A challenge

It looks a bit like this out today (it’s colder and windier in person)…

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I think my knitting basket and I will enjoy these last couple of days of break together. I’m working on two sweaters and my January socks for the monthly sock challenge. Lots to keep me busy and warm.

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This upcoming semester is going to be a busy one. I’m the teaching assistant for two different courses, one I’ve never taught before, plus I’m taking the last course I need to fulfill the requirements for my degree. Add to that an important meeting where I have to present to my committee members what I’ve accomplished in the past year and the research plans for the year ahead. And, of course, actually getting some work done in the lab to hopefully get a manuscript or two out this summer.

It’ll be a full one that may not leave as much time for knitting as I’d like. But when all the craziness of working towards my Ph.D. gets to me, knitting helps keep me sane. At the very least, I’ll always have my commuting time to sneak some knitting time in everyday. And although work may keep me busy this semester, I still have lots planned for knitting. I’m joining Emily at Snapdragon Crafts in the Love Your Library challenge to use patterns I have collected over time instead of giving into the temptation to buy more (and more and more). I’ve picked out more than a few great patterns that will also use up lots of my stash yarn over the next few months.

 

 

2014: A year in knitting

From left to right: Prairie Spring socks, Belgravia in Summer, Business Casual socks

From top left: Pluie cardigan, November socks, Featherweight raglan
From bottom left: Courtyard beanie, Chevron Delight infinity scarf, Seaglass socks
This is just a handful of my favorite projects completed in the past year, because I find myself enamored of almost everything I made this year. (For a more complete list of all my projects this year, you can find more on my finished projects page.) This year saw 13 pairs of socks, 3 hats, 4 scarves, 10 sweaters/tops, and 1 wee baby sweater completed. Into 2015, I’m bring three projects on the needles. And I look forward to completing them and many more. 
And 2014 saw the beginning and growth of this blog, which I have loved building. It challenges me to grow and push myself in many aspects of my life, not just knitting. And it allows me to connect with all of you, who bring me happiness, companionship, and inspire me greatly. To all of you, I say thank you and wish you all a beautiful and bright 2015. Happy New Year!


Christmas gifts

Now that Christmas is past and everyone has received their goodies, I can share the finished items I made for gifts this year.

Project: Miss Cosmic Wonder
Pattern: Miss Winkle by Martina Behm
Yarn: MadTosh Merino Light in Cosmic Wonder
This was a gift for my sister, who is an artist at heart. I thought she would like the graffiti-like coloring of the MadTosh light (I know I love these splatter-dyed yarns). She lives in Austin, TX, so things don’t get too very cold for her. I though a squishy garter stitch scarf would be good for her – something she could get use out of when it’s cooler. And the loopy border makes the scarf interesting and funky, so it would make a nice accessory to wear to the office, as well.
Project: Song of the Sea scarf
Pattern: Song of the Sea by Louise Zass-Bangham
Yarn: Arucania Botany Lace in 2119
I had been saving this yarn for this specific scarf for awhile now, and it’s light enough that it works in warmer climates all year ’round, which is perfect for my grandma, who recently moved in with my parents in San Diego. She loved the infinity scarf I bought her last Christmas so much it was an easy decision to make one for her this year in a nice, bright turquoise. A simple something to keep out those cooler sea breezes while walking along the beach.
Project: Hitofude cardigan
Pattern: Hitofude cardigan by Hiroko Fukatsu
Yarn: Ice Yarns Arctic Merino
Figuring out knits for people in warm climates is hard – all the go-to items (hats, mittens, scarves) are definitely out (unless they go skiing a lot, which my family does not). So, for my mom, I decided to make the beautiful Hitofude cardigan because it is perfectly light and drapey. It was a bigger project than I originally wanted to tackle, but it actually knit up quite quickly (though at times, the skirt of the sweater felt like it was going on forever!). I was a little worried about the length of the sweater, so I followed this modified chart for the skirt, and I think it came out great! I definitely want one of these for myself, now. Maybe I’ll work one up this spring…
Now that the holidays are over I can get back to all my selfish knitting… until next year. 

The unexpected and unplanned

Today was one of those days where things don’t really go as you planned and it just tosses off the mojo of the whole day. I was planning to get a bit of work done from home and then kicking off the start of my holiday break in a fabulously lazy style. But the morning started when I woke up with a swollen eye thanks to a painful stye.  Then came a knock on the door and the announcement that the apartment was replacing all the windows in my unit. Starting right now.

I grabbed Rufus, stuck his leash on him, bundled up, and headed out into the freezing weather, not really knowing what to expect on how long this whole mess would take and kind of frustrated that a kink had already been thrown into that whole idea of a relaxing start to my holiday. (On a related note, I don’t really welcome passive aggressive comments about the state of cleanliness of my apartment from workers who show up unannounced at my door at 9:30am.)
Rufus enjoyed chasing sticks and rogue non-hibernating squirrels in the park for a bit before the freezing of my face could no longer be ignored and we sought shelter in the car. It was a very unproductive morning/early afternoon for me, but I’m sure the window installation crew feels differently. 
The day’s start put me in a weird funk and I couldn’t get back into the rhythm of things… even if it was just supposed to be the rhythm of vegging out on the sofa for a bit. But I did manage to get one thing accomplished today. I cast off and put on my December pair of socks for Liesl’s sock challenge.

They are just plain old vanilla socks, knit cuff-down in a skein of Turtlepurl Striped Turtle Toes that I picked up at this year’s Knitter’s Frolic. One of the best things about this yarn (besides great color combinations in pretty stripey colorways) is that it comes wound in two mini skeins so you can match the stripes on both socks – genius. Especially because with other self-stripping yarns, I am routinely too lazy to find the repeating color pattern and make sure my socks match as a proper sock should. So don’t tell my other poor stripey socks this is what they should look like if I were a diligent knitter – just let them believe they are unique (because they are!).
I’ve already cast on another pair of socks, too. I loved this pair over at Woollen Wilderness so very much that I can’t resist making a pair (or 5) for myself. 
Now to sleep, press reset, and try a less unexpected start to my break again tomorrow.

A few of my favorite things: Baking

Christmastime is one of my favorite times of the year, so I wanted to spend some time in these few remaining days before Christmas day arrives to share some of things I enjoy most about this time of the year.
One of the easiest ways to get me in a cheery mood is through my stomach, so we’re starting with yummy, delicious sweets, my precious. The holidays provide an excellent excuse for baking up a storm and then devouring it all with little guilt (until New Year’s arrives and reminds us just how naughty we have been).

Gingerbread cookies are one of my favorite things to bake during the holidays because (for reasons completely unknown to me) these treats aren’t really around any other time of the year. And it’s a crime because gingerbread is so delicious. And because they use molasses, something I never use in my other baking/cooking, they make me feel old-timey and very traditional, which I love about Christmas. I am always searching for great gingerbread cookie recipes. This year I tried one that produces chewier cookies, which was quite yummy, but I think it needed a bit more spices added to it.

When I’m not in the mood to chill and roll out dough, I go with these amazing ginger cookies. They are some of the most delicious ginger cookies I’ve ever had. I make them for gifts or bring them to the lab during the holidays and everyone raves about them.

I also love gingerbread with a warm, sticky toffee sauce. (I really like gingerbread, okay? It’s delicious, and I stuff my face with it as much as possible during the holidays.) This cake is one of those treats that is so delicious warm because the toffee sauce gets absorbed by the cake making a wonderfully sticky topping. It is just so comforting on cold nights.
When I’m not consuming large amounts of gingerbread, one of my other holiday favorites (and something else you can only seem to pull off during this time of the year) is peppermint ice cream. I use this recipe, which starts off with an amazingly delicious custard. If you don’t end up eating the custard right out of the sauce pan, it makes an excellent ice cream that never lasts long in my house.
I also really love making gigantic batches of peppermint bark. It’s easy to make and is a great gift (who doesn’t love chocolate and peppermint?).

I’m always looking for new recipes to try out during the holidays (I think this year I’m going to try some of these), so what are your favorite things to bake this time of year?

Courtyard beanie

Project: Courtyard beanie
Yarn: Cascade 220 in Charcoal and Turquoise
Pattern: Courtyard by Melissa Thompson
Sometimes I get so caught up in my bigger projects that I forget how satisfying and fun a quick knit can be. And how smaller projects are great for using up those partial skeins of yarn I insist upon hoarding. This hat is the epitome of a quick, satisfying knit. I started it Saturday night and finished it just before bed on Sunday (even though it meant pushing back bedtime an hour or so just because I wanted to wear the hat the next day).
When browsing patterns for hats on Ravelry, I started noticing a new (to me) trend in design: beautiful stitches traveling across a striped reverse stockinette background. And I loved it immediately. It is quite eye-catching and the result looks more complex than the pattern actually is. (Here are some of my other favorite hats with this design that I came across: Thermisto and Neon).
I ended up with Courtyard because I had worsted weight yarn I wanted to use up and I liked the shape. And it was great fun to knit (it would make a great last minute Christmas gift, if you don’t end up keeping it for yourself). My only modification to the pattern was to stick a pom pom on top, because it seemed like it needed one. And I’ve really wanted a pom pom hat for a while now, because I’m sort of a dork like that (I used this video tutorial for making the pompom).

Snow, snow, snow

When I woke up this morning, I peeked out the window, and this song immediately popped into my head. We had just a wee bit (sarcasm abounds) of snow overnight.And it’s just kept on snowing and snowing all day long.

So I took off from work early and headed to the market to pick up fixins for shepherd’s pie (those shepherds knew what was what because this stuff is perfect for snowy days) and gluhwein. I think it’s time to turn on White Christmas, snuggle with the fur baby, and settle in for the weekend (just a wee bit early, but what are massive amounts of snow for?).