exposure to electronic devices.  Just step away from your computer and turn off your cell phone.

When you do that it gives you time to just be quiet and enjoy the simple pleasure of breathing and relaxing and enjoying nature.  I like to sit on the sand and smell the salt air; feel the warmth of the sun on my skin; listen to the waves crashing; watch the seagulls soaring in the sky and bury my toes in the sand.  I only wander home after the sun sets.

And of course in the Winter you will want a nice warm hat if you are outside enjoying nature.  And I highly recommend this pattern!

Particulars: 16 Sixteen Cable hat; designed by Circe Belles Boucles; US 8 & 9 needles (brim and body, respectively); 2 skeins terra by The Fiber Company; size 1 but I used larger needles to increase the size.  If I had knit size 2 it would have been too large for me unless I eliminated some of the stitches in the repeats which I didn't want to do that because the fabulous oversized cables are intrinsic to the beauty of this design.  Therefore I made the smaller size but increased the dimensions by using a substantial yarn and larger needles.  Because I only had 200 yards of yarn I also eliminated 1 to 2 rows of knitting in between each of the cable repeats and just barely finished with enough yarn. 

The MisAdventures of Simcha ~

As you know I always enjoy chatting about my baby.  It's hard to believe that he's already three (3) years old.  Time has flown by.  Now he spends much of his time hanging about the house and, like any young male in his prime, he enjoys flexing his muscles and preening.  Sometimes I look at those muscles and wonder if all those hikes to burn off his energy haven't also been developing his muscles.... which is sort of counter productive.  Le sigh.

Thinking about Simcha's birthday has me reminiscing about the antics he got into as a puppy and I thought you might enjoy hearing a story that I'll call "the walnut incident."  Simcha was probably about a year old when this happened.  I recall I was at my wits end at the end of a long evening.  To cap off the evening he had knocked over a bowl of nuts and was tearing around the house with a walnut in his mouth and I could not catch him. Defeated and exhausted I sat on the bottom step.  Lo and behold he came over and dropped the walnut in my hand and climbed into his crate. I whispered “thank you” and went up to bed.  Under that tough guy exterior he has a soft heart.

Until next time, be well and love well and where ever you are make time to enjoy nature.  If you are in the snow make snow angles; if you are in the woods sit and enjoy the flora; and if you are in the mountains go on hikes and watch the clouds drift overhead. And leave your cell phone at home.