19 December 2006

And she bakes too

In addition to the holiday knitting, this year I was inspired to bake.

I am a wicked good baker but I don't eat sweets. This makes me a calorie pusher/enabler which works out rather well for my food motivated friends and colleagues.

The not eating sugar thing can be a problem with new recipes or ones where I need to improvise but I can usually find a taster/tester and I've been baking long enough that I can usually tell whether something works or not.

A favourite no-brainer and crowd pleasing recipe is Welsh bread and the weekend weather was perfect for baking. The fruit was already soaking and I would have started on Saturday but for the lack of marmalade, mini-loaf pans and the motivation to go out in the rain to procure them.

There were two events scheduled for Sunday afternoon. That means that whatever good intentions I may have had, I attended neither. Lately that's been the norm, if I'm supposed to be or want to be at two places at the same time, I'm at neither or a third wholly unrelated place instead.

On this Sunday the wholly unrelated place was in search of baking and other supplies. By sundown everything was assembled.

Not one to do things by half, and since all three packages of flour were marked best by Dec 2006, I pulled out the big stainless steel bowls and set about the serious business of baking. By 7pm, I had 15 mini-loaves loaded into the oven and a dishwasher full of mixing bowls and measuring spoons.

This recipe doesn't require yeast, milk or brown sugar. The recipe is so vague and forgiving that I think of it as the theory rather than the recipe.

The basic theory is:

  • 1 lb of dried fruit
  • 1/2 c brewed black tea
  • 6 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 lb of self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp of orange marmalade
  • 1 well beaten egg
  • 1 tsp mixed (or pudding) spice

Combine the sugar, fruit and tea in a large bowl. Cover and allow to soak at least over night.

Add spice and marmalade to a well beaten egg. Fold the egg, marmalade & spice mixture into the fruit/tea/sugar mix. Slowly add flour.

Grease/line loaf pans and fill with dough. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven, place on rack to cool.

[Optional] brush each loaf with a small amount of unsalted butter during the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking.

[Optional] After cooling for about 15 minutes, drizzle honey over the loaves.

Making it your own -- or my notes.

Traditionally, the dried fruit would be currants and raisins and some use peel. I like to start with currents and raisins and then add cranberries, apricots, cherries, blueberries, apples and the like.

I usually use more tea.

I have never used a full 6 tbsp of sugar. My measure is more like half that.

I have been known to "up" the marmalade input significantly and I usually add a 2nd egg.

The mixed spice would always include nutmeg it might also include caraway seed, coriander, ginger, cloves, mace & cinnamon. Some people use a commercially prepared Mixed Spice blend.

I use a "to smell" blend of freshly ground nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger and orange peel
I know that I'm working toward a rather dense batter/dough that looks more like a yeast bread than a cake batter, so I adjust my dry and wet goods to achieve the consistency required.

10 December 2006

DNA done, retail therapy and a sense of warmth

One year past original target deadline, I'm pleased to report that the DNA scarves are blocking in the studio/stash room.

The yarn (Cleckheaton Country 8 ply) is machine washable but last night's late night laundering involved hand washing with lavender shampoo.

The neck ribbing might be a bit on the short side but I can always do a second "weighted" blocking to address that issue if it continues to worry me.

The current blocking effort has them measuring about 64 to 66 inches long and 8 inches wide in the seed/cable segment.

I've arguably a entire sweater's worth of the beige/khaki remaining (9 full 96m hanks and a partial). I've not decided its fate. With so much remaining, it may well find itself in the destash/swap column as it seems a shame to whittle/fritter it away on smaller projects.

Oddly, unless I've some undiscovered cache, I've only a couple of hanks of the denimy blue remaining. Its fate will depend upon whether more appears or not in the coming weeks.

The mohair moebius from last week yarn is from King Cole Luxury Mohair left over from the shawl I knit for my cousin Vera. The jewel tones of the Florence colourway remind me more of the colours of blooming heather than Italy. And while the jewel tones would not be unwelcomed by the intended recipient, the fact of the matter is that she prefers warm colours and she shall have them.

A shop the stash scan wasn't stunningly successful, yesterday, while some San Diego knitters were clicking away in Balboa Park at the San Diego Knit Together, I went to La Jolla for
stash enhancement and spending.

I had an inspiration piece (a long languishing design that still isn't quite working) along for the ride. Here's a shot of the warmth that resulted from colour consults at Knitting in La Jolla (thanks Kate & Suzanne) and impulse purchasing at Helga's.

The newcomers include some Colinette mohair in the Sahara colourway, Lang Thalja, Artful Yarns broadway, Debbie Bliss Pure Silk and a single skein of a glorious colour of Lang Venezia. In the weeks to come these will combine in some form or another with the stash's Araucania nature wool, Garn Studio Cotton Viscose, Lane Borgosesia Torreador and some mystery yarn. I'm hoping for something wonderful to bring just the right touch of warmth to a dreary Cleveland Winter.

My inspiration yarn was some Crystal Palace Merino Frappe but the pumpkin puree colour I'd previously purchased was not on offer and its nearest colour successor combined too much of the jewel tones to suit me.

Other things that insisted on coming home with me include the Rama buttons that will likely never be used as "functional" buttons and a few other surprises. More on the surprises at a later date.

While I was in La Jolla, I did stop in a number of shops in search of a few ready made garments to fill some gaps in the wardrobe.

The weight loss that disappeared last weekend when I couldn't get motivated to move is now reality so I'm over halfway toward my preferred weight. I want to reward myself for the achievement but I'm not keen on significant spending for interim sizing/fit.
So while I was tempted by a grey flannel skirt at Talbot's, my shopping excesses were confined to yarn.

Craft fair at the Whistlestop today, the weather's perfect for walkabout knitting and I may have finally wrapped my brain around the stitch pattern I want to use for another overdue highly portable knitting project. Those factors may find me in South Park shortly, unless I give in to the run other errands temptation.

I did some web page updates today with more to come as I add shops, correct business hours etc.

03 December 2006

Birthday blues or so far 50 not so nifty

This is earliest recorded photo of me. It was taken 50 years ago on 3 December 1956. I was two days old.

That ear now has two piercings but this is not one of my more awkward/awful photos.

Having made an early entrance into the world in an apparently misguided effort to avoid the dreaded Christmas birthday, I've really only myself to blame for bad birthdays.

Even when the birthdays suck, I'm really quite glad to still be sucking air thereby proving wrong the medicos who were convinced I'd not make it to ten.

For some strange reason, I was optimistic that this year's anniversary of my entrance into the world would rise further above the baseline of not totally sucking.

it wasn't one of the worst on record (16th & 21st immediately come to mind) but anytime I find myself crying that's not a good sign. I'm not a real waterworks or does emotions well sort of person. Besides, it's tough on the cat who only really wants to comfort me and just annoys me as a result.

I know that a meltdown over my inability to kitchener a garter stitch moebius has very little to do with the knitting.
I ended up cheating with a 3-needle bind-off after the third attempt just produced fuzzy mohair knots. Somehow I don't think the world will end as a result.

I'm about as tempted to take the bind-off out and try again as I am to add embellishment to the finished item.

Which is another way of saying, I got out the extra "jewelry"
and then took the title of my wounded mobile to heart, pencilling in that embellishment thing for that same day.

One of the pigs, the star and the moon from the mobile decided to fly away recently. They only made it as far as the kitchen table so I'll be restringing this with some fishing line soon.

So why was I crying? Intellectually I know it is a reaction to combination of the birthday curse and one too many recent losses when I'm geographically distant from the people I'm most emotionally connected to that derailed my usual ability to put a brave face and positive spin on almost any and every thing.

In another not too terrible photo and brave face, spin moment, 25 years ago, I cleaned up pretty well for my law school graduation snap.
Meanwhile, here's a nod to the ones that brung me -- aka my parents.

This charming photo was taken when they got married in the Spring/Summer of 1944. I'd make an effort to record the exact date but that would mean trying to find yet another thing in a weekend when the inability to put hand to items is way too emotionally loaded.

Whistlestop knitting is slated for this afternoon. The event now has a my space place in addition to being a calendar item on my web page and the bar's. Not sure whether I'll walk over or not. The deadline knitting is down to the DNA scarves which require actual attention to knitting, charts and not dragging them on the ground but I need the exercise and those hills are good for the journey back to me.