Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm Sorry Ma'am, But I'm Going To Have To Confiscate That

My mom is a nut.

She called me yesterday from the airport. "I made it!" She proclaimed. "I'm at my gate!" She was getting ready to get on a plane to California, to visit my bro and sis for Thanksgiving. (It's hard for me to believe that a year ago I was frantically sewing this for our trip out there.)

So we had a little chat about her trip to the airport and then she started chuckling. My mom has the best deep laugh that reminds me of my farmer grandpa. "Heh heh giggle...guess what they confiscated from my bag..."

"Your knitting needles!" Was my lightning quick response.

"Nope." More muffled chuckling.

"Your expensive eye cream?" I'm wracking my brain.

"Nope." Giggle. Snort.

"It must have been some kind of cream or lotion?"


I can't stand the suspense. Really. My mom doesn't carry weapons, gadgets, or explosives.

"I have no idea!"

More giggles, I could hardly understand her the first time she said it.

"My pumpkin."

"What do you mean--your pumpkin?"

"My pumpkin! You know! For the PIE!"

O.M.G. Like they don't have pumpkins in California. My mom, in charge of the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, decided that she needed to take a tupperware of home cooked pumpkin puree on her flight from Indiana to California. In her carry-on.

"Mom, I have a feeling those screeners just don't see home-made pumpkin puree everyday. In fact, you may be the only crazy-pumpkin-pie-puree toting lady they see all year!"

"Well, he was really apologetic when he took it. And I told him--he could take it home and cook it up and it would be really good!"

So, I'm sad to miss out on all the California escapades this year. My brother really knows how to throw a great Thanksgiving. It is always entertaining and sometimes an emergency room is even involved.

And, Mom, I hope, in four days, you can find a pumpkin to cook in California.

Back here in Illinois I am going to be the Pie Lady (it's in the genes) for Dave's family gathering. There will be 7 adults and 5 kids, so I'm currently thinking quantity: 4 pies, but that could change, depending on the adrenaline rush on Wednesday. I'm planning on: Pumpkin, Banana Cream, Chocolate Pecan, and Sawdust. The Sawdust is from this cookbook and I've had it at the restaurant (near Paducah) and it is amazing!

The pumpkin pie is my grandma's recipe. I love it because it is really custardy and not spicy. I'm not a big nutmeg-clove-ginger fan. This pie turns out a lovely orange pumpkin color and not all dark brown and scary like the kind you buy. I believe that home cooked pumpkin makes a big difference and it is not hard to do. Just buy a pie pumpkin, cut it into chunks or slices (they don't have to be too small--the size of your hand is ok) and simmer/steam them in a saucepan for 1/2 hour or so, until the pumpkin is soft and you can scrape it from the peel.

You can do it ahead and freeze it. Just please, don't try to take it on the plane with you.
Grandma Parson's Pumpkin Pie.

1 1/2 c. pumpkin
1 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg (I grate fresh and don't use as much)
1/2 t. ginger (I guess I omit this entirely--your mileage may vary)
1 c. evaporated milk
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 T. soft butter

Beat together all ingredients. Put in unbaked crust. Bake 45 minutes in 9" pan. 350-400 degrees. (Grandma was sometimes kind of vague.)

The Piecrust. I should really devote an entire post just to the piecrust to do it justice. (Last year Carole did an awesome piecrust tutorial--with pictures!-so check that out.) My mom taught me how to make the piecrust and she really rocks in the pie department. Her secret is the lard. I know it looks like a scary four letter word, but Rick uses it and promises it isn't so scary, so if you don't want to take my word for it, there, I just gave you a second opinion.

Mom's Piecrust

(This makes one single piecrust but I have found it to be a little skimpy and like to double it--even for a single crust pie, because then the crust is a little thicker and you can also have the leftovers to make the cookies--see below).

1 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. lard
3-4 T cold water (ice cubes in it)

Mix flour and salt. Measure lard and put in freezer (I just keep mine frozen anyway, since I rarely use it). So I just measure mine out and it's already really cold. Cube up the lard and cover with flour mixture. Toss so cubes don't stick together. Use pastry cutter to blend it together so the dough comes together with the least amount of handling possible (honestly, I don't have a pastry cutter and I use my hands--but I have practice doing this so I don't blend it too much--that's what makes it flaky). Add the water 1T at a time and stop when all the flour and water is incorporated--you don't have to use the full 4T. Form ball. Place on lightly floured surface and flatten with hands and then roll out, about 1/4" thick.

I fold mine in half to pick it up off the counter and lay it in the pan, then unfold it. Cut the excess off and use to build up a thicker edge if you want (glue it on with a little water) or you can sprinkle the extra pieces with cinnamon and sugar and bake them as cookies (yum!).

Knitting update: 4 more stockings for the advent calendar.

Put them with their siblings and that gives me a total of 10, and I think I've made a few more since I took that photo, so let's say 13 done.

11 to go, 6 days, totally do-able.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Deadline Knitting

Good morning friends! I want to thank you for such sweet comments on my February Lady. I really appreciate it when you comment! Thank you!

Ok, on to today's subject. I didn't want to be the first to bring up the subject of Christmas Knitting, but I've seen it mentioned a few times around the blogs and then I was in Trader Joes yesterday and I saw these, so I know for sure that Christmas will be here before we know it.

Every year I have high aspirations that this will be the year I make all those wonderful things to decorate my house and make it so cozy and Christmasy. One thing I have always wanted is a homemade advent calendar. I have purchased the little calendars with chocolates in the past but I want something really special. You know, like a family heirloom. No pressure.

But this year the stars aligned. NOT ONLY did I see the hat and mitten garland in the Garnet Hill catalog (photo above) and the free pattern from Classic Elite for the mini stockings within the same week and put 2 and 2 together. BUT ALSO, this light bulb moment happened during the last week in October, not December 20th. Making it all possible!

I figure, if I knit one stocking per day (each one takes about an hour, so no sweat) during the month of November, then I will be all ready for the unveiling on December 1st.

Current status: the date is November 12th, and I have 6.5 done. So I'm a little behind. But no worries, I can catch up. As you might have guessed, I am using Sophie's Toes Sock Yarn scraps. Each one takes only 6gms of yarn (I would estimate that is about 20 yards). If you are a sock knitter-you could probably find a couple of stocking's worth buried in your sofa cushions!

They are really fun to knit, and just so stinkin cute that I think I spend as much time spreading them out and admiring them......putting them all in a row and playing with the color combinations...switching them around and petting them I do knitting them!

And I have to keep my eye on them because the kids keep running off with them. I think they might fit an American Girl doll, but it's just a strange feeling.

Speaking of deadline knitting, I have a gift to give early (at Thanksgiving) and I need to knit a repeat a day in order to get it blocked and done. Recognize the pattern? It's an oldie but goodie.

A sock a day. A repeat a day. Oh, I'm going to be so disciplined.
Ok, speaking of Christmas I have one more thing. I found this book at LYS last weekend and if you have any little ones to buy for, it is completely adorable.

I just love to find books with quilting or knitting in them. This one is all about the knitting. The mommy kitty knits gifts for each of the kittens (three of them! I am a total sucker for any book where there are three animal children and I can name one for each of mine) and the kittens end up giving them away to keep the snowman warm. But she has a suprise for them in the end. So sweet!

February in November

Hello! Reporting in with a finished sweater!

The history of my February Lady:

I started in June, right after I saw the pattern via Ravelry and dug through my stash like a crazy woman to see what I could use. I had 10 balls of Debbie Bliss Merino Aran that had aged quite nicely and the color was a great choice for the sweater.

The knitting took me less than 2 weeks, mainly because I was racing to see if I would run out of yarn, and, of course, I did. I thought finding more yarn would be hopeless, since the yarn had been in my stash for a few years, so I weighed options like shortening the body or the sleeves. Then on the off chance that I could find more yarn I browsed stash yarn in Ravelry and found that it was a pretty common color.

Then I found a yarn store several states away that still had it. Whoo hoo! When I got it (2 more balls) I discovered that it was even the same dyelot! Double whoo hoo!

So I finished the sweater with the sleeves and body just the right length and found great buttons but when I tried it on it just wasn't the total love fest that I imagined it would be. It sat the rest of the summer in the corner and had a little time-out.

I kept trying it on and trying to pinpoint what I didn't like about the sweater and I decided that it was the neckline. It was too wide on me and looked stretched out and (floppy? wimpy? I can’t really think of how to describe it) unflattering. Not to mention that the cast on edge--the neck edge--already looked worn from just the trying-on sessions.

I had the idea to crochet a scallop around the neckline, hoping it might draw the neck in and make the cast on edge a little more substantial. I wasn't completely sure if the scallop would go with the style of the sweater, but since it is pretty girlie, I thought it would.

But I had very little yarn left:

And I am very new to crochet and I didn't want to mess it up. I didn't want to crochet part of it and run out of yarn or worse, have it look terrible and then have the edge even more worn after I had to rip it out.

A few months later, I was determined to "make it work". Armed with an hour of complete peace and quiet and strong coffee, I grabbed a beginner crochet book, my hook, my meager yarn leftovers, and I practiced on the back of the neck, figuring out the spacing I would need. Above is a photo of the neck halfway through.

I stopped and ripped about 3 times, trying it on after almost every few scallops to see if it was lying flat. As you can see below, it doesn't look fabulous when it isn't being worn:

But when I am wearing it the scallops spread out a little and lie flat. Just right. Adding the crochet really tightened up the neckline so it isn't so wide and made it much more flattering on me. And I like the feminine touch it added to all that garter stitch on the yoke.

In the end, just a little tweaking took a sweater that I felt meh about to a sweater that I now LOVE.
Pattern: February Lady Sweater by Pamela Wynne
Yarn:Debbie Bliss Merino Aran Color 325701 (what I would call "cadet blue") 12 balls.
Mods: Added crochet scallop around neck.
Notes: I LOVE THIS SWEATER! Many exclamation points!!!!
A few more photos over on Ravelry.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day!!!!!!

GRATEFUL: that the lines in my precint weren't long so I could take the kids early, before school, and that the polling place workers were so enthusiastic and nice to them.

PRAYING FOR: all the areas where the above isn't the case.

PROUD: to be part of a great moment in history.

HIGHLY CAFFEINATED: Did you know you can get a free cup of Starbucks coffee today after you vote? Not only that, how about some ice cream?

(You might just need that coffee and sugar to make it through this potentially long night of tv coverage. Hope you have some good knitting too! I'll be back tomorrow with some knitting--maybe a lot--if we have to go into the wee hours. xoxo)