Sheared Bliss

Everything Nice
November 25, 2009, 8:00 am
Filed under: Baking, Food | Tags: , , ,

A little while ago, Bezzie posted this recipe for ginger cookies on her blog and it sparked a fierce craving for ginger cookies.  I decided to bake them this week, then hit a roadblock when I realized that I was short on some ingredients and totally missing others (not sure how I imagined I was going to bake ginger cookies without any molasses . . . ).  However, going with Bezzie’s admonition to “Just Bake It!” I decided to forge ahead.  The following is what resulted.  They’re not exactly ginger cookies, but they’re quite good!

Sugar and Spice Cookies

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 of a nutmeg, grated
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups white flour

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cream butter and sugars together.  Add egg and agave nectar and mix until well combined.  Add the baking powder, salt, and spices and mix until well combined.  Add the flours and mix until well combined.

Roll the dough into balls – about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Roll each ball in some granulated sugar.  Place a few inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 13 minutes.  Let cool a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a cooling rack.

Halloween may be the gateway holiday, but there’s too much other sugar involved in it for it to really be a baking holiday.  In my mind, Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday baking season so these are my very first official holiday cookies of the year and the very first holiday baking in our new house.

It’s been an interesting and sometimes challenging year, but we have a lot to be thankful for.  A house we love (quirks and all), a good job for me and a growing business for CodeMonkey, and, most importantly, wonderful friends and family.  We’re on our way to spend the holiday weekend chez la famille CodeMoneky.  Happy Thanksgiving!


November 24, 2009, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Fiber Arts, Randomness | Tags: , , , ,

Over the past month I’ve been participating in a secret pal swap through Knitty and it’s been super fun.

Here’s the gist for those of you who’ve never heard of this: You’re paired with both an “upstream” and a “downstream” pal.  You send fun goodies to your downstream and your upstream does the same for you.  It’s awesome because you get the fun of cyber-stalking someone to figure out what sorts of things they would like and you can be as creative as you like in picking them out, packaging, and sending them.  Plus, you have someone doing the same for you so you get a box of awesomeness to open too.

Well, my box of awesomeness arrived yesterday and I’m thrilled.

  • Pretty Cheep Project Bag – super cute with a picture of a purple bird on it and useful because all of my other project bags are only half this size.
  • Amy’s Blend spiced rooibos tea from Caribou Coffee – very exciting as I’ve not tried rooibos yet.
  • Eucalan wool wash – I usually wash my woolly things in Dawn so I’m thrilled to have some fancy soap for my special things.
  • Lucy’s Chocolate Factory toffee crunch bar – Yum!
  • A skein of Wisdom Yarns’ Los Angeles sock yarn in brown, red, yellow, and blue – who doesn’t need more sock yarn, and such pretty colors!
  • Two skeins of Berroco Pure Merino in a beautiful dark teal – so soft!
  • One skein of a very bulky, natural colored wool yarn from Bartlett Yarns – this is the smooshiest yarn I’ve ever felt, it’s like hugging a sheep (without all of the wiggling and baa-ing and poop).

Thank you, thank you, thank you, oh secret pal of mine.  Now, my secret pal didn’t tell me her name, but I have a strong suspicion that it’s Christy.  Yoohoo, Christy!  Care to confirm or deny?

PS: If you’d like to see what I put together for my downstream, check out Lynn’s blog,  Froggy Knittery.

What’s Red and Green and White All Over?
November 24, 2009, 12:37 am
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , , , ,

Greek white pizza!

Preheat your oven as hot as it will go – mine pretends to go up to 500°, but I’ve never seen it hit anything past 475°.

Take your favorite pizza dough – store bought is fine, homemade is better – and make sure you give it time to come up to room temperature if it’s been refrigerated or frozen. This time I used Mollie Katzen’s recipe from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, but I think I prefer Heidi Swanson’s recipe from Cook 1.0. Spread the dough out to the desired shape and size on a pizza pan, cookie sheet, or pizza peel if you plan to cook directly on a pizza stone. You can brush the edge of the dough with olive oil if you want the crust to brown better.

Make a white (er, um, green) sauce. Sauté a tablespoon of minced onions and two cloves of minced garlic in some olive oil and butter until they’re soft and starting to brown a bit. Add some cream (about a 1/2 cup, maybe) and let it come to a boil. Add a few handfuls of frozen spinach and cook until it’s thawed and thoroughly integrated into the sauce. Add a handful or two of Parmesan or mozzarella cheese and cook until the sauce thickens a bit. Remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool some.

Spread the sauce over the pizza dough, almost to the edge. Sprinkle some chopped sun dried tomatoes over the sauce. Top with a generous layer of feta cheese.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the crust is cooked and the cheese is melted. Let it cool for a few minutes then slice and dig in. Mmm . . .

What I Did This Weekend:
November 23, 2009, 12:07 am
Filed under: Family & Friends, History, Home, Museum, Randomness | Tags: , , ,

(with lots of help from CodeMonkey and MommaCodeMonkey)

  • Helped PioneerJ teach a class on basket weaving
  • Ransacked the costume closet at the museum
  • Bought curtain fabric
  • Sealed up the giant heat sucking tube of frigidness (i.e. the swamp cooler) so we can at least pretend that we’re not heating the outdoors
  • Hung one pair of curtains
  • Hung one set of vertical blinds
  • Cat-proofed my office
  • Changed the direction of the doors on the refrigerator (now they open in the kitchen instead of in the dining room)

What I did not do this weekend:

  • Bake
  • Go to spinning group
  • Work on any of my sewing projects
  • Knit anything

What made me happy this weekend:

I found a couple of things that just make my little dorky heart jump for joy.

More on these later, I think.

Orange You Glad
November 15, 2009, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Baking, Food, Home | Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been a snowy weekend here – just right for getting things done around the house.  CodeMonkey re-caulked the downstairs bathtub and put up mini-blinds in my office.  This means that we only have one set of blinds left to put up in the whole house then we can move on to curtains!  I cleaned (the kitchen and bathroom are so sparkly now!), did laundry, and cooked.  There was black bean soup and cornbread for dinner then, because the snow had me craving a little sunshine, I improvised a cake.

Orange You Glad Cake

  • 2 oranges
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter – melted
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease and flour a loaf pan.

Zest both oranges then cut them in half and juice them.  You should get about 3/4 cup of juice.

In one bowl, combine the dry ingredients – flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt – and whisk to combine.

In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the orange juice, the cream, and the vanilla extract and stir to combine.

In a third bowl (the work bowl of your stand mixer if you have one) combine the orange zest, 1 cup of the sugar, and the butter and cream together until well combined.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined.  Add a third of the dry ingredient mixture and beat to combine.  Add half of the cream mixture and beat to combine.  Add anther third of the dry ingredients and beat to combine.  Add the rest of the cream mixture and beat to combine.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat to combine.  Beat until light and fluffy.

Scrap the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

After you remove the cake from the oven, use a skewer to poke it full of holes.  Put the last 1/2 cup of orange juice and 1/4 cup of sugar in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and boil for about 3 minutes.  Pour the hot orange syrup over the cake (slowly so it soaks in instead of running over).  Eat immediately or let cool, cover, and keep in the refrigerator.  Tastes like sunshine.

Yes, there is a piece missing.  What?  It was yummy.

FO Friday
November 13, 2009, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Fiber Arts, FO Friday, Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It’s been a heck of a week.  It started with plumbing problems (Yes, again.  No, I don’t want to talk about it.) and ended with being interviewed by the police about an incident at work and there was a whole bunch of other unpleasant stuff that happened in the middle.  Let’s look at a nice, soothing finished knitting project, shall we?

Pattern: Evangeline

Yarn: Vanna’s Choice in Purple

Notes: I followed the pattern exactly and didn’t make any modifications so nothing really exciting to say.  This is the second time I’ve knit this pattern and I like it a lot.  It’s well written, clear, and easy to follow.  Plus it makes a spiffy little pair of mitts with a sweet cable pattern.  The first pair I knit was for myself from Patons Classic Wool in Peacock.  I knit them about a year ago and I wear them at work when my hands get cold.  CoworkerM saw them and loved them so much that she just had to have a pair.  She has a rather unfortunate wool allergy (itching, swelling, hives, the works), hence the Vanna’s Choice (which isn’t terrible for an acrylic).  A quick, satisfying knit overall.  I should make myself a pair to wear at home sometime.

Method Monday

New knitting method that is! Yeah, if you’re not a knitter, prepare to be bored.  You may in fact want to stop reading right now. This post is all knitting, all the time, and fairly technical knitting with no pretty pictures. You’ve been warned.

So I’m normally a long tail cast on kind of girl. It’s what I was taught when I was first learning to knit and it’s what I still tend to do out of habit unless a pattern specifically calls for a different cast on. Now that doesn’t mean I think it’s the best or the nicest cast on. In fact I don’t really like how tight it can be (I’m a fairly tight knitter and have very tight cast ons and cast offs), but I haven’t really thought about it much or done anything about it.

Ok, rewind a month or so. I was getting ready to knit a pattern from a book. The book was a library book so I had copied the specific pattern I wanted then returned the book (yes, I know I’m going to copyright infringement hell, don’t judge). Unfortunately when I went to start the pattern, the very first instruction was “Using double loop cast on, cast on 169 stitches.” Umm . . . double who what? Much internet searching turned up nothing. Apparently no one else had ever heard of this cast on either. So I put myself back on the wait list for the book at the library, wait wait wait, and finally get the book again. I looked up the mysterious cast on in the index of techniques and had a bit of an epiphany.

The double loop cast on is like doing a backward loop cast on with a double strand of yarn. Instead of using a slipknot to secure the yarn to the needle you give yourself a long tail then use a larks head knot to secure the yarn to the needle. Then, holding long tail and the working yarn together, you proceed as if doing the backward loop cast on.  When you’re done casting on, you drop what’s left of the long tail and begin knitting with the working yarn only, knitting each double cast on loop as a single stitch.  It results in a very bulky, somewhat stretchy cast on edge that feels sturdier than a regular backward loop cast on.

So I figure out the mysterious cast on, fiddle around with the pattern a little more, and finally decide I’m not going to knit the darn thing anyway.

Fast forward to this weekend. I’ve been trying to get started on a project (yes, another gift so no pictures) and having the worst time with it. I did a quasi swatch (i.e. cast on some stitches on the needles I planned to use, knit a few rows, measured, and figured it was close enough). I cast on and started knitting, but it just wasn’t looking right. When I was several rows in I measured and it definitely was not the size it was supposed to be. Not surprising considering my stellar swatching skills. So I stopped and knit a proper swatch. My row gauge was a tad off, but my stitch gauge was dead on. What was wrong with the measurements on the actual project? I kept looking at it and tugging at it (when in doubt, yank on it, you might stretch it out enough to get gauge). Finally it dawned on me – the cast on edge was so tight that it was pulling everything in and throwing the gauge off even several rows up. Hmm . . . What I needed was a cast on that was wide, loose, and stretchy. Ah-ha! I started over with the double loop cast on and, voila, perfect gauge!

So yeah, pretty excited about my newfound cast on. I needed to tell someone and CodeMonkey kind of glazes over when I talk about knitting and the cat pretty much ignores me unless I’m holding a kitty treat. Am I the only one who didn’t know about this technique or is it really as underutilized as the lack of internet references seems to indicate? Pardon me while I go gloat over my perfect gauge some more.