Thursday, June 30, 2011

This Summer's Knitting: Felted Pothholders

After knitting a hat for Adam for Valentine's Day, I remembered how much I enjoy having a portable project.  I can't read in the car, but I am able to knit without nausea.  I can knit and visit at the same time.  I have the chance to be moderately creative without using my full attention--a good thing, as I feel a bit scattered these days!  :-)

I really want to start knitting socks, but that will NOT be mindless, so for now I'm back to potholders.  Three summers ago I felted an entrelac (diamond patterned) potholder.  Over our Smoky Mountain vacation, I finished a matching one, using most of the remaining yarn.

Felting always seems a bit like magic.  Knit something big and floppy with 100% wool (not superwash),
soak it in hot water with a little bit of detergent,
and agitate with a pair of jeans
until it shrinks and thickens.
Rinse in cool water, roll in a towel, and lay flat to dry.  Voila!

To make the best use of water, I felted four items today.  Below is an eraser for our dry erase board:

This potholder is made with two separate yarns.  (The blue above is one yarn with long strands of each shade.)  It's a different brand (and maybe animal--can't find the label right now), and took FOREVER to shrink!  I had to keep resetting the washer so it would agitate rather than drain.
I didn't much like this piece while it was a work in progress, but it turned out very well.  The squareness of it pleases me, too.

Squareness?  Huh?  Well, during the felting process, I can check the progress of each piece, pulling and stretching to help shape my item.  The entrelac potholders are pretty easy to keep square, I think because of the stitch directions and shapes.  The log cabin style potholder below (inspired by Mason-Dixon Knitting) has blocks of color knit perpendicular to each other, and didn't shrink evenly.
It took a lot of intervention (some hand felting, lots of pulling and stretching) just to create what you see below.
It doesn't look awful in a photo, but in real life it's less satisfying.  I had planned to gift it, but now I'm not sure it's nice enough.  Worst case, I have a new mostly cute potholder for myself.  Not so bad . . .
And here's one more photo, to give you a better perspective on the shrinkage these pieces undergo.  I know I showed everything next to rulers, but I think it's more impressive to see how much floor tile this fills up before and after felting.

I've got lots of wool left, so there are quite a few potholders in my future!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In the Kitchen

I subscribe to an email newsletter called "Notes from the Test Kitchen."  A full online subscription to Cook's Illustrated (I have) or Cook's Country (I don't) costs money, but the complimentary newsletter links to a few freebies, which is where I found these new recipes to try.

I have a great recipe for summer blueberry pie, but the glaze doesn't do a good job of keeping sliced strawberries together.  I think cutting the berries releases something that breaks down the cornstarch mixture. 

The Cook's Country recipe uses frozen strawberries cooked down, sweetened, and held together with plain gelatin.  Fascinating!
The pie starts with 2# of frozen berries in the skillet--nothing else--which get cooked down to a mere 2 cups:
This dessert was tasty, BUT . . . there was too much glaze with not enough fresh, sliced berries.  Next time (yes, it was good enough for a next time) I will try making a 2/3 batch of glaze (1 1/3# strawberries, 2 tsp gelatin, etc.--not sure about the sugar) while increasing the fresh berries.  The 1# made about 3 cups sliced, so I think I'll try using 4 cups.  These notes probably only make sense if you have click on the linked recipe.
I didn't make the cream cheese whipped topping, but it does sound scrumptious!

Just last week the newsletter linked to a recipe for Summer Succotash Salad, and I amazingly had all the ingredients in the house.  Fresh corn and green beans--I'd just been to the store.  Red onion--
only in stock because I'd recently enjoyed it in salad at my aunt and uncle's house.  Fresh basil--this year's crop is starting to prosper.

Len likes lima beans, so I keep some in the freezer, although that doesn't often translate into actually cooking them.  ;-)  I made the salad, and it was tasty BUT . . . I would not add the honey (more tartness needed), and would increase the basil.
I followed the recipe except for the order of cooking the vegetables.  I'm sorry, but frozen lima beans take more than 5 minutes to get tender!  I cooked the limas for 4 minutes, added the green beans and boiled 1 minute, then added the corn and cooked an additional 3 minutes.  The textures were just right.

I don't usually add salt to cooking water, but it really did seem to improve the starting flavor of the veggies.  I like a salad with a bit more zing, so I would definitely omit the honey, and maybe increase the lemon or throw in some vinegar.

And I'll probably only make it for a potluck or grown up meal, since most of my children won't eat lima beans at all.  Maybe with repeated exposure they'll come around . . .
And, finally, a picture of David's birthday cake.  It's nothing new (the hazelnut again), but it's what was cooking this past week.  The decorations are made with the same chocolate ganache used in the filling.  It's too soft to hold ridges for shells, but a round tip made attractive beads on the borders.  The sabre on top (David enjoys fencing) became a flaming sword when surrounded with birthday candles.

Dave requested a larger than usual batch (10" diameter and 6" or more tall) so that leftovers (from the family celebration) would be available to serve at his teenager-bonfire-get together on Monday.  We had just enough left to serve the 16 or so kids who came (many drove 2 hours and slept here overnight) to enjoy summertime and friendships.  I enjoyed being around such a nice group of teens, too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Picture Perfect Present

When I saw this camera lens mug online (stumbled onto it from someone's cooking blog . . .), I knew Lauren had to have it.  I ordered and had it shipped to her as an Easter gift.  The package took more than a month to arrive, making me nervous that she'd leave Greece before receiving her present, but it arrived in the nick of time.
Isn't it amazing?  (BTW, these aren't my photos.)  The mug looks exactly like a real Canon lens.  Below:  one mug and one lens.
You know that joyful feeling of finding just the right special something for someone you love?  This hit the spot.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Knees and Toes

These photos are a few days old.  The tadpoles' little legs are more prominent every day.  Sniff!  They grow up so fast  . . .  ;~)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hanging Out With the Tadpoles

In the afternoon, many of the tadpoles gather in the shallow end of their habitat.  Sometimes (as below) they are only partially submerged. 
Here they are swimming up to the crowd and jostling for position.
We're finally using this fantastic habitat that Adam's mom gave us years ago.
If you look closely below, you should be able to see dark eyes on the side of some tadpole heads.  Dimples on top are nostrils.  Note, too, the tiny beginning of back legs.
We experienced an unfortunate die-off this week.  Even though we were changing out 1/2-2/3 of the water every day, I think waste built up to a toxic level.  The habitat smelled like a stagnant pond by the time Marianna and I took note of the dead bodies littering the pebbles on the bottom of the tank.  They blended right in.
We journeyed to the creek to clean house.  The girls helped me scoop every tadpole into a bowl of fresh creek water.  Then I dumped the bad water, pebbles, dead bodies, etc., and gave the habitat a good rinsing.  Back home we settled them in with the boring clear plastic floor.  Now it's easy to monitor any build up of waste or dead bodies (hopefully not!).

I'm supervising a 90% water change each morning now.  We swirl before scooping to stir up leftover food (they eat goldfish flakes at this stage) and tadpole waste, ensuring that we're ablet to get most of it out of the tank.  We then add our pitchers of precious creek water and spend more time watching the little critters shimmy and jostle and lounge and nibble. 

I would not have suspected that I'd enjoy the tadpoles so much.  Then again, I often comment about my sometimes simple enthusiasms with, "Homeschooler--easily amused!"  That's totally me.   :- )  If you doubt it, just review my caterpillar excitement.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Come to the Table

The latest recipes on my cooking blog are
and pork lo mein.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Some recent happenings

 Princess Brooke serving Prince Daniel at their Engagement Tea.

Len removed a sickly tadpole from the group and commenced viewing under the stereoscope (20X and 40X).
We were able to see its eye, the passing of gas and waste, and blood circulating around its tail.  Cool!
What began as the after-dessert discovery of dinner's sliced watermelon quickly morphed into an eating contest, complete with laughter and dripping chins.

The entire family is fascinated by the tadpoles.
Yeah, I think we'll keep the lid on their habitat . . .

Joseph's scout troop held a Court of Honor this week, and we all managed to attend the ceremony and potluck dinner.  Joe earned several merit badges and his Star rank.  He's really enjoying this group of young men and is looking forward to a high-adventure trip to Alaska this summer.