Saturday, December 28, 2013

Stitch 'N Bitch: A Knitter's Design Journal, or a book that will ruin my haphazard knitting habits.

My not-mom bought me this:

Because she knows me too well.

She sees me at her Stitch 'N Bitch meetings with little scraps of paper that have my patterns on them.

She's seen me unravel a sweater for the 1396920th time because I'm too lazy to check my gauge.

I have a lot of commissions to do right now and because I respect the work of others by abiding their "don't make these to sell" rule which is attached to some patterns, this book is gonna come in handy.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Coconut squash soup and Captain Clumsypants

Some days I'm more clumsy than others. Today is a more than day.

I wanted soup.

This website has some fantastic recipes and I went with the coconut squash soup.

And of course my kitchen looks like this. Our dishwasher is broken.

I chopped up about a third of a sweet potato and a half of a squash which resulted in two pretty deep finger cuts because I'm dumb and slice things wrong. Said vegetables were cooked in the oven for 25 minutes along with garlic.

At least Ninja Turtles Band-Aids were on sale at CVS.
I heated the coconut milk and chicken stock (or bullion and water) together and added leek instead of onion and went to move my tablet to a safer location than the kitchen and this is when disaster fell.

While walking through the kitchen I tripped over Bagheera--yeah, I tripped over my cat--and dropped my tablet on my ceramic tile floor.

The screen is shattered.

I pureed the vegetables with the coconut mixture but removed the leeks before doing so and it turned out fine, but I'm making dumplings for it. Dumplings are just a sticky dough from flour, salt, and water. Pinch some bits off, boil them in water, and add them to your soup. Egg noodles would suffice too.

I'm so mad.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hulk screaming at spinning wheels.

Remember how my spinning turned out so nicely last night?


I spun another thing of yarn, and all was well except for the unevenness that goes with all of my attempts to spin thick yarn.

 But then parts of my wheel kept falling apart and my strands of yarn kept breaking. So I adjusted everything I could on my wheel and it still happened so I gave up and started screaming all the profanities my momma taught me at it. Until I realized if I put Lazy Kate further away, all the problems stopped. Whoops.

I've ended up with probably enough yarn for an infinity scarf.

Spinny yarn!

And instead of sleeping because I have work, I'm spinning more yarn.

I know I just finished my mom's alpaca, but I've been dying to spin the roving I bought. In order to start that, I have to finish the Corriedale I have left over from my sweater (that still needs bigger buttons sewn on, whoops). Which is fine, because it's super easy to spin and I can do all kinds of fun things with it.

What I'm doing now is spinning a super thin strand and then a super thick strand and plying them together to form an uneven yarn that would look fantastic as a scarf. Which I might list on my Etsy shop.

Wow, my tablet takes better photos than my camera...
 Look at the color gradient I've got going on! This is also the most even thing of yarn I've ever spun. I really wanna keep going but I work at seven in the morning tomorrow. Goodnight!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I have an obscene amount of alpaca fiber up my nose right now.

I've been working on my mom's Christmas present since September.

It's the 17th, and we're celebrating Christmas on the 19th. Of course, I can't publish this tonight because my mother reads my blog. Hi, Mom.

I have about a fourth left to go.

I probably would have been done a month ago if it weren't for my job and class, but I'm working on getting a desk job where I can do my homework while earning money and thus have more time for yarn stuff. I'm planning on getting my Etsy shop active if this happens.

Anyway, I'm spinning an entire Alpaca fleece for my mother. That's two and some odd pounds of hair that I am hand washing, hand carding, and hand spinning.

Washing the fiber consists of stuffing fiber in a lingerie bag, stuffing that into a five gallon bucket and throwing warm soapy water on top of it and then air drying it on your unused dining room table because you don't have guests at your house, like ever.

Carding the fiber is my least favorite part of this endeavor. I usually catch myself with the pokey brushes and end up with tiny pinpricks all over my hands and sometimes my legs.

Raw fiber, plus Luna.

Yeah, you're unbearably cute. Now get outta there, cat.
Carding lines the fibers up so they can spin continuously. You want something that looks kind of like what comes out of the brush after you brush your cat or dog.

And then roll it up so you can hold it as you're spinning. This is called a rolag. Who knows why.

At this point the yarn is halfway made. The wheel spins the fibers together as I thin them out.

I'll finish another one of these, and then spin them together to make yarn.

Two strands of spun alpaca plyed into yarn. That thing at the bottom where the string is coming from is a Lazy Kate. I'm not really sure who Lazy Kate is, but she's the best.

Finished yarn wrapped around two chairs so I can wash it to set it and then wind it into a hank once it's dry. This is currently hanging from my shower right now.

This is the last of the alpaca I have to spin. It's 12:34 on Wednesday morning. I have roughly 35 and a half hours to get it done. I'll probably need 10. I have a few hours before I work tomorrow which I can use to get a couple skeins done. And then I get off after midnight, and so I will most likely be spinning until it's finished. Probably until 4 in the morning. At least my coffee stock is high.

I was right, I finished spinning at 4 this morning and they were dry when I woke up. 11 skeins of gray alpaca.

And she'll be opening it in two and a half hours!

Gonna try to get footage of my mother opening the package. 

Which I managed to do. But the video won't upload. So this'll be it for now, until I can figure out what the nuts is wrong with my devices.

Chocolate almond saltwater taffy, or a horrible sticky mess.

Remember how I Googled saltwater taffy to see if I could make it?
Well it's 1:51 PM right now.
I have to be home at 5.
I also have to drive 45 minutes to get there.
That leaves me with about two hours to get this done. I think I can manage. Recipe here but I adapted it to include almond extract, because believe me, it'll be better this way. Also I'm not gonna cook it for as long as suggested because I know it'll be better if it's softer.

Run to the grocery store because you're out of vinegar. Pick up some Kool-Aid while you're out, because you know you're gonna want it on your days off to play with your new fiber.

Get home and yank out your ingredients and then wait for this thing to show up, because it will. Always.

And then the other one shows up.

Not feeding you either.
Horrified, realize that you are out of wooden spoons. The last one not in the dishwasher was used to cook garlic pesto.

Scrub the living shit out of it.

It still smells like garlic.

Dump some vinegar on it.

It's a little better.

Dump your sugar, cocoa powder, and salt into that trusty pot that you've been using for the last few recipes.

Pour in about a cup of light corn syrup. Don't measure it. Then you'd have to clean corn syrup out of a measuring cup. The worst.

Don't really measure the water either because it says "1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon." Measure the 1/4 cup, then add about half of that. Should be fine.

...I drove all the way out for ONE TEASPOON of vinegar. Add the damn teaspoon.

Turn on your Fellowship of the Rings audiobook because goddammit, you wanna hear more about Lothlorien. <---spelled that without having to Google it.

Chocolate sludge reminiscent of homemade hot cocoa.

Add a candy thermometer and watch it until it reaches 250 degrees.

Take it off the heat and add your butter and almond extract and then transfer it to a greased pan.

Wait until it cools, and then get a pat of butter ready, because you're gonna need it. Clean your utensils and the entire stupid countertop because somehow your crap ended up everywhere.

Find that it's still hot. Stick it in the fridge because you're impatient.

Realize that you're starving because you haven't eaten yet. Eat everything.

Also tie back your super long hair and put on an apron because you're not stupid.

I didn't photograph the stretching process because there would be taffy goo all over my camera, but the taffy needs to be pulled until it lightens in color but not too much because then it'll turn into a fudge like substance. I made that mistake. The one closest to me is the way they should all look.

My mom should have some wax paper, and because I don't, I've rolled the taffy into a taffy scroll to take there so I can finish packaging it.

She didn't have wax paper. Oops.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dyeing with Kool-Aid: maybe this stuff shouldn't be ingested...

I don't have anything pressing to work on right now (yes I do, but I can't actually work on it right now. Shh, it's a secret.) so I'm going to dye some wool for my not-mother. You know, the one who quilts and whose blog is linked on the left side.

I'm sharing some of the Knitpicks Wool of the Andes with her, because she's the best, basically. I offered it to her bare or dyed, and she asked me to dye it. Which is great, because I love dyeing wool.

I use Kool-Aid to dye roving. Yeah, Kool-Aid.

In a good-sized pot, bring water and about a cup of vinegar (who measures stuff?) just to a boil, then take it off the heat and add a packet of Kool-Aid. This is strawberry.

Add the wool and push it down. If you want all over color, you better weigh it down with something. I don't and would rather have some variation in my wool so I let it float to the top and just flip it over a couple times while it sits. Some people think you should let it sit for extended periods of time, but I've noticed that the wool soaks all the color out of the water after about 15 minutes and it doesn't rinse out.

Precariously dump out your pot of water. If the water runs clear you did it right. Although this is pretty hard to mess up.

Hang it over the sink because there's not really a better place to do it. Except maybe your shower.

One done!

I followed the same steps for a purple batch.

This one looks a little sketchy. The dye job is pretty uneven. If I don't like it the first time I'll do it again with another packet.

Yeah we're gonna do this again. I'm adding a couple drops of blue food coloring this time because it came out way too pink for my liking.

It's much better but my camera is shitty. I promise it's purple.

Finished dyed roving.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Old fashioned candy with a hint of angsty teenager music.

I'm really cheap.
Really cheap.
I'm 20 and I coupon. I only shop clearance. I make most of my Christmas presents.
But I also like to have my Christmas presents be good quality.
If your present's gonna be food, I'm not baking you chocolate chip cookies. I'm gonna make you chocolate bark or in my father's, uncle's and grandfather's cases: cashew brittle and seafoam.

I'm starting with cashew brittle because it's easy. Recipe here.

Turn on some angry punk rock, like The Story So Far, New Found Glory or blink-182. It's the only way to bake.

Throw your sugar, corn syrup, and water into a pan. Stir it until it bubbles and then throw in two sticks of butter. Because if you know anything about my father, you know that he has an undying love for fattening foods.

It's gonna start to bubble pretty ferociously like this.

At this point I realized that my heat proof spatula is in fact not heat proof up until 250 degrees.

Notice the switch to the ever-reliable wooden spoon (so sorry I left you, I will never do it again). Mix in three cups of cashews. I actually hate cashews, but my family loves them. After the cashews, add baking soda and remove from heat.

Throw that shit onto a parchment paper lined tray (which rolls up on you so you stick it with brittle goo so it stays down) and stretch it out. And just let it sit for a couple minutes.

It doesn't take long to harden, which leads to the fun part: smashing that perfectly smooth circle to bits.

Done with the cashew brittle!

Seafoam isn't easy to make. You kind of have to guess when to throw in the baking soda and if you get it wrong it either won't set or it'll burn to a crisp. I've done both. And then, you've got about 30 seconds after it's perfect to take it off the heat, or else it's ruined because the bubbles are gone.

The recipe is basically the same as cashew brittle minus the cashews and butter, but baking powder and baking soda are both used. I looked up a video for help on this one and will link it at the bottom. Watch it, the lady has an accent and it's adorable.

Harmless sugar/water/syrup mixture is harmless.

Essentially finished seafoam. The baking soda/baking powder combination makes the mixture foamy, and after three whisk stirs, the mixture needs to be immediately dumped into a lined bowl, or else.

 And now we wait for about three hours for it to harden.

Meanwhile, I'm googling a saltwater taffy recipe to see if it's possible, which it is.

But that's gonna happen tomorrow because I have my mom's stuff to work on.

I'm actually really surprised it came out this well.

Finished seafoam!

Here's that video.

Monday, December 9, 2013

One down, ten thousand to go...

One of the nice things about not being friends with your sister on Facebook is that you can post pictures of her finished Christmas present without her seeing it.

Here, have a super unflattering picture of me in a beret.

Pattern here.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Way too much hot cocoa.

My shipment of yarn came in!

This is what $50 of yarn/fiber looks like, by the way.

It's my last Senate meeting of the semester. Because I'm sentimental and my fellow senators are generally pretty fantastic people, I'm making hot cocoa from scratch for everyone. It's not yarn, but I'm gonna share the recipe/instructions complete with stupid step-by step pictures.

Step One: Get a step stool because all of your baking ingredients are on the top shelf. This is because you're super smart and put them all up there.

Now that you're sure you don't have to go out and buy more crap, you google search that recipe you always use and modify it for about 20 people. It's this one. One thing though! I do something that makes the recipe 100 times better: I add almond extract. Almond extract makes every single baked good taste better. I promise.

Dump about a cup of cocoa and a cup of water into a good sized pot. Dump in three cups--wait, recipe. Three cups? Yeah. Three cups of sugar. Realize you need more water so precariously add more water and see if it looks good. Should look like thick swampy brown mud water.

Let it simmer but not too much as that would scorch the chocolate.

Slowly add 14 cups of milk.
Measure out 7 cups of milk while hoping that nobody's vegan and realize that it looks like 7 cups is about a third a gallon of milk. You might be adding the whole gallon.

At this point it looks hot chocolatey.

Realize you've burnt your finger somehow? When? On what?
 Who knows, you're super clumsy.

Add another two cups because you're impatient.

Decide you're really impatient and get another pot to start heating up the rest of the milk.

Decide not to because if you did that, you'd have to clean another pot.

Realize you've had the temperature at medium this whole time and turn it on full blast because screw this "on medium heat" bullshit. You want to be at Senate on time.

Realize you may have put too much milk in this pot to be able to comfortably dump the hot cocoa into your Bubba keg.

Also realize that you are wearing a dress.

You grab an apron.

You also realize that an apron isn't going to protect you if you dump an entire pot of hot cocoa on yourself but you try to keep your false sense of security.

You taste the hot cocoa and realize there isn't enough cocoa so you add about a half cup more. Mixing cocoa into milk is horrible. Squish the chunks into the side of the pot, thus splashing some onto the cooktop causing a sizzling, burnt cocoa mess.

The cocoa appears hot enough. You pretty smoothly transfer the cocoa into the Bubba keg. The recipe says to add two cups of half and half. You agree, because you love fattening cocoa.

You taste the hot cocoa and drip some onto the floor and know that you need to add more milk. You also add more half and half to the heating pot because why the hell not.

Your Bubba keg is now mostly full of hot cocoa so you seal it and plan to guard it with your life.

You think you're done but you forgot to add the vanilla and almond extracts.

Crack open that Bubba keg and dump in some vanilla and almond extract, hoping no one has a nut allergy.

Now you're done.

Taste test your cocoa and remain content with it. Now pack it up and drag it to Senate.

The end!