Monday, February 24, 2014

Stitches West!!!

So this is the third year in a row that I have been lucky enough to attend Stitches West. Really since I live about 3 miles from the convention center where it is held, there is no excuse not to, but I find it much more of an experience when I actually sign up for a class. It also doesn't hurt that my best knitter friend P has been flying out here to go with me! It's always so nice to be in the company of other mildly (ok majorly) obsessed knitters.

The best part about signing up for classes is that you get to attend the Market Preview on Thursday night. Last year I had a major brain fart and thought the preview started at 7! That meant we had to book it through in the last hour it was open to get all we needed done. We did it, but this year we got there at around 4:45 so we could settle in and spend some serious time going to all our must see places. 5 is much better than 7!

 Here we are super excited to have gotten their on time, to have found parking easily and to be about to be let in to yarn nirvana!

There was also this Chicadee sighting while we were waiting to be let in to the marketplace. I love this pattern and I was especially enamored with this knitter's choice of colors. It was way more beautiful than this blurry photo can convey! Now I want to knit it right away.. guess I should have bought some yarn for it while I was there, but alas the budget would not allow. 

Our first stop was the Plucky Knitter booth. P said we should go their first because apparently when their Etsy shop gets re-stocked people are queued up ahead of time and basically buy whatever they can get in their cart! Funny that I had never heard of them. The booth was beautiful, albeit it a bit difficult to see behind the mad throng of people.

Sorry for the craptastic photo but this was the best I could do…We had been trapped (literally) in the booth being squished from all sides by people. Yarn was falling all over the floor, and potentially getting stepped on and once we got out, we were not going back in. No matter how much we wanted more yarn! I got one skein of Primo Fingering in color way Le Jardin that I will knit a pair of socks with. I'm thinking Monkey

After that we wandered around to some of our must see shops, which were (in no particular order) Becoming Art/ Never not Knitting, Sweet Fiber Yarns, Alpenglow Yarn, Canon Hand Dyes, The Yarnover Truck, The Verdant Gryphon and Cephalopod and of course Webs. We always seem to get great deals on Sweater quantities at Webs and this year was no exception. One surprise find for me this year was Oink Pigments. Their booth was in the same aisle with Plucky and I think in the rush to get to Plucky we just walked right by the first time. When I saw it on Saturday I immediately fell in love with their Peacock Feathers sock sample and had to buy both pattern and yarn even though I was already over budget! 

I had a fangirl moment with Alana Dakos of Never Not Knitting. I was wearing my Gnarled Oak in her booth and she let me get a photo. I feel about a thousand feet tall when I look at this but it was still a great moment. I think we ended up in that booth 3 times! I wish I had had the budget to buy Botanical Knits and preorder Botanical Knits 2 but alas it was not mean to be. I really really really want to knit Wildflower, which she was wearing in a gorgeous color I just can not pull off. 

Our class on Saturday was called Steeking 3 Ways and it was truly enlightening and empowering. Now I want to go knit some color work that I can cut up! haha. 

We each had to bring a swatch knit in the round. Then a lovely lady sitting next to us let us use her white yarn and she used P's purple yarn so we each had contrasting colors. Then we did three different reinforcing techniques and had time to cut up one. The one we cut was the crochet reinforcement and then we knit a "steek Sandwich" to encase the raw ends in. I'm not quite sure where this application would work in real life but IT. WAS. SO. COOL! 

Here's the stash! I am so happy with each and every one of my purchases. Not having many sweater quantities to buy for (MUST KNIT STASH SWEATER YARN) meant that I was free to go crazy on single skein lovelies! 

Another successful year at Stitches. It really is just so much fun to be surrounded by people who love yarn and sticks as much as I do. Now to wait patiently until registration for Stitches 2015! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

5 months to knit and another month to post!

Waaaaayyyy back in this post I gave the first update on my Paulie progress. I still can't believe that was SEVEN months ago. This amazing FREE!! pattern by Isabell Kraemer is a beautiful knit. It is so classic and yet so contemporary at the same time. All of her patterns are beautiful and I suggest you go, now, and take a look! I'll wait!

See! I told you you would love them. I have so many of them in my favorites and hope to knit some in the coming months. But back to Paulie. I had actually never heard of Isabell Kraemer. I may have randomly come across one of her patterns during a Ravelry search but it wasn't until one of my knitting group peeps suggested Paulie that I seriously took a look at all her designs!

As I mentioned, I had all of this KP Gloss fingering laying around for a looong time. My husband had given it to me for Christmas waaaaaaay back in 2010! I had just finished my first ever well fitting sweater and was pumped to make more. That's why I requested the Gloss as a present. What I didn't know then was that Gloss, although a lovely yarn to knit with, really doesn't wear well at all. Once I saw how shabby my Thermal looked after not that much wear I let the Gloss languish in a drawer. I mean, all that time spent to knit a fingering weight sweater, only to have it felt and look super worn after a few months... who would knowingly do that to themselves?

What really got me going to figure out what to do with all this yarn was my self imposed yarn ban. I knew I needed to knit from stash to make room for new pretty yarn. I knew I had Stitches West on my calendar and so I NEEDED space. I just won't allow my stash to spill out of it's storage space.

There's some room left in there now, but before I started the stash  busting it was full to max capacity! Granted, if I were to find another place to store my sewing patterns I'd have almost a whole extra drawer to work with but alas I have not.  (side note, every single time I see that wedding photo from a distance I see my father's face super-imposed over mine! Seriously kind of weird.)

Anyhow some of my Ravelry knitting buddies suggested Paulie and of all the ideas I'd had swimming around in my brain it was the most appealing option.

And so I cast on!

And I started the stripes.

ever so slowly it began to grow

and grow

and then it actually looked like a sweater,

so I was excited to start the sleeves. This is where I got stuck.

After it spent a month in a drawer because I was so bored and just  had to work on something else, I took it places so I would finally finish it! 

The most beautiful design element was also the most tedious. 

But then it was finished!

And it fits me perfectly. 

My favorite part of this sweater is the fact that it is a slim flattering fit without being at all tight. I have exactly the right amount of room under the arms and through the shoulders. This yarn is notorious for growing and I planned for that in my choice of size. I knitted a size small which is listed as 86 cm in the pattern (33.85") and I blocked it to a 36" bust which gives me around an inch of ease! I think it will still grow with wear but that's ok. I knit my usual mods of lengthening the body and sleeves but other than that I knit it exactly to the pattern specs. after wearing it for a week and getting annoyed with the collar flipping up constantly I tacked it down in 4 or 5 places to keep the shawl collar look that had drawn me to this design. The other favorite part is that i-cord bind off. I love the contrast edging and the nice finish it gives, but man did that take forever, literally over 2 hours !

All in all a good knit. I know it will not wear well, but knowing that when you start a project is much better than thinking you'll be knitting a sweater you'll have for the rest of your life and then being disappointed. Thank you Isabell Kraemer for a beautifully written free pattern. Now go! Knit something!

Friday, February 7, 2014

2014 The year I finally believed I could cook

I have been a cooking show connoisseur since before there was Food Network or Cooking channel. I grew up watching a lot of WGBH public television in the Boston area and I LOVED me some Julia Child and Frugal Gourmet (remember him). It might seem strange that I've titled this post "the year I finally believed I could cook" based on the fact that I love watching cooking shows and I love food, but it's true.

I've been baking cookies and cakes and bread since I was a little kid. I have a cookbook my parents got as a wedding present in '69 that has a number of notations in my childish hand stating that these are "B's cookies" or "these are good"! So why have I not embraced "cooking" until now? The answer to that is a complicated one, but somewhere along the line I felt like I was a terrible cook and just decided that I COULDN'T. It makes no sense really and was probably tied to a fear of screwing up or a fear that the intended recipient of my cooking wouldn't appreciate it enough.

Then comes the dawn of the year 2014. My husband and I sat down and discussed our grocery budget AGAIN.. how have we spent so much money when we never seem to actually have a dinner plan? What's going on?! I mentioned meal planning again and he rolled his eyes. You see we can never sit down TOGETHER and decide on more than 3 meals at one time. Often times one of us (that one will of course remain nameless, but you know who it is!) would veto everything. UGH! So this year we decided to mix it up. New accounts were opened and yours truly was given FREE RANGE of the meal planning and grocery budgeting and there was a little bit of a bet thrown in there when he said "and I bet you'll spend ever dime of that budget"! I took it as a challenge to have money LEFT OVER every month. And you know what?! I did!

We acquired two new cookbooks this Christmas. The Complete America's Test Kitchen cookbook. And the Complete Cook's Country cookbook.  I used mainly these two cookbooks to meal plan week by week for the whole month of January. I threw in a couple of tried and true recipes out of older cookbooks and it turned out to be **gasp** fun.

I made my beloved Fried chicken for the first time ever. I love and crave fried chicken and I've been hoarding recipes for literally the last 7 years and have never been brave enough to try to make it myself.

Fried Chicken!

I also made Beef Bourguignon for the first time and it made me realize , that it's not some fancy intimidating thing. It's just BEEF STEW! I can make that! And magically when I said "I don't like this" I knew exactly how to tweak it next time to make it suit my palette more. 

Potato Galette!

Instead of rice all the time I branched out and made things like this Potato Galette! It was delicious and you know what , it was EASY!

Chicken breasts were thinly sliced and pounded and stuffed with delicious cheese!

Stuffed Chicken Rolls! 

They look like they would be so complicated to make and they would impress company but again they are so incredibly easy! 

I've also made pork carnitas for the first time. This is something I always left to my husband because I thought I COULD NEVER do that myself. HA! Mine were just as good as his and with the leftovers I made these!

Pork and Cheese Taquitos!

One of the biggest eye openers for me was learning how to make twice as much of something so that I could freeze a dinner. We have pot pie turnovers, these taquitos and three cheese manicotti all in the freezer just waiting for that day I need an easy dinner! I have also finally learned how to use the crock pot! How easy to just do a little sautéing and then leave the rest to the crock pot while I go about my day. It's almost liberating. Even though I know some of you might think, well you're home all day you CAN cook every day, I really think this planning ahead thing would make any working parent's life a little bit easier. To take  half a day on the weekend or one evening a week to plan 2 or 3 things ahead that you can shove in the freezer for later is a brilliant thing. Really it is. 

This has been an eye opening month for me. And although it's a lot of work to plan and prepare meals for my family it makes me feel good to know exactly what is inside everything we eat. And now when someones asks "what's for dinner?" I can say with certainty what it will be and could probably give you a few options! YAY for meal planning.