Friday, February 29, 2008

Raspberry Lemon Cake

Arnold Schwarzenegger is in town this weekend for his Fitness Challenge event, so the streets of downtown Columbus are flooded with over 120,000 people wandering over to the convention center. I am planning to stay home as much as possible. Although I have heard that it is worth checking out if you've never been.

Anyhow, I was picking up a few books at the library and decided to browse the cook book section while I was there...bad idea on an empty stomach. The endless selection of cake recipes and the growling of my hungry stomach had me running to the nearest kitchen supply store to buy myself bundt pan. The delicious smells of cakey goodiness taunted us all morning while D and I waited impatiently for the cake to bake and cool.

Raspberry Lemon Cake

Source: adapted from a mish mash of Carole Walter, Donna Hay and Delia Smith lemon cake recipes

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp oil
4 lrg eggs
1 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups raspberries (I used frozen)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9" bundt pan (or whatever you have). Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and lemon zest. Slowly add oil, beat on medium speed for a couple minutes. Gradually beat in sugars and vanilla. Then add the lemon juice. Alternately beat in eggs, then flour mixture, egg, etc.

Now, toss the raspberries (they should be thawed by now) with a spoonful of flour. Layer the batter and the berries twice, ending with batter layer. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. It probably takes less time if your berries are fully thawed ((but the berries are messier to deal with this way) or until the top is golden and a knife inserted comes out clean.

Wait as long as you can before downing a big slice of with a cup of tea. Mmm. Watch out for the hot berry clumps .

P.S. You can also make a tart lemon glaze by mixing lemon juice and icing sugar until it's a thick but pourable consistency and then drizzle over the cake - I ran out of lemon so skipped this. Oh, and this was also my first bendy silicon pan, and I liked it just fine - we'll see how it does in the dishwasher.

A Growing Shetland Triangle

Ahh, Friday. I had been looking forward to my free day all week. This morning I got up and made a lemon raspberry cake in my new bundt pan (which I'll share soon) and blocked my semi-completed Shetland Triangle so I could see it's actual size.

I've been working on and off on this, inbetween various other projects, and it is very slowly gaining in size. It is a beautiful, simple design that can be worked to any size as long as you have enough yarn - I love the round peacock feather-like motifs. She's not quite big enough, so I'm going to add about another 4-5 repeats so that it will drape well over the shoulders to wear over a sleeveless top or dress, and be plenty big enough to wind around the neck like a regular scarf. I also love this silk aran-weight version, which I will hopefully get around to knitting some day.

This afternoon will consist of running a few errands, and maybe going to the bookstore or coffee shop for a bit. We rented The Darjeeling Limited from Netflix - finally decided to give Netflix a try after failing to find a decent video store in the vicinity (Rent-a-flick-n-tan doesn't was too icky for words). Then tomorrow morning, D and I are getting geared up for our first pottery class!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Baby James!

Aww...isn't he cute? Here is baby James, born in December, modeling the Debbie Bliss raglan cardigan I knitted him a few months back (I just love it with the adorable little jeans!). It arrived two months later than intended (some incompetent mail person in Ottawa), but better later than never, right?

I'm glad it fits, but I really could have made it bigger. I thought newborns were...teeny tiny. You can tell how much time I spend around babies. Well, hopefully he'll have a sibling to pass it down to.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Weekend in Cleveland, the Under-rated City

Two weeks of part-time employment has been just so overwhelmingly exhausting that I was forced to take a vacation out of sheer restorative necessity...

Just kidding. We're back from a little weekend visit to Cleveland, Ohio. It all started with a Canadian band called Bedouin Soundclash, that has been a bit of a recent obsession for D. When I found out they were coming to Cleveland, I got tickets for D's birthday and had some fun planning a weekend around it. It seemed like a good time to fit in some tourism (particularly given how often we say, 'we should really check out Cleveland sometime'). And, given my recent obsession with Anthony Bourdain, who visited Cleveland on an episode of No Reservations, it was not surprising that our trip largely consisted of the places he visited on the show. What a nerd, I know.

Built in 1890, the Arcade was one of America's first indoor shopping malls

As far as smaller cities go, Cleveland was awesome. We really liked it, and both think that Cleveland is way, way under-rated (or perhaps it's just the people we've talked to). I had been given the impression that it was a really lame town where uncool tourists went to see dorky attractions and eat at the Hard Rock Cafe in a bland version of a city-chic vacation. Was I wrong! Yes, there's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and yes, there are probably lots of other theme museums, but... RnR was actually really cool and interesting. We only saw a tiny fraction of the attractions. And architecturally, Cleveland was kind of pretty with all the bridges criss-crossing over one another and beautiful historic buildings in the downtown district.

Cleveland Public Square

Friday we went to the Westside Market for breakfast and explored the aisles and aisles of fresh goodies. There was so much good-looking food it took me forever to choose something to eat. Finally, after I settled on a cheese pastry (D bought a massive apple turnover), as soon as I turned the corner, there was (of course) something even tastier looking. So, I went for a ham and cheese crepe...mmm... and saved the pastry for later.

Sharing my crepe Le Complet with D

From the market balcony

We looked around Tower City Center and the Erieview Galleria (which, shopping-wise, can't compete with those big lifestyle malls that are popping up in suburbs - but the architecture was beautiful) and in the evening went to nearby Coventry Village for the show (at the Grogg Shop). Coventry Village was basically one strip of shops and restaurants which reminded me much of the Annex in Toronto: cozy coffee shops, secondhand bookstores, pubs, family-style diners, trinket shops, etc. This probably contributed to my positive experience in Cleveland.

Tower City Center

Inside the Galleria at Erieview

Saturday, aside from the valet parking people losing our car keys (luckily we had an extra set), it was a pretty perfect day. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Marengo Spa Institute (if you go now they have some good promotions on),

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

and then dinner at Lola Bistro, which has received a lot of hype since Chef Michael Symon won The Next Iron Chef (and no, we didn't see him that night). Lola definitely lives up to the hype. The restaurant was packed. It was incredibly stylish and swanky - lit marble surfaces, paneled glass, high ceilings, a huge open kitchen. I felt like I had left Ohio for the next 3 hours and was somewhere in NYC. A man at the bar claimed that he had eaten the best shrimp appetizer of his life that night. Our dinner was delicious - between us, we ordered oysters on the half shell, beef-cheek pierogies, brook trout with butternut squash, smoked pork chop with cheesy polenta and barbequed onions, and ended the meal with 'beer and pretzels', a Guinness ice cream with chocolate-covered pretzel chunks and preserved cherries. I could have eaten anything on the menu, it all sounded so good. And the bill was incredibly reasonable - not a cheap meal, but far less than some of the swanky places we have been to in Toronto. It's definitely worth visiting.

And there you have it, my Cleveland review. What? Where are the crafts, you ask? I did start knitting the Shetland Triangle with the grey laceweight while in Cleveland...

My apologies for the lack of crafting news, but as far as new routines go, it takes me a little while to get back into the swing of things. So I blame the new job. That, and eating copious amounts of delicious food and watching too many episodes of Lost and Project Runway.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Happy Valentine's Weekend!

If you haven't yet done a little V-day celebrating, the weekend is packed with lots of fun things to do with your significant other/partner/spouse/friend. I pretty much find all my Columbus activities through these Restaurant Widow's Things To Do reports. It's fantastic.

Valentine cookies from
I would have made these had I been more crafty...

D has unfortunately been a little sick the last couple days but still had an appetite to dine out (I never lose my appetite when I am sick. In fact, I think I eat even more). On Thursday night we trekked up the icy sidewalks, past all the crazy valet parking (I swear, I have never seen a city more obsessed with valet parking), and had a cozy, boozy dinner at the Burgundy Room in the Short North. We like the little tapas style dishes and wine flights. Mmm. I guess you want to know what we ate: braised short ribs with shoestring carrots, morrocan meatballs with minted couscous, mixed greens with bacon and goat cheese, and deviled crabcake with collard greens. We capped off the meal with a flight of dessert wines. Double mmm.

As some of you know, I started my part time job last week, which has proved to be a major taker-upper of craft time (my boss is a sweet, comical, elderly man who displays one of the worst control streaks I have ever encountered. Thankfully the job is part time, because there are only so many puns and mnemonics for remembering mundane facts that one can tolerate in a single sitting). Anyhow, the bottom line is that this means less craft time. Fortunately, I did have time to make sure that D and I were signed up for the next ceramics class offered at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center. I did a bunch of research into ceramics classes around town and this seemed like the way to go. They certainly weren't kidding when they told me the classes were popular and urged me to phone in at 8am on Monday to register! I spent a good hour on redial trying to get through. It's probably the best deal for pottery classes that I have ever seen - about $50 for an 8-10 week course.

The grey tweed vest is coming along, but it's not very interesting to look at yet, so I'll wait until there's a bit more progress before I post a photo of it. Hopefully you are all having a better time with crafting than I am.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Orchid Forest

Over the weekend, D and I visited the highly-recommended Franklin Park Conservatory to see the Orchid Forest exhibit (which is on until late February). If you haven't already been, it is really an amazing place and definitely worth going. I wish we'd thought of taking our friends there when they visited. The Orchid Forest exhibit was absolutely stunning, and HUGE!

There were so many varieties of orchids I had never seen before (not that I am an orchid expert in any way - I was just really impressed, is all). There was a beautiful glass sculpture in the centre of the exhibit that looked incredibly familiar...then we realized we had seen the artist's (Dale Chihuly's) work in Toronto, at the Sandra Ainsley Gallery.

Chihuly and his team create the most complicated looking, intricate, delicate structures... amazing sculptures. They have videos showing how they work with ladles of molten glass, spinning and swirling the lava like substances. I think it must be dangerous though...Chihuly wears an eye patch over one eye. Anyhow, check out his site. We had a great time at the Conservatory and afterward had a coffee in the main atrium, which was surprisingly light on a grey gloomy day.

Being in a festive kind of mood, I started the Sweetheart socks from Interweave Holiday knits. The heart-shaped cables are look cute and I like how they really pop out - I'm trying a new (cheap) sock yarn by Berroco that feels really soft. Too bad the yarn is so splitty, it makes it hard to cable without a needle. Plus my needles are so small the whole thing is kind of hard to see. This is the kind of knitting that gives me neck cramps...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Glazed Pots

Remember these? They turned out so well! I can't get over how good they look. Usually, my clay objects would explode in the kiln in high school art class. This takes me in a whole new direction. Special thanks to D's mum for beautifying our beginner bowls with glaze - she even documented the whole process with a little write-up so that I could blog about it. Knitticrafty's first guest contributor, D's mum, is a talented multi-crafter/artist who specializes in watercolour painting, quilting, and now pottery. I can't wait to see what she has been up to next time we visit - I heard she has moved onto porcelain now.

On with the details:

From top right clockwise: D's mum's, mine, D's

The dried clay pots were given a bisque firing in the electric kiln at about 1000 degrees C. This drives out any chemically combined water, burns off any organic material in the clay and vitrifies the clay body to some extent. At this point the pots are fairly hard and porous and ready to soak up the liquid glaze.

The pots were then dipped into the chosen glaze and left to dry. This is an extremely messy process for the amateur! There seems to be little relation between the colour of the glaze at this point and the fired end result.

The glazed pots were then carefully loaded into the gas kiln (by an expert), and were fired up to around 1300 degrees C. in a reduction atmosphere (I think this means that the kiln was starved of oxygen to bring out certain colours in some of the glazes). The glaze melts and combines with the surface of the pot and the clay body matures.

The finished bowls – a magical transformation has taken place.