New Year 2017

Happy New year sweet friends! I was is bed last night at 8 pm and feeling very old.  We all felt rotten for not seeing in the New Year with family and friends as we had planned but we are jet lagged after returning home from the UK on the 30th.  So this morning I woke up feeling hung over without any of the celebration to warrant it! I’ve decided not to make resolutions in the traditional sense… I seldom do but when I do they just stress me out. Instead I have a manifesto. Just for fun and hopefully to focus myself on getting stuff done:

A Knitter’s Manifesto!

Knitter's Manifesto 2017

In no particular order (and with every intention of changing the pattern and or yarn involved if I wish to) my manifesto is full of patterns I already have yarn for.  This year I intend to work down my stash… no new yarn. Sadly this meant giving up my Space Cadet Club membership which was a bit of a tough decision to make because I so enjoy getting the surprise!

1. Silk-Cotton Jacket.. I’ve already gone off this pattern since choosing it a few days ago soooo… you know… knitter’s prerogative right?

2. Magic Treetop Tote as a project bag and just because its so dang delicious.

3. Summer’s Linen Emerald

4. Hey Teach!

5. Fairy Castles (my needles are an utter mess)

6. My Seashore– I’ve already cast this one on. It is a delightful pattern!

7. Loose Ends multi-layer Use up Spare Yarn Cowl

8. Hitofude… I’ve been thinking about this one for a long time.

9. Gnome Homes– again messy needles seeking a good home.

10. This one is a toss up between either Winter Moss or Lusekofte both are daunting as it would be my first color work attempt.

11. Beekeeping all year.

12. Again another toss up between Owls or Eased Bulky. I want both but only have yarn for one… decisions decisions.

13. Moonkoosas . I was gifted a gorgeous pair this winter and intend to knit a pair for my girls however they are all clamoring for Hopsalots now so we shall see what comes when I get to them.

14. Pumpkins… just because they are gorgeous!

Happy 2017!

xx Joanna

J’s Cardi F.O.- Yarn Along

J's pumpkin Cardi

J.’s Pumpkin Cardi was FAST- for me at least. One week!  I have never in my life knitted any item of clothing in a week.  J’s Cardi was based on Katrina Ballerina and is knit in one piece which I lengthened into another LCOEP and I changed the bottom pattern a little because I didn’t like the chunky looking bottom edging.  I used Berroco Vintage which for me was a bit of a gamble: acrylic yarn &possible squeakiness.  **Shudder**  Fortunately it was fine and as I said really really fast.

However I had a full two months before I could give it to J for her birthday, and I had grand plans for the dress I  wanted to make her to go with it so I procrastinated on finding buttons for it and I just hung it in the closet to wait for the right time.  It did finally get it’s moment in the light: she loves it and it looks sooo cute with her classy little Autumn Jersey Dress.

J's pumpkin Cardi and Autumn dress.

J’s pumpkin Cardi and Autumn dress.

I have been re-reading Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  Previously when I read this book it was as a mother of young children living in a village community with easily accessible and kindly woodlands and moors that my children were able to have some measure of freedom to explore.  Meanwhile they had friends who were never allowed to play outside a yard and then were never allowed to get dirty even in the yard: so they played video games and watched TV of course.  Now my kids are older our surroundings have changed as have their needs… I was hoping the second reading would be as inspirational to my as the first time but sadly it has just felt rambly and a desperately narrow-minded.  Part of the problem is mine: I have been learning more about food insecurity in America for a future home-school subject and when you know more about hunger in food deserts it makes “nature deficiency” sound like a first world problem.

I’m joining up with Ginny for a Yarn Along.

xx

Jo

Happy Birthday to Me… Almost: Yarn Along

My MeritanceStill… Going… On… And…. On… And…. On…  I had intended to have it done by my birthday this weekend but… uhhhh, no.  Not happening.

It is partly my fault, or rather: it is all my fault.  I decided to lengthen my Meritance from the sensible hip length cardi it is patterned as into a Long-Cardigan-of-Epic-Proportions (LCOEP).  This thing reaches almost my knees. At 5’9″ that is no mean feat.  Naturally I got bored half way through and finished two other knitted projects I have yet to share.  Then on top of all that 99% of my day is spent multi tasking.  That makes making real daily progress on a LCOEP difficult.  But now I am about 10 cast off stitches and some finishing away from it still being too hot to wear till winter!

I am currently reading Al Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.  It is a fabulous book intended for younger children perhaps 3-5th grade but J. and I are using this semester as a platform for creative writing and critical thinking in her 7th grade home-school lessons.  As reading material it is far too young for J. but the quality of the writing makes it great for a learning spring board.  So after a trip to Alcatraz (which we frequently call Azkaban my mistake) we have started our school year with a bang!

Linking up with Ginny today for a Yarn Along.

xx Jo

Meritence- Yarn Along

IMG_7507I did decide to cast on Meritence for myself, but I am probably going to have to start the other project before I get too far done with My Meritence.  Oh my Giddy Aunt is this pattern a headache!  Its all correct and it works just fine but the way it’s written requires so much mental gymnastics I dread picking it up and figuring out where I’m at!  I’m sure it will all get easier once I’m past the armpits and onto the looong stockinette section.

I have just finished reading  The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice.  For years I have been avoiding Jane Austen spin offs after an unfortunate run in with Pride, Prejudice and Zombies (followed by a sad encounter with Death Comes to Pemberly) but I actually really enjoyed The Forgotten Sister!  It is a first person narrative but set against the back drop of Pride and Prejudice it feels much broader because you already know what was happening the room next door!  I actually didn’t believe the love story but the rest of it was magnificent!

I’m linking up with Ginny for a Yarn Along.

xx Joanna

The Knitter’s Dilemma- Yarn Along

I am nearly done with my Margaret Dashwood Shawl.  It is going to be delicious.  But now I am planning my next project and I am stuck between two:

Knit Picks, Gloss Fingering in Hawk @ Sweet Little Wood1: I was firmly determined to make Meritance for me from Knit Picks Gloss Fingering in Hawk.  Its just my cardigan.  I wear this style ALL THE TIME but I have never tried to knit an every-day-wear for myself.  All my knits are special wear or specific outfit knits.  For the every day stuff I always go buy cheap cardigans from Target wear them out and throw/donate them when they get too far gone for me.  But…

Berroco Vintage in Curry @ Sweet Little Wood2: I went to Chico and there I found the perfect yarn for a Heliopath Vest which I want to make for a gift. The yarn store (Heartstrings) was delicious! One of the best stocked that I’ve seen since moving to CA and it was really really hard to decide not to buy random stash yarn!  There was Sweet Georgia which I’ve never come across before but was so temptingly yummy.  Sadly it was faaaaaarrrrrrrrr outside my price range! Instead I got Borrocco Vintage in Caramel: it is mostly acrylic which I usually avoid… squeaky yarn… SHUDDER.  It feels very nice though- not squeaky- and it is for a younger girl and summer wear so washing frequently will be an issue.

So now I’m stuck in that delicious dilemma.  I have patterns, needles and yarn for both… which to cast on… hmmm.

I am reading very little at the moment that isn’t quick and done in less than 5 minutes. I’ve been busy and traveling but I have still got Sylvia’s Farm on the back burner and a library copy of Folks This Ain’t Normal in my waiting list.  I’m linking up with Ginny today.

Have a wonderful downward slide to the weekend!

xx Joanna

The Monday Project: 2 Hour Homemade Bread

It has been awhile since I’ve shared a Monday Project so I thought I’d make this a good one!Easy 2 Hour Bread

I make our own bread.

We eat bread almost daily: sometimes two loaves a day.  In total I usually make about 30 loaves a month using about 70 lbs of flour and I can guarantee you if this were a difficult thing to do I would not be doing it!!  I only buy two loaves of bread from the super market each month and I put them in the freezer for those days when we need bread to eat but I need the extra time more.

Home made bread is much cheaper: even buying the local organic flour from our Co-op I save a lot of money on bread.  Home made bread is so delicious even the artisan stuff doesn’t compare to a hot loaf fresh out of the oven.  You can make an organic real food loaf for less than half the price of the shop bought stuff with none of the hidden ingredients. If you find a recipe that works for you its easy to tweak it till it suits your tastes perfectly!  For example: M. likes his bread with a little sweetness but when my mother in law is over I bake loaves with no sugar added because she doesn’t like the sweetness.Easy 2 Hour Bread

Until I hurt my back and couldn’t knead the loaves I was doing it all by hand.  My back forced me into making the decision to get a stand mixer, I’m super happy to have the mixer but trust me that your bread will come out just as nice (maybe even better) and takes only 5 minutes more kneaded by hand.  There is a lot of scary snobbery about bread making:  You don’t need to be a baker or wonder chef to do it!  You don’t need a special oven that gets to extra ordinary temperatures!  And you don’t need to devote half a day to the task!  This recipe  makes two 2lb loaves and is super versatile and takes 2 hours start to finish (1 hour of which you aren’t even doing anything to it).  Later in the week I will share with you some variations on the recipe that we use all the time to make pizza bases, cinnamon/pumpkin rolls, and naan bread.

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Ingredients:

IMG_1705

550 ml (1/2 qt) warm (to touch) water

2 Tbs dry yeast

2 Tbs sugar or Honey

1 kg (2 lbs 3 oz) bread flour (Do weigh it out- it is far more accurate than measuring in cups) I use different flour mixes depending on what I want the loaf to be like but if you use less than 2/3 white bread you need to up the water content of the loaf and increase it rising time.  I like to substitute 300 grams of white flour for 200 g home-ground whole wheat, 50 g chia seed, and 50 g oat bran and add another 30 mls water.

1 tsp salt

2 Tbs olive oil

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Method:

Stir the sugar and yeast into the warm water in a large mixing bowl.  Make sure your water is not hot, it should be only a little warm.  Let it sit about 5- 10 minutes till it looks foamy. Stir/mix in the other ingredients- the sugar oil and salt are all optional but I find it gives a nicer loaf.  This dough is a little sticky but not difficult to handle.  If at this point your dough feels hard to push into you haven’t got enough liquid if it is difficult to get unstuck from your hands you have too much liquid.

Hand knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes- but don’t sweat it- a relatively easy bit of kneading will do.  In a stand mixer I let it mix for about 4-5 min. Set it aside in the same large bowl in a warmish spot and let it rise for an hour. When our house is cold I put on a pot of coffee and put the bread bowl on top.

Before you start the next step preheat your oven to 430 F and very thinly smear butter (I use the wax papers that come around the butter sticks) inside your two 2 lb loaf pans and lightly sprinkle flour over the buttered surface. You can make any loaf shape you like and if you don’t have loaf pans just make two rounded loaves on a baking sheet (like the photo at the top).

Knock back your dough (which should be twice the size it was- if it isn’t find a warmer spot for it and leave it till it is. If it doesn’t smell yeasty you may have killed your yeast with too hot water).  You don’t really need to knead it again but if you want a finer crumb bread knead it for just a minute or two- I don’t bother I just squish it around in my hands a little.  Divide the lump into two halves and smooth them into fat tube shapes.  Fold the ends under a little for a nice shape but its really not important how you shape it… its just aesthetics! Plonk one in each loaf pan.Easy 2 Hour Bread

Get your hands wet and just smooth them over the top of the loaf, sprinkle the moist surface with a little salt and then a fine coating of flour. Use a knife to cut a line down the center of your loaf about 1/2 in deep.Easy 2 Hour BreadAllow the loaves to rise about 10 minutes before you put them in the center of the hot oven.

Cook them for 8 minutes then open your oven door and reduce the temperature to 330 F.   My oven takes less than 2 minutes to get down to 330 F before it kicks in heating again.  Cook for 30 minutes more.  This will give you a light crust which is a little crispy on top and more soft around the sides.  If you like a much darker crust you can up the temperatures.  I have read (in a recipe that makes a simple white loaf totally hard work) that you can start your bread at 500 F and reduce to 430 F.

Easy 2 Hour Bread

Enjoy!

Easy 2 Hour Bread

White loaf.

xx Jo

Castle Pockets and Other Wonders- Yarn Along

I’ve had a very productive knitting run since I last joined in with Ginny’s Yarn Along.  There is nothing quite so wonderful as pulling a finished piece of craft off its final pins and letting it get on with its purpose for existing!Kitty's Green Dream- Christmas Morning SweaterK.’s Green Dream is done and being worn nearly daily!

Esther's Pollen Collectors- Honey's Pollen Collectors Leg WarmersE’s Pollen Collectors were finished in the nick of time for this flash of colder (for California) weather we are having.

Margaret Dashwood Shawl

And I am back to Margaret Dashwood’s Shawl which is a dream to knit and soooooooo easy to modify for size etc. I’m reading Sylvia’s Farm (recommended by Ginny a few weeks ago on the Yarn Along).  Its very inspirationally written but also a little frustrating.  She uses descriptions that defy common use.  I have to wheedle out from her words her meaning and I don’t feel at all like I’m certain I’ve gotten it right!

J. has continued with her shawl and it is coming on beautifully but on top of that she also finished and gifted a project of her own design: J’s Castle pockets!Grimm SatchelJ. made K. a laptop bag for her 16th birthday and had the ingenious idea of a fairy tale theme.  She wanted it to look very simple and mature from the outside but open up to the enchanting world of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (a long time fascination for K. who could easily write a dissertation on the repetitive female characters in the Grimm’s tales).  The bag was sized off a little shopper bag M. was given by the local water district which is the most perfect size for almost any thing you can imagine… I am definitely making myself one of these soon!

Grimm Satchel So she chose a fabric from Heather Ross’s Far Far Away range, an old moth eaten felt army blanket which had a delicious mossy color but needed some selective cutting, leather, hardware, and her own sewing and knitting prowess (with a little help from Mommy)!

J. sewsThese castle pockets were knitted specifically to fit pencils and K’s cell phone after felting.  J. followed some excellent advice I gleaned from the forums and wonderfully friendly knitters over at the Tiny Owl Knits Ravelry group  as she winged the pre-felted knitting.Grimm Satchel

J. knitted the castle pockets in garter stitch from Knit Pick’s Pallete in Gosling which felted into a sturdily dense fabric.  I gave her a hand with the rambling rose embroidery as her time was running very short!  I think I might have to add castle pockets to some of my dresses because I want to look at them all the time.Grimm SatchelHave a wonderful Wednesday and a happy Yarn Along snoop through everyone’s WIP!

xx Jo