Saturday, November 14, 2009

Take the cake

My good friend celebrated her 27th birthday earlier this month. I'm usually pretty horrible with gift ideas, but this one was easy. I few months ago, I was reading Pioneer Woman's blog, as I'm prone to do, when I came across this recipe. I was blown away by the delicious moistness of the cake, but when I shared the link with Lauren, her first response was, "I want her cake stand!" Good thing my brain was working that day, because I took that as an opportunity to get her a kick ass birthday gift this year. I did some searching around and found that the cake stand is made of milk glass and it comes in several colors. The manufacturer is Mosser and it's made here in Ohio! How cool is that?

Anyway, I was a little worried that she wouldn't remember my inspiration for the gift if I gave her the cake stand by itself (plus, that'd be kind of lame anyway, wouldn't it?), so I of course *had* to make the cake as well. Not to mention, I really wanted to taste it and I figured she'd share.

I don't think I had ever made a cake from scratch before, except for chocolate upside-down cake, which makes up for in taste what it lacks in looks. I have to admit, I was a little nervous that my cake would fall in the center or not rise or crumble to pieces or any of the other nightmares that are associated with baking disasters. But guess what? It didn't! And it was quite tasty. And look! On that cake stand, it almost matches Pioneer Womans!!

November 2009 002

Note: Make this cake if you:
  • Love the taste of coffee
  • Can handle an overdose of caffeine from time to time
  • Like loads of butter cream frosting
Do NOT make this cake if you intend to wash it down with grape juice and vodka. You can ask Lauren if you don't believe me.

But, I'm still not a yarn snob.

Way back when I first started knitting, I don't think I could have told the difference between natural and synthetic fibers by look, nor by feel. I was (and still am) very turned off by those knitters who would ask "What are you knitting with?" and then snear at your Lion or Red Heart yarn. All that aside, there is something to be said for using nice yarn. When I'm working with something that feels good, I find it hard to stop! This is particularly useful when it comes to completing projects. I finished my shawl last night, only three weeks from when I started (I am not counting the two weeks I struggled with this pattern before scrapping it and starting over).

I used Imagination from, which is a wool, alpaca and nylon blend. It feels SO good! And, the colorways are so much fun, I'm trying to choose my next project which can feature it. My only concern is that it does shed a little bit, so I will probably be picking pieces of wool off of my sweaters all winter, as I intend to use this shawl if and when the office gets too chilly!

Pattern: Revontuli Shawl, from Ravelry (which I really need to update, I suppose)

November 2009 008
My lovely new shawl

November 2009 009
No dropped stitches!

November 2009 011

November 2009 014
Goes great with pajamas, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What begins with "S"?

Apparently, everything I've knitted lately!

Oct 2009 048

Oct 2009 063
(and overly long Sleeves :))

Oct 2009 057

Simon! (I didn't knit him, but he's darn cute)
Oct 2009 054

And, my work in progress, Shawl!
Oct 2009 059

Hot, cold, yum!

It's my favorite time of year again. Even though it's been drizzly and gray these past few days, it's still beautiful out there with the leaves changing and flying. And it's also pumpkin and apple and pear time. Pear time? Oh, yeeeeah!

Last week, I got a chance to try my hand at making pear riesling sorbet. My goal was to replicate my favorite of Jeni's flavors. Mine turned out pretty different, but very delicious! I used this recipe I found in Ice Creams & Sorbets by Lou Seibert Pappas. I was surprised that the recipe called for heavy cream, but I was patient and followed the instructions and for once my sorbet turned out just like it was supposed to! The only disappointing part was that it froze up pretty hard, so it was best right out of the Cuisinart. Next time, I will find the recommended pear liquor to add in the end, which would keep it from freezing so much. Also, next time I think I might replace the pears with apples and the nutmeg with cinnamon. Yummy!

Oct 2009 006
My favorite kitchen appliance!

Oct 2009 001
Churn, baby, churn!

Tonight, in honor of the cold weather, and because I had a pile of potatoes that were about to turn ugly, I made potato soup. This was my third attempt at making potato soup for Nick and I think it was the most successful. I found the recipe on Tasty Kitchen, and since it called for both bacon and sour cream, I knew it would be a winner. It was. And, it made a ton, so we'll get to have it again soon!

Oct 2009 047

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wrapped up in chains

Baking 006

Finally found the wire I've been looking for (kind of) at Joann's. They only have three different gauges and, of course, not 21g, which I needed, but I made due with 20g copper core silver wire. It's much easier to work with than the stuff we picked up at the hardware store and it's prettier too! I made the King's Mail Bracelet from Chain Mail Jewelery. It was a lot of fun making this piece, mostly because it didn't kill my wrists and hands, turning and cutting the wire and because once you get going with it, it's really neat to see how the rings lie against one and other.

I sort of made this for Nick, although I'm not sure he'll ever wear it, and I wouldn't blame him if he doesnt. It's fun to play with, it looks neat, and I'm satisfied with the experience. I only wish I could figure out how to not make the edges of the wire so rough. I tried squeezing them with my pliers and it worked on most of the rings, but it's really hard to get them right. Maybe sanding or something?

Baking 014

Just like the picture, huh? :) I think I will try something delicate next, like the Diamond Earrings next. I have a feeling it will be trickier, but even more worthwhile!

Keeping busy, rotting my teeth out, plumping my thighs

My honey's been out of town for a week now and while it's hard to adjust, it's also given me a lot of time to work on projects! I'm 3/4 of the way through a second sock, halfway done with a pair of felted slippers and most of the way done with a scarf. I am forcing myself to finish at least two of these projects because I really want to start on a shawl to wear in the office this winter (love my new desk, but not the air vent directly above it!). All that knitting is fine and good, but I've also been itching to do some baking. So, last weekend, I found a package of phyllo dough in the freezer from when I decided to make spanakopita (SO yummy!), and I tried my hand at baklava.

Baking 003

Baklava has a bad reputation for being really difficult to make. I feel like I must have copped out or something because the recipe that I used really wasn't that hard to follow and the results were much better than expected! Aside from the nuts, which are always pricey, it wasn't even that expensive. For these reasons, I believe baklava can now be added to my Christmas cookie repertoire!

Baking 002
Mmmmm... look at all that flaky goodness...

For end of quarter, I promised one of my co-workers some of Bakerella's cupcake bites, so this weekend, I spend a considerable amount of time assembling them. Last time I made them, for a work bake sale, it took over three hours to make the cute little devils. This time, I decided to be less meticulous about it because in the end, they're devoured in two bites, and it really doesn't matter whether or not that cute little chocolate shell looks like a cupcake wrapper or not. It still took over an hour. Hurmph. No, they're not as cute, but they're still sugary and good.

Baking 025
Side note: I would not recommend the confetti Wilton candy melts... I thought they would save time with decorating, but once melted, it really resembles ranch dressing. Not something I want to put on my cupcakes!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Day dreamy

© estesnet Look at those sweet faces!

We went to a big old, gun-slinging, dog-racing, junk-selling, deal-making swap meet/flea market over the long weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, made a few purchases (an old wooden rolling pin that won't stick to my sugar cookie dough), a couple of vintage knitting magazines and a skein of the softest yarn in existence. It's 100% Ohio grown and processed alpaca yarn from a critter named Pistolero. Nick got to get up close and personal with some of the animals and we chatted for a bit with their owners.

I've been joking for a while now about my plans for getting an alpaca of my own when we have our big house in the country. Nick has kindly humored me and basically given me the "Yes, dear" answer. He's not much of a country boy, and although I have 8 years of 4-H under my belt, I still have limited hands-on experience with livestock. I'm happy to say that after our meeting with the owners of Swisher Creek Farm, my dream might be one step closer to reality. Nick fell in love with the sweet pair alpaca that were visiting the swap meet. We learned that they like cold weather, are relatively low maintenance and don't take up too much space. Since then, we've been daydreaming together, looking at the cost of land, animal behavior and other details of alpaca ownership.

I don't know if it will ever happen, but I would love it if it does. I want alpaca and bee hives and a library job. My dream life. It's good to have dreams.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bathingsuit Body by October?

Probably not. But, it would be nice to loose a few pounds before our impending vacation. Fortunately, my fantastic fiance ordered an exercise bike from Amazon over the weekend (we've been looking at them for almost a year!) and I'm putting it to use already.

It's sweet.

I read this book a few years ago, where the girl, who incidentally was a witch, tracked her miles on an exercise bike and plotted them on a map so that she could pretend she was biking across the country. I don't really remember the particulars of the book, but that detail struck me as a good idea. I rode for half an hour after work last night and half an hour this morning. I'm heading west right now, but I might retrack it toward the south and see how close I can get to Florida before we go there for real in October. As it stands though, I'm 16 miles out already! Fun stuff!

I like how Google maps lets you create your own maps. I can even add a new line for each day and save it as the date to show progress. Super neato, as long as doesn't decide to crash my Vista "infested" laptop. Oh, and I can also play DS or read or knit while I ride, which is even more awesomeness. I played Tetris both times so far, and found that when the pressure is on, I pedal faster. I need a life.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back at it

I've been buying a lot more crafting crap than I've been using lately. BUT! I have been getting some things done...

I made this necklace (again) with a little twist. I added green pearls. I like it, but I think the first one is my favorite.
August 057

I put this necklace together tonight for the third time, and I think I finally like how it looks. That's how it usually goes for me - it takes a few tries to come up with something I like.
August 061

This silly little bracelet is something I made with some beads that came in a kit. I think I'll give it to my cousin.
August 065

Finally, Nick and I looked at chain mail at the Irish Fest a couple of weeks ago and decided it's pretty cool, so I checked out this book from the library, ordered the jump rings and made this:
August 053
It's an anklet, which I may never wear, but it was a lot of fun to make and I'm definitely going to try some harder chain mail projects soon. We're even talking about winding our own rings which would be cool, but I'll just add it to the ever growing list of things I want to do.
August 049
(On my rough looking leg, with the handsome Simon cat looking on)

Oh yeah, and I made some quick stitch counters too.
August 041
I found a bunch of the rings at Big Lots for a super good deal, so I have enough to make a few sets. It's an easy task, when I'm in the mood :)

Friday, August 14, 2009


There's something really cool going on out there, in the world of publishing/podcasting/social networking. I think it's probably the way entertainment is moving, in a big way, and it both thrills and frightens me.

I know that movies and video games have been using various mediums to promote their work for a pretty long time now (websites for fictitious companies like Lacuna Inc. and The Hanso Corporation, "leaked" video footage, fan sites on Facebook, fake television commercials, even messages in bottles!). It helps to draw users in and make them feel like part of the experience.

Now, some of my favorite podcasters are taking this approach even further, creating whole online personalities, side stories and interactive contests and games to immerse their listeners or readers even deeper into the worlds of their fiction. I recently finished J. C. Hutchin's "Personal Effects: Dark Arts", which is the journal of an art therapist working on a very dark and paranormal case. The book comes with "personal effects" (death certificates, photos, IDs) and is laced with websites and phone numbers that provide more meat to the printed story. The lengths that Hutchin's has gone to to create a very real-feeling world for his characters and story are amazing and create an entirely new entertainment experience.

Phil Rossi's "Harvey" is a podcast only novel that began in early July. This is Rossi's second full length podcast novel. His first, "Crescent", went to print earlier this summer and is a must read for any horror/science fiction lover out there. In "Harvey", Phil is also taking interactive universe approach. He has created websites, twitter accounts and even music files to correspond with the story. The amount of energy and creativity being put in to this work is phenomenal. I find it all very interesting and exciting, but also a little troubling.

While these fake websites and social networking accounts do create a very "real" experience for the reader or listener, I have to wonder about the integrity of putting all this fake information out on the internet with no disclaimer. I know that most people today understand that the internet is FULL of bogus information and we usually monitor and judge what we read before taking it as fact. But what about PixelVixen707, one of Hutchin’s characters, who hosts a gaming blog and also posts articles on Suicide Girls? Is it misleading for these authors to create characters and interact with people outside of their fiction? I suppose that as long as the information posted is true, it’s not really hurting anyone and I also know that people make up fake accounts all of the time, but there’s just something about it that makes me feel a little bit uneasy. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop following these kinds of projects. I still think they’re freaking awesome. I just worry more about being had by the internet, being tricked into thinking something is real when it’s not. On guard.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gifts for birthdays (and for me!)

I've been wanting to make this necklace for a while now. In fact, I bought the pearls at a thrift store some time last summer, with something like this in mind. So, when my pearl loving friend's birthday came around this year, I knew just what to make!
May 2009 006
The set...

May 2009 007
Necklace detail

May 2009 003

Also noticed that the lighting/my camera suck for these. Bummer.

And here's what I made for myself:
May 2009 010
They all look much better in real life. :)

Finally, just because... my future sister-in-law showed me some sweet stitch counters she got on Etsy, and the obvious dawned on me, and I happened to have an adorable glass bead I'd been holding on to for no particular reason, and because I'd been using a small piece of blue yarn to mark my stitcues instead, and because... oh, bother... I made these:
Stitch 010
(gotta start taking nicer photos)

Mmm baby!

Cupcakes! For Easter, my friend and I attempted to make Bakerella's super sweet cake balls. We failed pretty miserably (baking + drinking = ugly baked goods). They were still tasty, but not cute by any stretch of the imagination. A couple of weeks ago, I got ambitious again and decided to try cupcake bites instead. They basically consist of cake & icing, mashed up and then covered in chocolate, to look like miniature cupcakes. Sugary, sweet and yummy! Four hours of baking, melting, decorating, swearing, and washing my fingers after licking them later, I wound up with these little guys...
May 2009 018
May 2009 019
Next time, I will buy more chocolate molds (I had to make 11 at a time!) and, for sure, I'm enlisting help!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day

I made a couple of bracelets for Mother's Day. I also exceeded my Flickr account with Nantucket photos... sooo... here are the two pictures I managed to squeeze in there!

Mother's day 014
Blue rose bracelet and earrings for Nick's momma

Mother's day 010
For Grandma McG, "Inspire" bracelet

Mother's day 027
"Wish" bracelet for Grandma S

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Because my friend Rach is a science nerd, and because she's led camps and participated in research and is apparently a sponge for knowledge, she was able to give me a very comprehensive tour of the island of Nantucket. On the afternoon that I arrived, the sun was trying to shine through the clouds and the weather wasn't terrible, so we dropped my bags off at the house (more on that later), and headed out to see some sights.

It's kind of hard to tell in the pictures that I took - looking back at them it seems like the entire landscape is brown, gray and occasionally blue - but as we were driving around, it felt like every direction I looked, something different was taking place.

Nantucket 018

This is the view toward town, from the site of the "Oldest House" - the longest inhabited home (now owned by the Nantucket Historical Society)

Nantucket 019
And, here is the Oldest House. I guess they give tours in the summer, but I had to make due with peeking in the windows.

Nantucket 022
Here are some of the homes? Hotels? Places to stay on the island. I had a hard time telling buildings apart, as the majority of them are finished in those cedar shingles.

Nantucket 024
I was anxious to get down to the beach, but this was too pretty not to snap.

We walked along the beach on the west side of the island. There, the water was pretty still and the sand was littered with shells. Rachel gave me a guide to the shells of the island and I filled my pockets with a few (I should probably bleach those soon... my carry on bag probably smells pretty bad). Next, she drove me to the eastern facing side of the island, where the beach was soft sand and the waves were very choppy. It was also considerably colder. I found it amazing that such a short distance could yield such different climates.
Nantucket 032
Rachel explained to me that the island is always changing. It was created by the glaciers and is essentially a big pile of sand and rock. She said that a couple of years ago, two homes on this beach were washed away after a big storm.

To round out my tour of the island, we headed out to Siasconset so that I could see the pretty homes and beaches there.

Nantucket 038
Pretty, beach facing homes that may or may not still be there in a couple of years.

Nantucket 037
"Evil cliff" that is threatening homes in previous image (interesting politics).

Nantucket 040
We stopped off to see the Sankaty Lighthouse before heading back to the house to get ready for dinner.

Nantucket 041

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A long-winded preface to my Nantucket adventure

One of the few things I hate about traveling is returning home, only to feel like I didn't make the most of my trip. Two years ago, when I visited Boston with a friend, we walked by the library twice but never went in. We spent more time in shopping malls than in museums. We rode the subway in every direction, but found ourselves getting off at mostly the same stops each time. While it was a fun trip and certainly whet my appetite for the East Coast, I wasn't completely satisfied. The same goes for a trip to Vegas, where there are so many things to see and do, I spent most of the time feeling overwhelmed. All I really wanted to see were the places Sinatra hung out, but we just never made it to Old Vegas.

I cannot think of one thing I wish I had seen or done during my trip to Nantucket last weekend. Now, this could have something to do with the fact that the island is only 13.5 miles long and 3 miles wide, but I think it is more likely attributed to my fantastic tour guide. Not only is Rachel one of my favorite people, she's also a kick ass cook, gracious hostess and one of the biggest nature nerds I've ever known (that's a high complement, coming from me).

Rach and me in our pokey-dotted dresses, sometime around three years ago.
This trip was kind of a big deal for me. When Rachel moved to the island after college, she offered up the chance to visit, but I didn't want to impose/didn't have the money/knew nothing about Nantucket. After our friend Caitlin made her way out there last fall and then told me how awesome it was, I started thinking of ways to go out to see Rach. I told my mom that I thought I might want to make the trip and that I'd like to go alone - it would be a good test of my self confidence and give me a chance to spent time one on one with my friend. So, for my 26th birthday, my parents agreed to pay for my airline ticket so that I could fly to Boston and then make my way over to visit Rachel.

Nantucket does have its own airport, but it's pretty pricey and flights to Boston were running cheap, so I decided I'd take the roundabout way. That means I had to fly to Boston (2 hours), catch a bus to Hyannis (2 hours), and then take the ferry to Nantucket (1 hour). I was a little worried about all of the connections, but Rachel helped me navigate the transportation system, with back up plans included.

Everything went fairly well from Columbus to Hyannis, and I was eager to stretch my legs once I got off the bus. I made my way over to a breakfast/lunch place called Persy's Place and ordered a cup of chowder and a salad. Then, I thought to look at the time and realized I'd better gulp down my soup and get my rear to the boat dock if I wanted to make my ferry. I hustled out and found a cab, but in my disheveled state I said, "Take me to the fast ferry, please." I ended up at the Hy Line, when I needed to be at the Steamship Authority. Freaked out, and with 5 minutes til the boat left, I called Rachel. She guided me to the correct place and I made it with little time to spare. On the boat, I dozed off listening to Ella Fitzgerald and awoke as we were pulling in to the port.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I once had a friend in Nantucket...

I booked my plane tickets this morning and I'll be off to visit Rachel at the end of April. I'm very excited.

I've been wanting to write for a while about the fact that nearly all of my college friends have fled this city... off to Philadelphia, DC, New York, New England... I think Anish and Nick Snow are my only college friends who've remained in town. Sometimes I wish I could leave too. Not forever, just for a while. I try not to think about it too much. I had the opportunity to move right after college and maybe if the destination had not been Cleveland (or if I'd had a solid job opportunity), I'd have taken it. Dreaming about moving away is one thing, but then the reality of my family's attachment and expectations hit me and I wonder if I could even do it.

At any rate, I'm glad that I can finally take advantage of the fact that I have a friend in another city, especially since she also happens to be one of my very favorite people. I'm also looking forward to traveling alone. It's kind of a challenge to my independence. I've traveled with Steph and with my parents and other friends, and I've flown alone to visit Ryan but I've never taken off like this. I almost lost my nerve and asked Nick to join me, but to be honest, I have no idea when I'll have another chance to travel alone and he and I have many trips together yet to come!

So, Rach is about the coolest and best planner and she sent me a whole trip-tic with recommended sites and restaurants to check out on Nantucket. She'll be working on Friday, while I explore. We're planning to spend some time together in Boston as well. I want to go back and actually ENTER the library, rather than walk by longingly as I did when I went with Steph. Rach said there are some nice museums and of course I intend to do some Geocaching and eat plenty of seafood. I hope the weather is nice, but even it it's not, I intend to have a great time!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My new toy

I was very excited to receive an awesome birthday gift from my sweetie - the Amazon Kindle 2. Before I could take it to work and show it off though, I had to make a cozy for it!

March 09 061

Isn't it nifty?? (The Kindle, not the cozy)
March 09 059

My friend Jess also got her sweetie a Kindle (copycat!), so I made hers a cozy too...
March 09 065

I've been sticking with quick and easy projects lately. I hit another wall with my sock knitting when my crazy kitty jumped on my knitting bag and somehow snapped two of my harmony needles in half! The pieces even flew across the room! I ordered a new set, along with some yarn which should arrive any day now. Darn cat.

Here's another short, sweet project, another pair of wrist warmers for my cold handed aunt.
March 09 072
Now, I just have to get them to her before it gets too warm to wear them!