Friday, November 30, 2012

Pint Jar Gifts

At Andrew's mom's side's Christmas (did you follow all those possessives?), we all put something in Christmas stockings for one another.

There are 29 of us.

This has always been difficult for me. What can you get for 29 people that a) won't make you take out a second mortgage and b) won't get thrown away the moment one gets home?

Seriously, if you have ideas, I want to hear them.

The past few years, I've tried to make things. Last year (or the year before?) I knit washcloths and made hard candy for the adults and stalked the dollar section at Michael's and Target for the kids. This year, I decided the "jar gifts" that have the ingredients for a recipe inside the glass jar and instructions for how to bake attached would be a great idea.

Most of those recipes are for quart jars, fyi. I wanted to do pint jars, and because I love you I am going to include the three recipes I used in this post. If you ever want to make pint jar gifts, I am here for you.

'Cause the Internet really is not. The Internet thinks you should make quart jar gifts. The Internet cares not for your holiday budget and large families. Stupid Internet.

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Cookies

  • Mix 3/4 c. flour, 3/4 t. baking powder, 1/4 t. salt, and 1/2 t. cinnamon together and put in bottom of clean pint jar. Add the following layers:
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter chips
  • 1/4 light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 granulated sugar
Tightly lid jar and attach instruction card with a ribbon to the jar. 

"Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the contents of the jar into a large mixing bowl and mix with 1/3 c. melted butter, 1 egg, and 1/2 t. vanilla extract. Roll cookie dough into 1” balls, place on a baking sheet, and bake for 12-15 minutes."

Chocolate-Chip Cookies
  • a smidgen over 3/4 c. flour (The recipe was for a quart and called for 1 2/3 c. Don't freak out about it. Just estimate. It's flour, not liquid nitrogen.)
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/4 brown sugar, packed
Tightly lid jar and attach instruction card with a ribbon to the jar. 
"Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Empty contents in a large bowl. In separate bowl, combine 1/3 c. butter, 1 egg, and 1/2 t. vanilla extract. Beat until creamy. Add to dry mixture. Drop by tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes."

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
  • 1/2 c. powdered milk
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 c. miniature chocolate chips
  • 2 candy canes, broken into pieces
Tightly lid jar and attach instruction card with a ribbon to the jar. 
"Mix contents in a large bowl. For each serving, place 1/3 c. cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 c. boiling water. Store remaining mix in airtight container."
There are a couple diabetics in the crowd, and I made them the peppermint hot chocolate mix with Splenda instead of sugar. They're still getting sugar from the chocolate and candy canes, but at least they're getting less sugar. Andrew also has a cousin with Celiac, and the Spanger brand candy canes and Trader Joe's chocolate chips are gluten-free, as are the other hot chocolate ingredients.
I really anticipated these being nice, inexpensive gifts. They are nice. I feel that some real thought and effort went into them, and I hope people enjoy them. Inexpensive? Not so much. I bought the pint jars off eBay, which is where I found the best price, and all the ingredients were basic grocery staples. Still, they were not cheap. I think making anything for more than twenty people is going to be expensive, so I'm going to claim this as a victory.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ornament Swap

You remember how I made a list of the things I would knit before Christmas, and how I said that was the Entire List?

Well, I lied. Not only have I been knitting more things, but I also signed up for an ornament swap with Katie. I received the ornament she made me this weekend, and LOOK!

It's the crochet ornament from attic24 that I love! I can't crochet, but this is the ornament that made me want to learn. I did take a beginner crochet class, but it felt hard and knitting felt easy and that's how it stands right now.

I love this ornament. I put it front and center on our tree so I can admire it. I have convinced myself that this isn't necessarily an ornament, and therefore I can put it in the yarn guest room once we pack up the holiday decorations.

But, wait! There's more! We also decided to send one another some small food item from our state. I sent her some apple butter and a bottle of dressing that had Hoosier in the name. Look what Katie sent me!

She sent three truffles--two of them are habanero and one is chai. Andrew and I are going to devour these tonight.

I'd seen this knitting in a bottle ornament and decided to try to make it to send to Katie. I'm really happy with the way they turned out. The needles are made from toothpicks and wooden beads, and the clear balls are plastic ones I bought from Ikea and then took the innards out.

mine ravelled here 

This is a nice way to use scrap yarn, but they're pretty fussy.

This is the first time I've done a swap, and it was a lot of fun! Thanks, Katie!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I have a post-it on my desk at work that reads, "Every situation is simply a mirror of ourselves. Everything we think or do in a situation tells us exactly what we need to know about ourselves." It's by Geri Larkin, one of my favorite writers.

I decided to start the Clara Cowl last night. It should be a fast knit, and there's only one cowl to be knit (as opposed to socks and mittens and fingerless gloves). I put the skein on the swift and started to wind. I noticed that it seemed that a couple loops doubled back on one another, but I reasoned that it would probably just switch directions when it got to that point and that would be fine.

It became tangled--so tangled that I had to disentangle from both ends as well as the middle. 

Lesson 1: When you think something matters, it does.... even if you don't want it to be so.

It uses a provisional cast-on, which I do not enjoy, but I figured it out after a few tries and some careful viewing of a youtube video. I've used that cast on multiple times, but I can never remember how to do it.

Lesson 2: It's okay to have to work hard at something, and it doesn't matter if you think it's something you should already know. What matters is that you continue to try.

This pattern uses big cables--24 stitches--which means that you have one-third of your stitches being cabled over another one-third. It gets messy. I wasn't sure the first cable was correct, but I figured I'd be better able to tell once I was farther along in the pattern. At the end of the evening, I had this:

Somehow the first cable had knit into a tube. I think it's because I had the yarn in front when it should have been in back or vice versa.

Lesson 3: If you think something's wrong, it probably is... even if you don't want it to be so. See Lesson 1.

I ripped it all out and trotted upstairs to wind it back up.

It became so entangled on the ball winder that I had to cut it out and then spit splice it back together again.

Lesson 4: Sometimes you should just read a book.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I broke down and bought space from Google, so I can bring you photos.

Toe socks are finished!

The other project I was working on when I mentioned I was thinking about other projects were these fingerless gloves.

Rosa rubiginosa Mitts (mine ravelled here and here),

These are from The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet. They're quite pretty, and the ribbing on the palm makes them fit better than many fingerless gloves.

I did three repeats before starting the increases for the thumb.

At least, I did three repeats on the first mitt. On the second one, I did four.

I didn't realize that until I was completely finished with the second mitt.

I now had two options: Rip out one mitt completely and reknit or knit two more mitts to have two matching pairs.

I went with option two.

Rosa rubiginosa and Rosa rubiginosa, Jr.

This is not a bad thing. I have two friends for whom I wanted to make fingerless gloves. I just didn't anticipate them being the same. By the time I finished the fourth, I was ready to be done with this pattern and the yarn for awhile. Don't get me wrong: Both are lovely. I was just ready for something else.

I'm ready to knit something that doesn't come in pairs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

One Last Shot

I stayed up late last night to finish up the toe socks and went to bed knowing they couldn't screw with me anymore.

This morning, I went to upload a photo to a celebratory blog post.

I'm out of space on blogger.

Game, set, match. Toe socks win.

If you'd like to see photos, they're on Ravelry here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Yesterday I needed to be able to do something and know it would turn out the way I expected it to. Knitting is obviously not the answer to this, as it can be a devious bitch.

When I was little, Mom taught me to make bread. I have no idea why she did this. I believe I'm the only one (out of three of us) who baked bread. The upshot of this is that bread is one of the few things I can bake with confidence. Yesterday after work, I baked whole wheat bread.

It's the same recipe Mom used with the exception of substituting about half the flour for whole wheat. It makes two loaves, and I think I will give the second to my in-laws. They're good peeps.

I have no idea where the recipe came from, so I can't give proper credit. I can tell you what I do though.

2 packages dry yeast
2 cups water (pretty hot)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 T. salt
6-8 c. flour, half bread flour and half whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in water. Add sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and salt. Mix well. Add 3 cups bread flour. Mix well. Add remaining flour gradually while mixing with a dough hook on your mixer.

If you don't have a dough hook, add cups 4-6 of flour gradually, mixing well. Turn out on to a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, adding flour as needed when the dough gets too sticky.

The dough should stay together and be elastic when it's finished. I've found with the dough hook I actually use more flour than when I hand knead. This makes no sense to me, but there it is.

Put the dough in a bowl with a bit of vegetable oil in the bottom. Put in a warm place to rise for an hour. Mom taught me to put a casserole pan (9" x 13") of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven and then put the bread in the cold oven on the rack above the pan. The hot water and enclosed space means the bread has a warm, humid place to do its thing. If your oven is in use, stick the bread bowl on a wire rack above a casserole dish filled with hot water and cover the bowl with a tea towel.

Once it's doubled in size (about an hour), give the bread a KAPOW! punch. I have no idea why you do this, but you do. Perhaps it's to get air bubbles out, but I find it just as likely that it's a stress reliever. Use a table knife to cut the dough in two roughly equal pieces. Knead them on a slightly oiled counter a few times, then squish it into a rough rectangle. Roll it from the small end. Press the ends tight to seal them and fold them under. Press the bottom seam of the roll into the loaf. (Just make something roughly the size of a bread pan, and squish it until you're happy with it.)

Put each half into a loaf pan that's been oiled. (Vegetable oil is a theme here.) Put back in oven for another hour to rise. I typically replace the water in the casserole dish with new, hot water.

Once the bread has doubled in size, take it out and preheat the oven to 375. Bake both loaves together for 30-35 minutes. Rub tops with butter, run a table knife around the edges to encourage it to leave the pans quietly and with a minimum of fuss, and turn out onto a rack. Attempt to wait patiently for them to cool a bit, then slice and eat with butter. Or jam. Or both. My in-laws swear by making grilled cheese with this bread, but I like it warm and with plain old butter. (Well, not butter, but some light version that only slightly resembles butter. Use whatever floats your boat.)

I know baking bread isn't going to appeal to everyone. It only appeals to me because I have nice memories of doing it growing up and I feel confident that it's going to behave as expected. If the idea of bread doesn't appeal to you, I encourage you to find something--a recipe, a walk, a movie, a book--that is predictable.

Then when the world goes sideways, you can know that there is something that can be trusted.

Note: In rereading this post, I realize I sound overly dramatic, as if there's some great chaos reigning in my life. There isn't. I'm happy. Andrew's happy. Everything's good. But there is no sun and my anxiety level is higher than I'd like it to be. So, I bake bread. It's better than a crack habit.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Time Out

I successfully finished one of the toe socks.

There are five toes, and they all seem to be appropriately sized. The little toe looks big in this picture, but I think it's an optical illusion caused by the way the others are folded.

I was feeling good about this and promptly cast on for the second sock. Twisted rib cuff, done! Stockinette body--done!

I reached the point to start the heel flap. Tra la la.

Let's see. 64 stitches, so 32 for the heel flap. I want to start it at a k3 so the top of the foot will have 8 repeats of k3, p1 rib--


K3, p1 r--

Oh, crap.

I knit the second sock in stockinette and the first sock in ribbing.

I'll rip out the leg and start again, but right now the sock is in time out. I cannot allow this sort of deviousness to go unpunished.

I think after this I'm going to knit something that doesn't come in pairs.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mmmm, a List

I've reached the point in a couple of projects where I'm bored and ready to think about something new! shiny! pretty! I'll plug on because That's Who I Am, but here are the things I'm really thinking about.

Thermal Pullover by Allyson Dykhuizen

This is from the latest issue of knit.wear, which is a magazine I love and wish they'd just let me subscribe to instead of paying a million dollars (or $15, but still) every time it comes out. Those of you who know me know that knitting a pullover is a big step. I'm fearful of them. Still, I think this sweater is beautiful, and I'm going to try it. There's no rational reason to be afraid of pullovers. There's no rational reason to be afraid of pullovers. There's no rational reason to be afraid of pullovers.

I'm going to knit it in this yarn.

Quilted Lattice Mitts

I'm going to knit these for Rachel. I've had a major breakthrough about knitting for Rachel. She loves my knitting more than anyone else in the world, and I've decided that I don't have to wait until Christmas or her birthday to give her stuff. If I want to knit something for her, I will. So there.

I'm going to knit these in this yarn.

Herringbone Rib Aviator Hat

Andrew picked out this earflap hat he wants. He takes being cold as a personal offense, and I am always happy to knit him whatever he wants. He's my favorite.

I'm not going to lie: It helps that he likes color and doesn't want me to knit him beige clothing. He picked this yarn for the hat. He has very good taste.

I've also been thinking about mittens. I don't need another pair of mittens (my love for the Swirly Ones remains pure), but there are some cute ones out there that won't stop calling to me.

There are so many beautiful things to make. It's really a shame that I'm expected to do other things like work and pay bills.

I didn't take any of these photos. They're all from the sites that I've linked.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In Which I Am Thwarted Once Again By Reading

Oh, we've got trouble right here in River City.

I had four toes finished on the right sock and was picking up the stitches for the big toes when I realized I only had 16 stitches.

I should have had 20.

I went back to the instructions.

I looked through projects in Ravelry, trying to figure out how so many people could knit these toe socks without mentioning that the instructions were wrong.

I sent the pattern link to a friend and asked him to see if he could find out where the problem was.

In about 30 seconds, he found it. The pattern is not wrong.


The pattern reads, "Replace held sts on needle and reattach yarn. Pick up and K 4 sts along the CO edge of little toe. 54 sts. PM for beg of round and work in st st for 4 rounds." I had skipped that paragraph entirely, which meant I was off by four stitches and all but the smallest toe needed to be frogged.

By chance, I was near the teenager's house after work last night, so I stopped and made him try on the sock to see if the length of the toes were correct. He was very excited about them, and his excitement made me feel much better about fixing the problem and making sure his toe socks were done properly and fit well.*

On the way home, I had an epiphany. Since each toe is done with its own piece of yarn, couldn't I just unpick the first row and leave the toe intact? Then I could kitchner it back onto the foot once I'd done the additional rows! It wouldn't work for the fourth toe (the one that needed me to pick up 4 stitches), but it would work for the other two. I was a genius!

Except, of course, it didn't work. In theory, it should work, but in practice it left me with dropped stitches and cursing. I finally just ripped them out and started again.

Before I went to bed, I had redone three toes and saw that I have the correct number of stitches for the fifth toe. Onward and upward.

It has not escaped my notice that the teenager needs two socks.

*I will admit to harboring a tiny hope that he had an abnormally slender big toe--a toe that needed four less stitches than normal big toes. You will not be surprised to hear that this did not happen.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Christmas Progress

The trickiest Christmas knitting is going to be the striped toe socks. For one thing, the teenager who requested them is growing like a bamboo shoot. For another thing, and I'm confident you know this, FEET ARE WEIRD. They're oddly shaped. The toes are funky lengths, and nobody's are the same.

With that in mind, I forced the teenager to take off his socks and shoes to try on the in-progress socks while I traced his toes.

You do what you have to do.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Truth Telling

Remember the Gray Girl Friday? I said, "The collar isn't as pronounced as I think it should be, so if I were to knit it again I'd knit the collar quite a bit wider. Even though I'd make some modifications if I were to knit this sweater again, I love it."

I was lying.

I didn't love it. I wanted to love it. Wanting to love something is clearly not the same as actually loving that thing, but it took me a month or so to accept that.

Last week I ripped out the ribbing.

I picked up a bajillion more stitches along the front edges (about double), and I knit a lot more short rows around the collar. The combination gave me ribbing that wasn't stretched to the breaking point, and a collar that actually looked like a shawl collar.


It took a few days of mindless k1, p1-ing, but it was worth it.

Now I love this sweater.

*Yes, I'm also wearing my button necklace. You'll have to take my word for it, but I have my Blackrose socks on as well. Basically, I'm a pioneer woman.**

**If by "pioneer woman," you understand that I mean, "woman who knits in front of the TV."

Friday, November 2, 2012


I do not understand football. To me, it's the thing that encroaches on the end of baseball season.

From what I've heard, though, some people like it.

I finished the Chicago Bears socks for a friend to give his sister:

Groovy Socks (mine ravelled here)
knit in Ladybug Fiber Company's 400 Sock 80/20 Self Striping, Chicago Bear colorway

I had yarn left over. I tried to think of what I knew about football fans. It wasn't much. Then I thought of something, confirmed it with my friend, and plunged ahead.