Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Knitting Socks and Why Knitting is a Better Kind of Happiness ~

When I lived in the Midwest during my law school years it was a wondrous experience to go through seasonal changes after having been raised in perpetually sunny southern California.  I found each season had its special moments.  Spring brought snow drop flowers and sunny daffodils; summer meant picking tart cherries and making fresh pies and long evenings watching fireflies twinkling in the dusky sky; autumn was an explosion of vibrant colors and earthy flavorful vegetables; and finally winter was magical from snow flocked trees and discovering animal prints left in the snow to savoring the warmth of family and comfort food in a cozy home.  I loved my time living in the Midwest and miss the seasonal changes.

California has it's seasons too.  It's just that the changes are much more muted and harder to identify unless you are looking for them.  Although I am lucky to live in Topanga, California which is a small community set in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Being at a higher elevation does bring more extreme temperature swings at least, which is one reason that I get to wear shawls and cowls as much as I do as the mornings and evenings can be cool. But regardless of what the temperature is outside come late July there is a sense of preparing for fall and the stores begin carrying back to school clothes and supplies that brings for me a wave of nostalgia.  I loved getting new clothes and supplies for school in the fall.  The only trouble was that I was so excited to wear my new things that sometimes it meant being too hot as the day worn on as a sweater that was comfortable at 8 am was not so comfortable by 12 noon.  I still love fall clothes and shopping for fall clothes and as a nod to that time in my life I'm calling these my back to school socks even though my school days are long behind me.  And it's way too hot to be wearing them right now.  Or maybe just because it is.

How to Knit a Perfect Fitting Sock ~

These back to school socks are knit using my standard formula of 64 stitches on US 1 needles which is my formula for a perfect fit (I wear a size US 7 M / 36 European shoe) and yet they still have enough give that my mom who wears size US 8 shoes can also wear them comfortably.  Once you figure out the right number of stitches and needle size to fit your foot it makes it easy to knit any sock pattern as most patterns tend to use a set number of stitches, such as 64.  For example if a sock pattern calls for US 2 needles and 64 stitches I'll drop down to a US 1 needle with 64 stitches confident that I'll end up with socks that fit. Knowing what combination of needle size and stitch count will fit your feet is your ticket to always knitting socks with a perfect fit!

Particulars: Basket Weave Rib Socks (Ravelry link) from the popular Sensational Knitted Socks (Amazon link - I couldn't find a website or blog) by Charlene Schurch.  The yarn is Hedgehog Fibers Twist Sock (exclusive club colorway that I no longer recall the name of).  This is the first pair of socks that I've knit from this book but I have used it as a resource over the years and it's how I learned to do the kitchener stitch.  There are a number of other designs that I would like to try someday and a great feature of this book is that every pattern has a chart to convert the pattern to any yarn weight or needle size you wish.  Although I've not knit many socks recently I've knit way too many over the years to link to them all so I've just linked to a few of my favorites: Smaug (dragon motif); Cable Rib Socks (also using Hedgehog Fibers Twist yarn); Down the Rabbit Hole (self-striping yarn); and Orzival socks.

Knitting is A Better Kind of Happiness ~

The New Yorker recently published an article entitled A Better Kind of Happiness and I found it amusing and significant that the photo for their piece (shown above) featured a happy knitter, even though knitting per se was not mentioned in the article.

It turns out that feeling productive and engaging in an activity that you find meaningful and that you are able to gain efficacy over adds a sense of well being to a person's life that meets a basic and necessary need to being well and feeling happy. Knitting meets both criteria as the process of knitting creates something of value which gives it meaning and it is also a skill that you get better at the more you do it.  I, of course, already knew this through my personal experience of finding happiness through knitting.  But now I feel a positive mandate to buy yarn and knit and knit and knit!  Kidding aside there is a very sound reason to love being a knitter and not just because you'll have the coolest socks on the block.  It's what Aristotle might call part of living a good life.

Then again there's nothing wrong with an immediate shot of hedonistic pleasure either.  I would be deeply unhappy if I couldn't enjoy my morning cup of coffee. Currently I'm drinking a delicious brew that has hints of raisin and buttery caramel from Stumptown Coffee (Trapper Creek Decaf).  We all have our weaknesses.

Until next time be well love well and have fun knitting knowing that it's actually good for you.  I would also love to hear what simple hedonistic pleasures brings you happiness ~

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Peach Cobbler Recipe and a Boo Knits Shawl!

Peach cobber is an old fashioned taste of summer that is as good today as ever it was!  And with peaches in peak season this is the perfect time to try this dessert.  Rest assured that unlike some shortcakes and other fruit recipes that can be dried out, doughy or otherwise a disappointment a cobbler is a wonderfully moist dessert.  It has a light crust that is perfect for absorbing juice but retaining a bit of crunch too.  If you've never tried this old time summer classic you are in for a treat. 

Another tasty selling point (in case you aren't sold yet) is that a cobbler is a fast and easy dessert to prepare and guaranteed to be a hit with little fuss and none of the additional work of making a pie crust. Not that I'm against pies or making a pie crust.  It's just that making a pie crust can be tricky for those who don't regularly make them.  And there is an extra margin of work that goes into making a pie crust.  Happily peaches, simply put, work particularly well in a cobbler and it's easy.  So I hope you will try and enjoy this recipe.

Peach Cobbler Recipe


5 or 6 large fresh peaches sliced into thin wedges (or quantity needed to line a pie dish)
1 to 2 tbs. sugar (depending on how sweet your peaches are)
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp cornstarch
Dash or two nutmeg (to taste)

Biscuit Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup boiling water


1  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Toss peaches with sugar, almond extract, cornstarch, and nutmeg.

2. Pour peaches into a pie plate or similar sized baking dish and cook for 15 minutes (peaches should be good and hot and starting to cook through - you can even give them an extra minute or two).

3.  While peaches are baking, make topping.   Begin by stirring together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Blend in butter with pastry cutter, knifes or finger tips until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in boiling water until just combined (this will look like pancake batter).

4.  Remove peaches from oven and drop spoonfuls of biscuit topping over them (topping will spread as it bakes).  Baking for approximately 25 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

This is wonderful still warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Recipe adapted from this Epicurious Recipe.

A Boo Knits Shawl ~

It's bright alright and I've decided that's a good thing. This is my new Heaven Scent Shawlette and to be perfectly honest I would never have chosen this yarn colorway if left to my own devices.  But I happened to see Twisted Fiber Art had suffered losses from a fire and was selling a limited edition colorway in a fund-raising effort and I wanted to help out. It was only because the yarn was so fabulously soft and luscious that I was motivated to knit it at all.  And yet. Now that I have this summer shawlette I couldn't be more thrilled with it.  The colors are perfect for summer evenings and despite my reservations this colorway really works.  Somehow.  It just goes to show that sometimes you have to be open to whatever comes your way without prejudging.

This is a single skein of gradient colors that are so popular now with many new patterns being written to showcase their beauty.  But I chose to knit a classic design that is designed for a solid colorway with a yarn that has a lot more drape than mine had (all suggested yarns had a silk component).  So despite neither having a solid color yarn or a particularly good drape with my yarn I somehow knew this was the right pattern for me. Albeit I did creatively block it to better suit my yarn choice which I think is an important factor.  Because I've written about creatively blocking shawls before I won't repeat myself here. Suffice it to say that the edging of this shawl would look completely different if blocked according to the pattern design schematics.  But I think the soft rolling edge really suits this yarn.  Whether or not the designer would agree I do not know!

Particulars:  Heaven Scent (from the Close to You Collection) designed by the Boo Knits (a phenom designer and newbie blogger The Yarn Room); US 6 & 7 needles; 1 skein Twisted Fiber Art, Arial Evolution (light fingering / 100% merino), Phoenix (limited edition colorway), 480 yrds.  This shawlette was creatively blocked to suit the gradient yarn I used.  For more information on how to creatively block your shawls to best suit your personality and yarn choice see my post on the Lunna Voe Shawl. Incidentally, I should mention that while I call this a shawlette the yardage I used is very generous (480 yrds) and if I had blocked this differently I could have made it much larger. Oh, and I should also mention that I skipped adding beads as I thought my yarn was bling enough.

N.B. Yes, that's my Jordana Paige Bella knitting bag in the picture above.  Love it!

Until next time be well and love well and spend lots and lots of time outside enjoying these warm summer evenings and delicious fruit cobblers ~