Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wisp of Smoke Cowl and Nantucket Cranberry Tart

I always like a little bling at the holidays.  It's the one time of year when it's actually okay to over dress and pull out the black strappy shoes, flashy jewelry, and dark red lipstick topped off with sparkly lip gloss. What's not to like about that!  Each year I knit something special for the holidays and this year it's an opulent silk cowl with pre-strung glass beads that positively oozes sparkly bling. It's a piece that really has to be seen and touched to be appreciated though, otherwise it may appear more low key than my past Christmas projects.  Of course you haven't seen me wearing it with my fishnet stockings either.  That gives it a whole different vibe.

I really love the added dimension that beads add to a project and if you haven't added beads yet you should give it a try.  I've knit projects both with using yarn pre-strung with beads and projects where I've added the beads as I knit along.  Each method gives a very different effect.  I would say the pre-strung beads have a more random effect and depending on the number of beads can almost result in a sequin effect.  Whereas adding beads as you knit has a more structured appearance because the beads are generally placed at regular intervals in the pattern. Unfortunately these days it's harder to find pre-strung beaded yarn but Artyarns (founded and manufactured in the US by Iris Schreier in 2002) is one of the remaining companies that sells pre-strung beaded yarn and even has some yarns with sequins.  Their website has some gorgeous designs and I just might have to knit the Glitter Wave Top.  On the other hand there are tons of bead stores everywhere and they are very easy and inexpensive to add to a project.  In January I'll be joining the Donna Druchunas KAL to knit a small Estonian shawl that has beads added along the edging (Sunshine and Tea Shawlette with kits available on Etsy) and I think this would be a fun introduction to adding beads for those interested.

Particulars: Wisps of Smoke Ring designed by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer (Heartstrings Fiber Arts); US 7 needles (knit in the round); 2 skeins Tilli Tomas Plie natural plied silk (50g/140yds per skein) and 1 skein Tilli Tomas Rock Star (natural spun silk) with glass beads 100g/150 yrds.  Unfortunately Tilli Tomas is no longer in business.  Finished blocked dimensions: 17 inches in length with a width of 12" across the top and 16" across the bottom.  Projects I've knit with beads (individually added) include: Soul hatTriesete Shawl; and Netsuke Wrap projects using pre-strung beads include: La Dolce Vita gloves; Handspun Scarf; and Romantic Beaded Scarf.

Nantucket Cranberry Tart Recipe ~

My sister Lynne has a very busy social life and is always taking desserts to gatherings at her church, school (she's a teacher) or other get togethers with girlfriends and, as a result, has a number fail safe recipes and this Nantucket Tart is one of those recipes.   If you have ever been asked to bring a dessert you know how nerve racking it can be to come up with a recipe that you think will appeal to people and yet is simple enough to execute without mishap.  But stress no more.  This is the recipe for you and perfect for this time of year when fresh cranberries are available and there are lots of family and social gatherings. You'll also want to freeze some cranberries so you'll have this as an option any time of year.   It's very easy to make, delicious, a little different and almost impossible to ruin (she's actually taken it under-cooked and had the entire tart eaten and complimented).  So without further ado here's my sister's Nantucket Tart Recipe ~


2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup (scant) sugar (you can use just regular white granular sugar or mix in a bit of white sparkling (course) sugar which adds a nice crunch)
1/2 cup (generous) finely chopped pecans (or walnuts which is what my sister uses)
2 eggs
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup heaping white granular sugar (you can use up to 1 cup which is what my sister uses)
1 cup all purpose flour


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter a  pie or cake pan that is preferably 10" but even a smaller 9" size will work.  I used a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom for my tart pictured above.

2.  Evenly sprinkle cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar and chopped nuts into the base of your pie or pan.  Set aside.

3.  Prepare dough as follows:  whisk eggs, 3/4 cup (heaping) white granular sugar, and flour in a medium sized bowl. Using a dough whisk or wooden spoon incorporate the melted butter until a smooth and fairly thick batter forms.

4.  Pour batter evenly over the cranberries/sugar/nuts.  If you use a smaller (9") pan you should use less of each the cranberries and batter.  I like the look of the cranberries showing through on top so I only add enough batter to just cover them.  There is no rising agent in the batter so you can easily gauge the depth of the tart and how much you wish to fill your pan.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees 45 minutes if using fresh cranberries and up to 60+ minutes if using frozen.

6.  Serve directly from the pie or cake pan or cut into slices and remove onto a serving tray as I did. You can also (while the tart is still warm) turn out onto a plate for an upside down cranberry cake which is very festive with the cranberries on top.  Optional is to add powdered sugar on top with a scoop of ice cream for a fancy dessert.


Until next time be well, love well, and have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Steve, Simcha and Claudia.

Our tired little Santa.  Too much eggnog and dancing to Baby It's Cold Outside.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fair Isle Scarf and the Dark Side of Ravelry Forums

I am wearing my Osebury Rock Scarf which is the fifth installment of Ysolda's 2015 shawl club and as you can see it's all about celebrating gorgeous autumnal color.  While I generally think of fall leaves when I think of autumn color, it was mounds of hot roasted root vegetables that gave Ysolda the inspiration for the colors in this scarf.  Knowing this you can see the colors of sweet potatoes, yams, beets, and parsnips that inspired this scarf (apparently Ysolda has a fondness for roasted root vegetables).  It makes for a very yummy scarf, no?

This is of course a fair isle project and maybe I've been sleeping during the resurgence of  fair isle (colorwork) knitting but it's only this past year that I've noticed that it seems to have taken designers by storm.  But these patterns have a decidedly more modern flare than the designs I grew up knitting. It's colorwork for a new generation of knitters and is adding bright splashes of color to everything from hats to scarfs and everything in between.  My last fair isle project was a very traditional design by Alice Starmore and that hebe hat post has more technical information and resources about this style of knitting if you are interested.

Instead of getting technical I want to talk about the importance of not sweating the details in knitting and how best to adjust when something does not go according to plan.  Because with knitting there are always variables and things that can go wrong. And it's okay to make adjustments, live with mistakes, or deliberately make changes, but you must always be aware of how those changes affect the overall finished design.

Speaking of which in this case I did not check my gauge (which I often fail to do with scarfs and shawls) and before too long it became clear that I would run out of the neutral colored yarn long before I finished the scarf.  So I compensated for this by substituting a similar shade of neutral colored yarn from stash into the middle of the scarf and holding back enough of the original neutral colored yarn so that my bind off border/edging would match the yarn used for the beginning cast on border/edging. This way the symmetry of the design was preserved and the substituted yarn looks like it is part of the overall design.    

The best way to keep track of whether you are using too much yarn in sufficient time to take corrective action is by weighing your yarn and estimating the yardage you have used and/or remaining. If you don't already have a digital kitchen scale I highly recommend you get one.  Not only is it an essential knitting tool there are many recipes online that use weight versus volume. Getting into the habit of weighing your yarn is the best way to detect a yardage problem in time to make an adjustment so that your finished project will reflect your personal taste and decisions rather than looking like you simply knit until you ran out of yarn.

Particulars:  Osebury Rock (Ysolda's 2015 Shawl Club); US 7 needles; 1 gradient set of EasyKnits yarn in Squidge colorway Osebury Rock.  Post blocking measurements: 11" x 54" (exclusive of fringe). Additional projects from Ysolda's 2015 Shawl Club are: Malton Oolite ScarfStac ShoaighCaer Idris; and Cockern Tor.  I should mention that for those that ran out of yarn Ysolda provided additional yarn at no additional cost.  A class act all around.

It's a Jungle Out There ~

Life is not always a walk in the park, and sometimes you don't even recognize the danger until it's far far too late.  I had that graphically illustrated to me this past week on something as seemingly harmless as the Ravelry knitting forums where you might (as least I did) have the expectation of civility and camaraderie.  Which is anything but the case.  So learn from my experience and have a care if you venture onto the forums because not all is as it should be there.

Not everyone will heed my warning and so, if you are like me, and don't have a social media crisis control consultant on retainer here are my two rules to follow when you unwittingly find yourself wading in shark infested forum waters.

Rule No 1:  Any idea to enlighten others or diffuse a situation that suddenly occurs to you whilst in the midst of a social media crisis is, by definition, a bad idea.

Rule No 2:  Before posting anything whist in the midst of a social media crisis, consult Rule No 1.

Kidding aside, I had become careless and forgotten that just like any forum Ravelry has its share of cyber bullies and those maliciously intended.  And yet, truthfully I'm glad I had this experience (not that I enjoyed it) because it forced me to evaluate how I spend my time online.  Like all of us I have limited time and should use that precious time wisely and that means using social media forums sparingly.  Time should be spent really living by being present with those that you love, enjoying nature, reading, learning, being creative and celebrating that which you enjoy and anchors you in this world. These are the things that create lasting memories, happiness, and a full and rich life well lived. Thank you for the reminder.

Until next time, be well, love well and enjoy this holiday season sharing, spending time with, and celebrating with those you love.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pumpkin Bread with Walnut Topping

Paris Tragedy ~

I wrote this post prior to learning of the tragedy in Paris and wanted to briefly preface the post by saying how very saddened I am for the people of France and everywhere in the world these horrific acts of terrorism have occurred.  I wish we lived in a world where we asked ourselves whether our acts added to love, intimacy, beauty or creativity and if they didn't we found another way to express ourselves.  But until then we must all unite and condemn acts by individuals that target the innocent and unsuspecting as there is no ideology or religious rationalization that makes this type of cowardly act justifiable.  God be with those who are suffering and grieving.

Pumpkin Bread with Walnut Topping ~

One of the nicest seasonal treats in the autumn is rich fragrant pumpkin bread.  I love the redolent scent of spices filling the house as it bakes to perfection.  And it's also a healthy snack.  Aside from the sugar of course.  But as snacks go I think you can do worse that pumpkin bread!  In any event, this is a favorite recipe of mine and I wanted to share it before Thanksgiving so you would have a chance to try it this season.  Because soon, very soon, it will be time to turn your thoughts toward decorating for Christmas and baking those Christmas cakes, gingerbread houses, mince pies and other Christmas favorites.    

Pumpkin Bread with Walnut Topping
yield ~ 1 loaf ~


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup walnut oil (or canola oil or other light flavored oil)
1 whole egg + 1 yoke
8 ounces pumpkin puree (roughly a generous 3/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Topping: Between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup finely chopped raw walnuts


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare loaf pan (butter and flour).
2.  Beat together wet ingredients (sugar, oil, egg, pumpkin puree).  Remove bowl from mixer.
3.  Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg).  Using a wooden spoon stir the dry ingredients into wet in two additions.
4.  Pour batter into loaf pan and generously cover top with chopped walnuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until wooden tester comes away clean.  I usually start testing after 1 hour and 5 minutes.
5.  Allow to cool in pan 10 minutes.  Use a knife to loosen bread and turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

Of course you don't have to add walnuts on top if you don't wish, it's just as delicious without!

Until next time, be well, love well and be sure to bake something pumpkin-y before the season disappears for another year.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Malton Oolite Scarf and Simcha's Pumpkin Passion

It seems like I look forward to Fall forever and then it flies by in a remarkably short period of time.   And I never have the time to do everything I would like to do.  So instead of getting down on myself for things I would have liked to have done but haven't had the time for, I instead focus on doing just a few Fall activities that I really enjoy.  This year I've been having fun playing with and decorating with all sorts of pumpkins and gourds and they make me smile every day when I see them about my house and garden.  I display them on the first day of October and leave them up through Thanksgiving, which for me is the official end of Fall.  No matter that the calendar may say otherwise. Once Thanksgiving passes, then too Fall is gone like the leaf that falls into the river and floats downstream to disappear from view.  Immediately my thoughts turn to Winter and Christmas which loom large.

But whatever else is happening in my life you can count on the fact that I have also been doing some Fall knitting!  The lovely scarf I'm wearing is knit with yarn from Ysolda's 4th installment of her 2015 Shawl Club.  Note that I say it's knit with the yarn from her club, but not that it is her design.  I must confess that when this kit arrived I was not of the mind set to learn the brioche stitch so I (to my mind) adroitly substituted a pattern that maximized the beautiful colors and lofty yarn to make a fabulous long flowing scarf that I absolutely love wearing.

Because it's the colors and texture that makes this yarn special I did not think the pattern needed to be anything fancy.  And because it's all about the yarn, one of the many things that I have really enjoy about this club is hearing the backstory to the yarns that Ysolda includes with her kits.  In this shipment Ysolda describes the yarn and inspiration as follows:
Spun in Yorkshire from a blend of Lustrous British Longwool Titus was the first yarn from wonderful Leeds wool shop Baa Ram Ewe.  We had it dyed in the mustary gold Ilove so much and Joe from BRE took a third of the batch round to local dyer Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns.  Inspired by the color combination of flowers over leaf Victoria overdyed the perfect partner for some welcome harvest time sunshine!
And this yarn really does create a fluffy fabulously cozy scarf to wear.  But it's definitely a cold weather scarf because of the alpaca and nature of the wool.

Particulars:  Light in Shadows by Nilija Uimonen; Baa Ram Ewe (Titus) yarn exclusive colorway (Malton Oolite set - Ysolda's 2015 shawl club) in collaboration with Eden Cottage Yarns who over dyed the coordinating color in tangerine; 475 yards combination British wool and UK Alpaca spun in Yorkshire; US 6 needles.  Only slightly modified by using the tangerine color on the border until I ran out and then switch back to the yellow for the final few rows. For previous 2015 Ysolda's shawl club projects see: Stac Shoaigh; Caer Idris; and Cockern Tor.

The MisAdventures of Simcha  ~

Simcha agrees with me that Fall IS the best season and he told me (with body language) that he also loves having pumpkins all over the property.

Although he does have some anxiety about those pumpkin stealing coyotes....

Until next time, be well, love well, and enjoy Fall in whatever fashion suits you best!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Apple Butter Recipe

To everything there is a season and right now it's apple season!  I try my best to eat seasonally as much as possible when various fruits and vegetables are at their peak.  Here in southern California it might be hard to notice the seasonal changes by looking outside but you can always tell the seasons by a trip to your local market. And right now the markets are full of  bright, colorful squash and gourds and lots and lots of apples.  And my favorite of all are the honey crisp apples which are not only delicious for snacking but also perfect for seasonal treats such as apple sauce or apple butter.

I first tasted apple butter when I visited Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana which gives visitors a glimpse into a unique way of life and what was once a three generation working farm adhering to the principles of life before modern conveniences, which is an integral part of their traditional christian beliefs. And that taste of apple butter encapsulates for me a simpler time when life was sweet enough just by savoring the goodness of what the land produced.  I hope this recipe gives you a taste of that sweetness and captures your imagination and appreciation for a way of life that once flourished in our land.

Apple Butter Recipe ~
- yield 2 cups -


2 lbs. honey crisp apples (roughly 5 large apples) pealed, cored and roughly chopped
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
pinch kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar (or fresh lemon juice if you have it)
3/4 teaspoon ceylon soft cinnamon sticks (pounded with mortar and pestle)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch ground cloves


1.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Combine apples, apple cider, brown sugar and salt in non-stick stove top/oven safe pan.   On stove top bring mixture to simmer, cover and cook until apples are soft, approximately 20 minutes.

2.  Remove from heat and stir in white vinegar (or lemon juice), cinnamon, vanilla and cloves.  Blend using an immersion blender until smooth.

3.  Place mixture in oven and bake uncovered for approximately 2.5 to 3 hours (stirring every 30 minutes) or until mixture thickens and is a deep amber color.

4.  Remove from oven and let cool complete.  Place in airtight container and refrigerate for 5 days.

Recipe adapted from the Food Network Kitchen's Homemade Apple Butter recipe.

Enjoy apple butter spread on your morning toast as I do (over my homemade sourdough bread); swirled into your oatmeal with cinnamon and chopped walnuts; or as a topping on vanilla ice cream!

Until next time be well, love well, and savor the flavors that the fall harvest celebrates.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fairy Garden Throw and Pumpkin Scones Recipe ~

When I saw the Yarn Fairies in my Garden Mystery KAL I couldn't resist joining along in this whimsical journey.  After all you never know what fairies might be hiding in your garden that you can entice out to play!

And making a throw blanket is right in keeping with my new mind set, namely, to enjoy my home more and appreciate the simple comforts that something small but special can impart, whether it's using a favorite mug, cuddling under a special blanket or finding a quiet place to sit and read a book.

There's simply too much racing about for most people.  And even when we are at home there's always something we can or should be doing.  But you must resist.  Otherwise you will find yourself a slave to activity like I was. I'm not saying it's not important to be diligent and productive with your time. What I am saying is that there is no need to stand in the kitchen gobbling down a quick bite when you can take 15 minutes to sit outside and enjoy your breakfast in the garden, or take a break in the afternoon for a short nap or read a book.  You'll feel better and be more productive when you have discreet breaks rather than not taking a break and yet frittering away time at your desk or playing games on your computer.  Whether at home or an office there are always places to step away and be alone and it's important to do so.

This throw might not be a project for everyone (it takes 2,200 yards of sock yarn) but I couldn't be happier that I made it.  The project was a collaboration between two talented fiber ladies Wendy McConnell known for her fanciful yarn dyeing and Donna Druchunas a well known lace designer with each contributing their special talent.  Wendy dyed up this special sunflower colorway after I mentioned I'd like to wrap myself in a sunflower (rather than a columbine or any of the other flowers being offered) and it was Donna who did the designing with several intricate and beautiful Estonian lace stitches to illustrate the flowers and butterflies found in a garden. Along with fairies of course. That goes without saying.  It really is a special piece that Steve and I'll enjoy for many years to come. Let's hope we don't squabble over who gets to use it ;)

Particulars: Yarn Fairy's In My Garden (Ravelry pattern link) designed by Donna Druchunas (of Sheep to Shawl fame); 2,205 yards gradient Fairy Sock Yarn custom dyed by Wendy (of Wendy's Ramblings) the fabulous host of numerous mystery Fairy KALs; US 4 circular needles; relaxed post blocking dimensions: 60"x 60" square.  This pattern includes several Estonian lace stitches and Donna has made some fabulous instructional videos to help.  You might recall that last Winter I participated in Wendy's Victorian Christmas Mystery KAL and I'm looking forward to enjoy that shawl again this holiday season!

Pumpkin Scone Recipe ~

These pumpkin scones have a rich spice flavor and nice "cake like" interior complimented by a maple glaze.  I originally saw a recipe similar to these late last Fall, but alas it was too late in the season to try them.  But as soon as I saw pie pumpkins in the stores this Fall I had to make some. This recipe is a combination of several that I looked at incorporating and changing the ingredients to best suit my tastes.  I absolutely love them and have made them numerous times already and hope you will too. Should you not have on hand the ingredients I've used (freshly roasted pumpkin, pastry flour, whole wheat flour, cardamon, etc.) there is a highly rated Starbucks Pumpkin Scones Copycat Recipe you might want to try instead. Whichever recipe you use I'm sure it will become a Fall favorite!


1 1/2 cups pastry flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 dark brown sugar (I use organic)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamon (or ground cloves if you don't have cardamon)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
6 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup fresh pumpkin puree
5 Tbs whole milk
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract


1 cup confectioners sugar (shifted)
3 Tbs maple syrup
1 Tbs whole milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Pumpkin Puree:

1 fresh pie pumpkin (Trader Joe's has the best price on these that I've seen)
1 tsp. olive oil
Scant sprinkling of sea salt


1.  Make Pumpkin Puree (I make this the day before I'm going to bake the scones).  Preheat oven to 400 Degrees.  Wash pumpkin thoroughly and cut into 4 pieces scrapping out all seeds.  Lightly brush flesh with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast approximately 35-40 minutes or until flesh is soft - then remove from rind and refrigerate until ready to use.  Since you will only be using a small amount I like to use the leftovers as a soup thickener, etc.

2.  Make scone dough.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl (pastry flour, wholewheat flour, dark brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon cardamon, ginger, and nutmeg) stir to combine.  Cut in cold butter until coarse crumbs form.

4.  Combine pumpkin, milk, egg and vanilla in a small blender and blend until smooth.  Pour blended wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon.  A wet dough will form.

5.  Measure 1/8th cup all purpose flour and set aside on your work surface (I like to sue a wooden bread board).  Sprinkle some of your flour on the work surface and coat hands with flour.  Gently kneed dough a few times to incorporate enough flour to prevent excessive sticking to hands.  Don't overwork the dough and add no more flour than necessary (at most 1/8th cup or maybe a tablespoon more).  With your hands flatted dough into a round disk approximately 1/2 inch thick and 10 inches round and using a pastry cutter slice into 8 to 10 scones as shown in the pictures.  I use a bench knife to cut and transfer scones to parchment (or silpat lined) baking sheet.

6.  Bake scones for 10 to 12 minutes or until cake tester comes away clean. They should puff up and crack on top and be fairly firm to touch.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

7.  Make Maple Glaze.  Using a spoon combine confection sugar, maple syrup, and milk in a small bowl.  Drizzle over cooled scones and allow to set before serving.  Freeze leftovers and defrost at room temperature before eating.

Until next time be well, love well, and enjoy your home and all the special moments of comfort and companionship this season brings, whether it's sharing scones over a cup of tea or just snuggling up together with a book and a favorite blanket ~

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Wintergreen Hat and Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe

Every Fall I knit myself a new hat.  It's a rite of passage for me, right along with buying a new pair of corduroy pants and a pumpkin.  And this year it's all about the pom-pom.  These large over sized pom-poms have been around for a couple of years but this year is the first time I've considered adding one. Typically I'm more low key with my hats, but I figured why not give it a go?  And now I find myself ridiculously pleased that I did.  Probably due to some repressed cheerleader complex stemming from never having had real pom-poms to play with.

Long ago well before I began blogging I made my first hat and added a pom-pom (that I never actually got to wear due to a traumatic incident involving our dog, but I digress) and so I knew roughly the process but felt I needed a refresher course, particularly if I wanted a large over sized one.  And I found the prefect video tutorial given by Stephen West (who is very amusing and I highly recommend you watch this and his other videos).  I followed his method exactly except I found that with a sock yarn I needed much more friction than a mere brush to achieve a fluffy cottontail effect. So I scrounged around and found a velcro strip that really grabbed and traumatized the yarn and gave me the result I was looking for.  A perfect pom-pom finish.  Now if I could only do a cartwheel.

Particulars:  Caramel Brulee designed by Alicia Plummer (blogs as AliciaPlum); 2 skeins The Fiber Company Terra (colorway Black Walnut); US 6 and 8 Needles.  I knit the longer length as I wanted to wear this hat with the brim folded up.  This is an extremely easy and well written pattern and I made no modifications whatsoever.  My pom-pom is made with Madelinetosh tosh sock yarn left over from my Vintage Bouquet shawl.

Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe

A new love of mine is chocolate banana bread.  I of course knew that chocolate and bananas went well together.  Who hasn't eaten a banana dipped in chocolate at their local fair?  You haven't? Well, the good news is that it's never too late to enjoy that taste sensation.  But until then try this delightful twist on the combination and my new favorite fall treat.

Recipe adapted from Simple Recipe's Chocolate Banana Bread substituting my preferred ingredients, i.e. pastry flour, bittersweet chocolate, dutch cocoa, etc.  But if you don't have these ingredients on hand I'm sure the original recipe is delicious too.


3 ripe bananas (I used 1 small and 2 large) - puree to remove all lumps - approx. 1 1/4 cup+
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt (use half this amount if you use salted butter)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pastry flour
1/4 cup dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (reserve a few to sprinkle on top)


1.  Prepare 1 loaf pan (butter and flour) and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Using a wooden spoon combine the wet (mostly) ingredients in a bowl (banana puree, melted butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla extract) and mix well.   Whisk if necessary to remove any sugar lumps.

3.  In a separate bowl whisk together most of the dry ingredients (pastry flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and allspice).

4.  Add the dry to wet ingredients and stir until just incorporated.  Add chocolate chips and pour into prepared loaf pan.

5.  Bake for approximately 1 hour at 350 degrees or until cooked through.  I would start checking at around 55 minutes as mine only took 57 minutes.  If you use a generous portion of banana you may need to cook yours longer depending on how hot your oven runs.  Don't overcook though as this is meant to be a moist cake.  The original recipe suggests gently pushing on the top to feel if it is relatively firm and bounces back to help gauge whether it's cooked through.

And Last but Not Least ~ Happy Birthday Mom ~

My mom recently turned 89 years young and my sister and I took her to a traditional English afternoon tea at the El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara.  Born in Teignmouth, England she has never gone a day without enjoying afternoon tea, and has a very healthy attitude toward leisure, that she fortunately passed along to me.  I think many Americans get so caught up in constantly "doing things" that they forget the importance of taking a break and the elixir it can be to put your feet up in the afternoon and enjoy a good and proper cup of tea.   A sad loss for Americans.  Happy Birthday mom and may you enjoy many many more afternoon cups of tea and garden parties!

Incidentally, in the picture below I am wearing my Pogona scarf which is one of my favorite summer accessories that is, ironically, designed by Stephen West (of pom-pom tutorial fame).


Until next time be well, love well, and make time this Fall to explore new technique and seasonal treats  ~

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Crockern Tor and Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipe

Crockern Tor is the 3rd installment of Ysolda's 2015 shawl club and embodies exactly why I joined her club.  It's a rustic British wool blend in a neutral color that will go with anything. Further, true to classic British style it is wardrobe piece that is beautiful and timeless.  Knit in a heavy lace weight yarn it has wonderful loft that will make it a cozy piece to wear this winter whether riding to the hounds or sipping afternoon tea.  Only one of which I do with any regularity.  And it's not riding to the hounds. Although I do have a hound.  Of sorts.  

As a brief segue, looking at this picture of Simcha snuggled with yarn from this shawl it reminds me of one of the reasons that I knit as much as I do. It brings me comfort when my life is stressful and hectic.  In fact I can recall certain projects that have gotten me through particularly difficult times in my life. My Sursa shawl in particular helped me through one of those times when I had a neighbor who ran a jackhammer for years doing extensive landscaping without regard to the impact on the surrounding neighbors who listened daily to this jarring onslaught of sound.  Knitting has always enabled me to turn my thoughts away from what is troubling me and instead focus on the beautiful yarn, the tactile sensations and the pleasure of seeing a pattern unfold.  It is both an escape and calming.  I suppose I could have turned to yoga but then I wouldn't have had all these beautiful shawls to enjoy.  Whereas in actuality I enjoy both yoga and knitting and believe it is important for everyone to have ways to slow down and de-stress and hope that knitting is able to provide that for you as well.

Back to this beautiful shawl.  In Ysolda's own words the June 2015 installment of her shawl club (and her design inspiration) is described as follows:
A perfectly blended cloud from one of my favorite mills worked into a simple crescent with a scattering of random eyelets - breezy summer knitting whether you're shaking sand out of your project bag or sneaking in a few stitches at your desk.  Enjoy!

Particulars:  Crockern Tor design by Ysolda (2015 Shawl club); 1 skein John Arbon Textiles Crockern Lace (colorway: a perfectly blended cloud); 150gm lace weight; US 5 needles.  Modifications:  At the start of Section 4 skipped pattern rows 1-3.  I particularly love the unique bind off using a crocheted chain which gives this shawl the prefect finishing touch. Previous projects blogged from Ysolda's 2015 shawl are: Stac Stoaigh and Caer Idris 

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipe ~

Steve's absolutely favorite cookie bar none is oatmeal raisin.  However I found it hard to find the perfect recipe with just the right amount of crunch to fluffiness factor.  You see he wanted them just like his grandma made (the pinnacle of baking perfection an impression formed at the tender age of 5). So I persevered.  It is after all the only cookie Steve really likes. After trying many recipes that were close but still not right, I blended a few recipes together and added a twist of my own and achieved what he and I both agree is the best oatmeal cookie recipe ever.  Dare I hope maybe even as good as his grandma's?  He says even better.  Our home is never without them and I hope you will enjoy them as much as he does.


1 C. shortening
1 1/4 C. + 2 Tbs. light brown sugar (or if it's easier for you to weigh 300 grams)
2 eggs
1 Tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C. whole milk
1 3/4 C. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt (scant)
1 tsp. nutmeg (scant)
1 tsp. cinnamon (scant)
3 C. whole Oats -  the "Quick" versus "old fashioned" works best
1 C. dark raisins


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  In an electric mixer combine: shortening, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Beat for several minutes until batter is ultra smooth.  I often leave the mixer running while I combine the dry ingredients.
3.  Remove bowl from mixer and by hand whisk in milk until just incorporated.
4.  Measure and combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon) in a bowl and combine using a fork.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients using a wooden spoon.
5.  Stir in oats (with wooden spoon) 1 cup at a time.  Lastly stir in raisins.
6.  Line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.  Add 1 TBS heaping batter and flatten slightly with back of spoon.  Yields approximately 2.5 dozen cookies.
7.  Bake for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly browned.  Let sit on tray for half a minute then remove to a wire rack to cool.  Freezes well.

Until next time be well and love well and may your home always be filled with love, cookies, and yarn.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fingerless Mitts and Simcha's Corner

You'll laugh when I tell you how long ago I began these fingerless mitts.  It was back in June 2009 and the only reason I recollect the date is that I added the project to my Ravelry notebook!  I'm not sure why I waited so long to finish them up.  They are super soft and will be fantastic to wear this winter. I guess it was just a case of too many WIPs.

Which brings me to the topic of knitting and "work in process" otherwise known as WIPs, UFOs, or generally "projects on the needles."  I have been thinking about this topic lately after Andi (MySistersKnitter) brought up the subject on her blog.  You see some knitters are very prone to having many projects on the needles at one time.  The down side of this obviously is that it takes much longer to finish any one project.  I used to be very prone to having WIPs as evidenced by how long it took me to finish these mitts.

But lately I've cast aside my wild side and consider myself a monogamous knitter. Partly this has come about because of my recent spat of KALs which has forced me to focus on a single project.  But I have also come to realize that I like being current with projects as I feel my projects are more contemporary. Well, as contemporary as knitting can be.  Although some things are timeless.  Like these mitts.  Still, I am happier having fewer projects on the needles and have begun being more selective of what projects I begin.  But as I look around me I can see that I still have more than just one or two projects on my needles.  I can see that I'm still a WIP.

Particulars:  Veyla designed by Ysolda; 1 skein Blue Sky Alpaca, Royal Alpaca (leftover yarn from my Swallowtail Shawl); US 3 needles.  I knit the small size and my only modification was to knit an extra 2 rounds after the cuff (i.e. instead of K10 I knit K12 rnds).  Like all Ysolda patterns this was easy, fun, and gives a wonderful result.  I've knit many pairs of fingerless mitts so instead of linking to them all, I'm just going to point out the ones that I wear the most Kyla Mitts; and those that I enjoy wearing the most because they are so soft and cozy Wild Wild West Gauntlets (my original design) and Lace Me Up Mitts and oh yeah, my favorite handspun fingerless mitts Albina Armwarmers.  To be fair I've given a fair number of fingerless mitts away so just because I don't mention them doesn't mean they haven't been worn and enjoyed.

Simcha's Corner ~

It's been a long time since I've shared any pictures of Simcha or tales of his adventures!  This should by not be taken to mean he does not still get into mischief.  Part of his charm is that he loves to play err tease and will never completely give up his aspirations to rule this roost.  However, he has finally graduated from sleeping in his crate at night and has complete unfettered freedom of the house when we are out and about. This coming of age came at age 6.5 years and, frankly, wasn't a day we were sure would ever come to pass. Surprisingly while we are away he doesn't rip apart the house, get up onto the furniture, or snoop in rooms where he shouldn't be as we feared he would.  Instead he lays at the front door and patiently awaits for our return. It's such a joy to drive up and see him watching for us through the windows.  It's almost as if he's been on the lookout for us.  Hum.  That reminds me of when I was a kid and we would watch for our parents to return so we could quickly turn off the TV and straighten up the house.  Maybe I should qualify this by saying that I don't think he gets into mischief while we are out and about.

And as you can see he's still full of vim and vigor and loves to engage in rousing play with his buddies.  We try and give him a full life and opportunities to express his energy, knowing that he really would have preferred to have been a police dog or had some such manly occupation.

Until next time, be well, love well and enjoy these lazy days of late July as soon there will be a touch of fall in the air.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

SAILaway Shawl,Yarn Along and Summer Survival Makeup

This past weekend we headed down to San Clemente, California to spend the July 4th holiday at the beach. It's my favorite place to celebrate the 4th as the city of San Clemente really goes all out to celebrate.  Maybe because it's so close to the Marine Core Base Camp Pendelton and you often see service members around town (they also thrill the beach goers with their dramatic F/A-18 fighter jets fly over to kick off the evening festivities) but whatever the reason there is a strong patriotic spirit in the city with lots of flag waving and the whole community turns out for the celebration.  It also has a friendly beach culture and an awe inspiring fireworks display (free) off the pier that rounds out the day.  I wouldn't be anywhere else on the 4th!  

And what other accessory could I possibly bring to San Clemente other than my new SAILaway Shawl. This is a gorgeous design and paired with a soft sock yarn makes a wonderful beach wrap for the summer. To be honest I never would have knit this project if I can't seen the sample shawl in Cardigan's Knit Shop in Santa Barbara, California.  Cardigans is a small yarn shop within walking distance to my parent's home and whenever I visit my parents I try and stop in and visit because they always have a ton of finished projects that are inspiring and suitable to wear in the ever more warming California climate. Even though I am what is called "an independent knitter" (i.e. I don't need the help and advice that yarn shops typically provide to new knitters) I find the experience of visiting a yarn shop invaluable for finding patterns, exploring new yarns, and having fun mingling with fellow yarn lovers.  While I love any and all yarn shops I really wish that you could all have the chance to visit Cardigans as it epitomizes for me the very best in little yarn shops with a friendly owner, a helpful but no pressure atmosphere and a great community knitting round table where regular customers sit and knit together.  But wherever you live I hope you will support your local yarn shop before it disappears as so many have in the past few years.

Particulars:  SAILaway (Ravelry Link) designed by Susan Venable (VenablesStudio); US 4 circular needles 2 skeins Hedgehog Fibers sock (club colorways) 10g and 19g remaining of light and dark blue, respectively.  Blocked dimensions 23" x 73."  Other projects I've knit using Hedgehog Fiber yarn include Starshower CowlCarson shawlRib SocksSummer ScarfAsking for Roses Wrap; and Ripple Effect Socks.  

Yarn Along  ~

For those not familiar with "Yarn Along" it was started in 2010 by Ginny (who writes the popular blog Small Things) as a way for knitters to share (typically on a weekly basis) both what they are currently knitting and reading.  A clever pun on the word yarn, no? However, as I only blog once a month (apparently I'm a slacker) I am going to add my own "twist" to the Yarn Along and instead periodically share a peak at what I'm looking forward to knitting and what book I anticipate reading. In the picture above is my recently acquired kit of mini skeins inspired by the movie Amelie dyed by Phydeaux Designs and is approximately 400 yrds of beautifully saturated fingerling yarn. The designer cleverly used a bedroom scene (G rated - stop looking disappointed) for her inspiration and from that scene created this kit of corail, le cafe, brasserie, absinthe, and metropolitain (she provided a picture of the bedroom scene used for her inspiration - and I was very impressed with her translation from film to yarn). As part of the back story to this kit the designer shared that she is a huge fan of films by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and highly recommends his other films: Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children, and A Very Long Engagement.  I'm definitely going to be adding those to my Amazon watch list.  As for my book, I am looking forward to reading Envy a tale of betrayal and intrigue by the prolific writer Sandra Brown.  This will be my first story by Sandra Brown but it sounds like a classic beach read and I will be tucking it into my beach bag.  Oh, and before I forget you might recognize the name of the yarn designer from the last project I blogged Longshadows.

Summer Survival Makeup

Lastly, just for fun, here's a list of my favorite products for surviving the summer sun, staying moisturized, and adding a natural glow to skin and cheeks.  You may want to experiment with a different colors but I think these products are pretty universally flattering.

Most of the following links are to Amazon which may not have the best prices but is however convenient. Sephora and Nordstrom carry these brands as well except for Lush which is a stand alone shop.

LIPS:  SUGAR Tinted Lip Treatment (Berry) keeps lips moist with long lasting color
CHEEKS: JOSIE MARAN Cheek Gelee (Poppy Paradise)  natural long lasting color
EYES:  MAC Cream Color Base (Hush) great eye shadow that can also be use to highlight
BRONZE:  LAURA MERCIER Matte Radiance Baked Powder (Bronze -03) my fav bronzer
SKINCARE: JOSE MARAN Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47 sunscreen you will enjoy using
NAILS: DEBORAH LIPMANN (Harlem Nocturne) metallic color that gets noticed (in a good way)
BATH: LUSH Ro's Argan Body Conditioner indulgent moisturizer to pamper your skin

Until next time be well, love well and enjoy the simple pleasures of summer whether it's lying on the beach or just painting your toes ~ but whatever you do or wherever you go don't forget to bring your yarn along  ~