Friday, October 17, 2014

Homemade Friday: Handknit Sock Weather

It's normal for me in October to spout prose on the changing seasons, the ebb and flow of life, the immense relief that the cooler temperatures bring, with their need for layers and wool.  

I love fall.  I love to be a bit chilly, to be able to wear cardigans and hats and scarves without oozing sweat while simultaneously assuring everyone that I am fine, JUST FINE and totally not hot at all but if you would please spritz me with water that would be much appreciated and maybe catch me if I pass out.

Wait, what?

Ahh, fall.  Autumn.  Pumpkin spice lattes*, soup, feather blankets, lots of orange, and red and yellow in the trees.  

And handknit socks.  Most definitely handknit socks. I spend a lot of time knitting socks throughout the year.  They are always on my needles, a sort of background project that I pick up when I don't want to think too hard or when I want a small project to take with me.  

These particular socks are close to being done.  All they lack is a bit of a foot and a toe.  It shouldn't take long, but as I only really work on them sporadically who's to say?

The pattern is one I made up myself, one I use for most of the socks I make.  I use size 0 needles and cast on 64 stitches.  I also like the short row heel.  I've attempted the other kind once and it didn't work out well.  Plus I wasn't all that fond of how it looked.

Short rows are awesome.

Also I would like you to notice how the stripes match up because it is very important to me.  So important that I took out and redid the heel on the second sock because it didn't match the first one.

I am lucky enough to have at my disposal more sock yarn than I can ever knit up, thanks to especially generous mother- and grand-mother-in-laws.  They're German and so have easy access to all the amazing German sock wool and have no problem being my suppliers.  So whenever I finish a pair, I go to the bin and dig out whatever yarn catches my eye and cast on for the next socks.

I have unrealistic hopes to knit family members socks for Christmas, but I am self-aware enough to know that there is no way that I could possibly get that done.  But in the very back of my mind, way deep, I kind of still want to try.  Because socks.  Socks are the most functional and useful thing I can knit.  They always are used.  Everyone has cold toes in the winter so wool socks that you knit yourself are perfect.

So who knows.  For now I'll keep working on these.  And then when I finish them I'll start another pair.  And then another.  

*I've never actually had a pumpkin spice latte but I'm sure they are fantastic.

She dressed herself like this.
(I am currently selling handknits and handmade jewelry.  You can find it here: Handmade by Jaimalaya.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wanted: One padded room

I almost went to the gym this morning.


My gym bag was packed, my alarm was set, I was all for it.

Last night.

But then I woke up this morning with the same headache that I went to bed with and so I pulled up the feather blanket and rolled over and closed my eyes.  I'll try again tomorrow.

It's kind of a pain in the butt to be healthy, you know?  It's not that I don't like it, or that I don't love how I feel when I'm working out regularly and eating properly.  But sometimes it's just exhausting mentally.  I'm tired of putting so much thought into everything and not getting the results I want.  Or really any results at all.  So I give up.  At least for today.

And also all last week because it was fall break and I had a lot of apples to bake into desserts.

Speaking of fall break, I don't like it.  We are not the 'go on vacation for fall break' type of people, mainly because we prefer to spend what extra money we have on things like 'fixing the car' and 'food.'

My children are incredibly deprived.

I do not actually believe that.  I think it's a bit ridiculous to be expected to go somewhere and do things for every time the kids are off of school for more than one day.  Of course, that means the kids were home all week and bored.  My husband was off for most of the week and I was off Monday and Friday and part of Thursday and we all were ready to separate by the end of it.  My mom did take the kids to the movies and the park on Wednesday, so at least they got out of the house.  And Chris took Sebastian fishing on Thursday while Adele and I stayed home and she got pissed because her Duplo tower fell down so she threw a block at me and bruised my hand that I held up in self defense.

Girl's got a temper.

And then on Sunday night I realized that Sebastian didn't have school on Monday either because of teacher in service or something so basically I cried myself to sleep thinking about all the peace and alone time I wasn't going to have.

I am in a funk.  Can you tell?  Also I maybe need to go get some more coffee.

I am strongly in the "let the children learn to play by themselves" camp.  But my children don't seem to know how to do that unless it involves a screen.  I'm okay with television.  I happen to love television.  They will eventually go play when denied television, but not before spending an inordinate amount of time laying in the floor at my feet whining about how horrible I am for not letting them watch another hour of Pokemon or Barbie's Dreamhouse.  I am the worst, obviously.

(Have any of you actually seen Barbie's Dreamhouse?  It makes me sad and also want to punch the creators.)

So I have to use my mean voice, which is pretty much my all-the-time voice now, and banish them to their rooms because NOBODY LIKES A WHINER.  Does anybody have any tips for getting them to play by themselves?  Or maybe together?  Because "together" is a whole other issue.  My daughter thinks 'playing together' means she tears up whatever her brother is touching, then throws the toys at his head.  Understandably, whenever she gets close to his toys now he yells at her to leave him alone.  I've attempted to play with them and guide them, but as soon as I stand up to run to the bathroom or refill my coffee cup someone gets a Lego to the eye.

What am I supposed to do with that?  How do you foster good sibling relationships?  I'm thinking of locking them in a padded room for a day and see what happens.  They'd come out hating me, but at least they would hate me TOGETHER.

Before all the sibling rivalry started ...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Randomly on a rainy Tuesday

1. I'm wearing new eyeshadow today and can't decide if I like it or it makes me look like I have a sickness.

2. It's different shades of pink.

3. So if you see me today, don't assume I'm contagious.  I'm just experimenting.

4. In other news I was awoken this morning to the beautiful sounds of my children bickering.

5. Or rather, I wasn't awoken, but was interrupted from my attempt to return to the fitful sleep of the night.

6. There was actual groaning.

7. And everything only got better from there with all the complaining about their breakfast (oatmeal), complaining about the need to brush their hair and teeth, complaining about the need for socks and shoes, complaining about the need to ever do anything at all.

8. Okay, that last one was me.

9. And then I got soaked through on account of the torrential downpour that started right after I dropped Adele off at her classroom.

10. Some days the need to crawl back under the covers and hide is a physical ache.

11. No matter, though.

12. I have coffee and tea and tons of stuff to keep me busy.

13. Speaking of coffee - I made my own creamer yesterday.

14. It's freaking delicious.

15. 2 cups of cream, a bunch of honey, 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, then shake it until it's mixed.

16. I can't wait to make more coffee.

17. In knitting news, I have a lot of projects thrown about my living room.

18. I'm knitting a Harry Potter scarf for my son.  All that's left on it is the fringe.

19. I'm making a hulk hat for a friend's little boy.  This one is trickier than I thought and I've already had to start over two times.  Hopefully this is the last time ...

20.  I'm making Starbrook Pullover for myself in a dark blue green color.  All that's left of it is to finish a sleeve, knit a pocket, then sew everything together and put on a neckband.

21. It would be short work if I had time to do it.

22, Then there's a sweater I started last spring for Chris.

23.  It's called 'Fort.'

24. I haven't looked at it since it got warmer and I started sewing anything I could.

25. Also I have vest planned, socks going, I'd like a shawl, Adele needs a hat ...

26. I need more time.

27. I started a facebook page for jewelry and handknits:  Handmade by Jaimalaya

28. It makes me happy.

29. Let me know if you want anything!

30. And tell me really - is pink eyeshadow ever a good idea?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Anybody have any good apple preserving recipes?

I have a problem with apples.

Or rather, it's not so much a problem with apples themselves.  Apples are delicious, especially when covered in sugar and cinnamon.  (And also by themselves because nutritious and healthy and goodforyou and all that, blah, blah, blah.)

But apparently I overdid it with the apples at a recent trip to an orchard.

Adele and I went on a field trip with her school to Hinton's Orchard, a local orchard that is full of lovely people and delicious fruits and vegetables and baked goods and homemade peanut butter.

And pumpkin patches.

We go there every fall, and also bug the owners at random farmers markets throughout the year because my husband loves to talk apple trees and I love to buy herb plants.  Super nice, amazing people.  Go there if you get the chance.

Usually Chris is with me during our annual fall apple buying extravaganza and he reigns in my crazy a bit.  But this year it was just me and my girl so I came home with two bushels of Mutsu seconds.  (Two bushels for $28.  A ridiculously good price.)

I don't think it's a secret here that I like to make things from scratch and to preserve food when I can.  So the apples were destined for applesauce and apple butter at least.  I started out well last Friday - peeling, coring and chopping a ton of apples while I watched last year's The New Girl on my kindle.  But I didn't even get through half a bushel.  I did get about 5 or 6 quarts of applesauce though.  (Not nearly enough.)

My applesauce recipe isn't really a recipe at all.  I prefer the apples without any added sweetener or spice.  I put the peeled and chopped pieces in a large pot with little bit of water, maybe a half a cup, to keep everything from sticking, then cook over medium heat until mushy.  Maybe an hour or so.  (It's a really big pot so it takes awhile.)  Then once it's done I let it cool, put in jars and put the jars in the freezer.  I could can them but it's much easier to freeze.  I don't puree the applesauce because I like it chunky.  The texture of pureed applesauce is too much like baby food for me.

I used the apple peelings from the applesauce to make apple peel jelly using this recipe.  It was a giant failure.  Or rather, maybe it became more an apple syrup than jelly.  I tried to use the natural pectin from the peels, but something went wrong.  I think maybe I cooked the juice too long?  And now that I'm looking at the recipe again, I'm not entirely sure I used lemon juice.  Woops.  So I have a thick, sticky substance in my refrigerator that tastes apple-y.  We put it on pancakes and it worked fine as long as you ate it before it cooled.  Once cooled it was a bit too thick, almost caramel.  So maybe it's apple caramel?  I should probably dip apples in it.

After the applesauce I made apple fritters.  Make this recipe.  You will not be sorry.  Easy, delicious fried dough.  The kids wouldn't eat them (WEIRDOS) so Chris and I ate them all.

Then there was apple butter.  I doubled this recipe.  It worked fine - hours and hours in the crock pot, then I pureed the result and put it in jars then in the freezer.

Once again I couldn't bring myself to throw out the peels.  It just seems so wasteful, you know?  We do compost, but there's so much stuff left on the peels!  So this time I attempted apple peel cider using this recipe/guideline.   Not much has happened yet but I have hopes.  I am trying to use the wild yeast that's on the peels, but it may be that I have to use some yeast that my husband has from his own beer/cider making.  We'll see.

I've also made apple dumplings using this recipe.  Do you know how difficult it was to find just an apple and dumpling recipe that didn't include soda or canned bread?  I just wanted cooked apples with dumplings on top - like chicken and dumplings.  In hindsight I should have called my parents.  My dad makes awesome blackberry dumplings.  I wasn't too keen on the one recipe I did find.  Or rather - I wasn't too keen on how it turned out.  I think I may have overcooked the dumplings, which was entirely my fault.  The kids refused to try them because they are insane.

Last night I made an apple crisp which was delicious and just what I wanted it to be.  I used this recipe, which was simple, thank goodness.  I did add a quarter teaspoon of salt to the topping because otherwise it would have been too bland.  The salt balances out the sweetness.  Apple crisp is one of my favorite desserts, and this didn't disappoint.

That finished off the first bushel of apples.  Keep in mind we are all eating them fresh, too.  And I still have a whole bushel to go.

My future apple plans include apple pie, of course.  And maybe canned apple pie filling.  Definitely more applesauce.  Maybe a couple of whole pies to freeze.  More apple crisp.  Another attempt at apple jelly.  Possible more hard cider.  And dried apples.  We also like to put apples in salads, lest you think that we are all subsisting on apples, sugar and cinnamon at the moment.

Guys.  I love apple season.