Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cinnamon Buns!

Our leisurely Saturday morning started with coffee and scones at Cafe Brioso, followed by a couple hours of book-browsing at the wonderful library. I brought home a huge bagful of baking, jewelry and pottery books, including some Ruth Reichl that I'm eager to start. I took out the King Arthur baking book, which seems to have lots of good instructions, diagrams and explanations - lots of potential here!

So, as a little treat this morning, I made their cinnamon buns - it uses a yeasted dough, which mean it took some time for the rising and baking, overall about 3 hours from start to finish. The dough contains flour, egg, water, dry milk (I used evaporated milk and reduced some water), sugar, salt, yeast and softened butter.

Rolling out the dough

The amount of butter in the buns was not nearly as scary as I had imagined - for 12 buns, the dough itself contained 1 oz, and the filling contained 2 oz.

Thin coat of butter for filling

Cinnamon sugar rolled inside

Puffy rolls of sticky goodness

They were done just in time to take picnicking at the Whetstone Park of Roses (beautiful park - the roses will be in bloom in June, so we'll be back for that for sure!)

And to leave you with a little knitting, here's Cherry - she's gradually growing. Although I keep getting bored with the piece I'm working on and starting another piece. At this rate, it might actually get some wear in a month or so :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pomatomus Socks!

I'm about to head out in a bit to enjoy the sunshine on a patio, so this will be a quick little post. These are my favourite socks ever (you can find the free pattern here), and were actually the very first pair I ever made.

Yarn: 2 skeins Regia (I forget what kind)
Needles: US2 dpns

You might wonder why a sock novice would choose a seemingly difficult-looking pattern. Yes, it took me at no less than a half dozen attempts and endless ripping out and cursing, but it was worth it. Given the number of teeny weeny stitches required to make a whole sock, I couldn't be bothered to make a practice pair of socks using an easy pattern and then start all over again for Pomatomus! These have gone through the wash tons of time and are holding up well. They're warm and woolly, but not itchy. There's something fun about having a secret crazy colour party going on under your winter boots - a little knitting nerd thrill. You know what I mean.

The Big News of today: I quit my private practice job!! I'm so relieved. I gave tons of notice - my last day is May 14. Up until this point I have tried not to complain about it incessantly on my blog, but after starting the bakery job it became very clear to me that I was really wasting my time there. It's no fun to go backwards in your career unless it's going to benefit you in some way, such as helping you make connections, gain experience in something new, great pay, good social networking. This job was none of these things. It was just me, the phone, and the computer. And a micro-managing nit-picky elderly man with hoarding tendencies, control issues, and an unhealthy affinity for pencils and paperclips.

This job is a good example of the kind of decision you make when you've recently been transplanted to a new city, don't have any connections, desparate for something to do, feeling guilty and bored about staying at home, and saying "it's just a job" in an effort to feel better about the whole thing. I know that people need to work to support themselves, and I am aware that we're lucky to have D's income to support us (although a 50% cut in household income sucks), but being patient has its rewards. That, and not settling unless you absolutely have to. So, if you're in a similar situation, please choose something that will allow you to maintain your psychological well-being. You will enjoy your new city so much more if you like what you're doing or at least the people you meet there. It was a valuable lesson for me, anyway.

OK, enough of my advice spouting. Go out and enjoy the sunny warm weather!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cupcakes All Around

I was suddenly in a cupcake mood after seeing Sam's happy, fluffy treats - you have to see her mocha cupcakes, and the cute lemon ones with the raspberries on top. On Sunday we were invited to a vegan dinner and I brought these cupcakes as a treat - and since I was craving for something chocolatey and lemony, I baked a dozen of each kind. Which are all gone - 24 cupcakes in less than 24 hours - not bad. These cupcakes are so good that you'll scarf them down whether you're vegan or not.

I must stress how super easy and quick these are, and full of tasty, tasty, tasty cupcake goodness. Thank you Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for the chocolate recipe - this is the second time I've baked them, and they turned out even better than the first time (they were a little deflated the first time). You don't even need to get your mixer out for these, whisking by hand works just fine. The frosting recipe is the most exciting part - a deliciously creamy, rich and chocolaty frosting that you can eat spoonfuls of from the bowl. Do not be put off by the tofu part (especially when you think about how buttercream frosting is just gobs of fat, icing sugar and colour). All you do is blend together the following ingrediants: 1 box silken tofu (the kind in the tetrapak), 6 oz dark, good quality chocolate (melted) and 1/4 cup maple syrup. Let it firm up a little in the fridge and decorate away. Not only does this frosting taste amazing, it's high in protein, low in fat, it pipes beautifully and you can eat any leftovers like chocolate pudding.

These lemon cupcakes were good and tart with nice crumb, and are based from a recipe from Bake and Destroy, to which I added some thawed raspberries, more lemon juice and more vanilla. The frosting is a lemon buttercream made from Earth Balance, icing sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Being in a festive mood and all, I gave these cupcakes a coconut trim and sprinkles as their partywear. Wouldn't you want to dress up too?

D ate the last lemon cupcake tonight, the punk. He had three today and I only had one. It's unfair, I tell you. I guess the only thing left to do is make more.

Monday, April 21, 2008


You read that right. One can never have too many hobbies! Zarafa and I decided to sign up for the beginner jewelry class at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center, which I am very, very excited about.

Oh the possibilities!! Do you think I'll be able to make something like this...

Or like this?

Photos borrowed from the Devil's Workshop, a Toronto-based jewelry studio

The CAC is one of the best discoveries we've made in Columbus. I absolutely love the CAC - they offer awesome classes at the most affordable rates ever. Once we move to Bethlehem, there will be no more wallet-friendly art classes (as far as I know). So, I'm trying to take advantage of it while I'm still here in Columbus. And a little break from knitting might not be a bad idea.

Here's the class description: "JEWELRY- Beginner/Intermediate students learn to create unique and complete projects in copper, brass and sterling. Projects are designed to acquaint students with college-level metal working techniques: sawing, stamping, cold joining, soldering and stone setting. A $15 Lab Fee will be collected at the first class. Bring a notebook/felt-tip pen. Advanced students may register for these classes. A minimum of 6 registered students is required"

I really have no idea what to expect since there isn't a student project gallery online. Hopefully I will end up with something wearable and not just a bunch of burns and cuts on my hands. Anyhow, happy Monday - hope your week is off to a good start. A cupcake post is coming next.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pottery Week 8: Finishing Up

This Saturday was our last pottery class for the session, but we will be coming back for the next session and continuing to learn new skills (slabs, glaze effects and perhaps throwing). The kilns had been loaded this week and we were excited to see the results of our first glazing efforts. Our reactions were a mixture of intrigued/appalled. Glazing is a real art in itself, and as a beginner there is no real way to start to understand it unless you play around with it.

D's little pinch pots turned out a nice turquoisy-blue, fairly even. The stripes around the rim have all but disappeared except for the fine black line around the opening. He is quite happy with these pots.

I was surprised by the colours my pots turned out to be - I had forgotten what I applied, and wasn't sure how it would look over top slip paints. They look pretty kindergarten-y, but that's OK (you try making pinch pots for the first time!)

Glazing lessons learned: Although applying too much glaze will result in ugly running, you have to be careful not to apply too little glaze either. See how the blue glaze is barely clinging on? That's too little glaze. D and I were worried about over-doing it, and were a little too light-handed. I think my favourites are the little green shell and the taller mini vase, although the vase could have used a thicker coating of white matte glaze.

My pear pot and first coil pot were bisque-fired this week, so I worked on glazing them today. D didn't get to do any glazing today since his pots were still on the greenware shelf. No photos of those, but I glazed the pear with a yellow-grey glaze that looks like a pale green. The stem was covered in iron oxide to give it a dark colour under the glaze. If the whole thing turns out, I'll tell you how I glazed it. The other pot was dipped in plum glaze with an opalescent colour sponged over top. D spent the rest of class finishing an angular bowl and creating a pitcher-type object using little square cut outs and slabs.

Other than pottery, we saw Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 at the Wexner Center on Friday night, which chronicles the making of a concert grand piano from wood selection all the way to final tuning. Really interesting stuff. Tonight we're going to a neighbour's place for dinner, which means I've got some vegan cupcakes to make this afternoon. Mmm.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Eleanor Poncho

The weather is struggling with transitioning to spring, and with the last few days varying between warm and too cool, I thought it would be a good to time to get some use out of the Eleanor poncho. This is another old knit, one of my oldest and most favourite knits in fact. I purchased the Viva Poncho book back in 2005 and bought myself a bagful of Rowan Polar (slightly discounted, phew) and cast on. So, ponchos. I like them, for the most part, but it is a little annoying not being able to sling your bag over your shoulder when wearing one of these. You also have to be weary of too much fringe and seams and things. It was the whole ensemble - the model pictured in a bright white Eleanor with skinny jeans and black high tops - that sold me on the design.

I wear this a lot in the spring and fall and have gotten many compliments on it. The pattern is great for a new knitter - learning to increase, decrease, cable and work in the round. The Rowan Polar is a soft, squishy luxurious alpaca blend and feels nice and fuzzy against your skin. It's a little expensive though, and has actually been discontinued, so the only place you'll find it is probably on eBay.

Pattern: Eleanor Poncho from Viva Poncho
Yarn: Rowan Polar, 5 skeins (? one less than pattern)
Needles: US11 circulars
Cherry is chugging along slowly. It would be further along if I didn't have to rip back about 4 inches worth of knitting - I noticed a mistake smack in the middle of the back and it was enough to make the pattern look sloppy, so I ripped it back. Another four inches later, I have gotten to the same point in progress as I did a couple days ago.

Tomorrow I have a half day off which will be spent getting my neck and shoulder muscles restored to normalness. Damn knitting injuries.

P.S. Did you notice the new blog title bar?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Everyday is like Sunday

Gatsby in usual pose

There is something soothing and relaxing about Sundays. A little snoozing, munching and crafting before the start of the week. This morning I'm off to Tasi Cafe again for brunch with the ladies, my current fave place. It really starts to buzz around 11am, so we're heading out a bit earlier than that to grab a table.

When I get home, I'll probably craft a little (clay I think) or read on the couch, with Gatsby attacking my head in his upside-down, odd affectionate way. And speaking of reading, I was tagged by Devon in a book tag. I'm not sure what it's supposed to reveal about me, or if it's just to introduce people to new ideas, but the rules are: Pick a book at least 123 pages long. Open that book to page 123. Find the fifth sentence and post the next three. Then tag five other people to do the same.

I wish it said, 'choose your favourite section from chapter 3'. There are so many great descriptions in The Soul of a Chef (Michael Ruhlman), and pg 123 unfortunately happens to contain some of the shortest sentences with the least profound-ness to them. Sigh. Don't let this put you off reading it. Here goes:

"He began to think about batter, how some batters use carbonation as a leavener, such as beer batters. He didn't like heavy batters, but this idea led him to the idea of soaking the calamari in ginger ale and fresh-grated ginger. The ginger-marinated squid would then be coated in a peppery flour and fried."

I'm tagging Zarafa, Lorah, and bo (Needles and Thread). Hehe. You know you want to be tagged.

Wild spinning action

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pottery Week 7: Glazing, Coiling and more!

Happy Saturday again! Somehow D and I have suddenly made it to Week 7 (?!) of our pottery class, and I have only managed to blog about it twice. Pottery time flies. We missed a couple of classes due to the snow storm and running errands, and I found out that we only have one or two more classes left unless we register for the next session (we're definitely signing up). Having been introduced to hand building, we'll be learning about slab techniques and other finishes if we stick around for more. We may eventually get to wheel throwing, but for now we are both really having fun with hand building (shocker!)

Lots to show you today. We talked a little about glazing, which is a completely intimidating process by which you can really mess up your nicely made pots when you're a beginner. The glaze cannot be applied too thickly, otherwise it will run off the pot. There are infinite combinations of colours and finishes you can create by combining different glazes and slip-paints, and we were encouraged to try out different glazes on our pinch pots.

D's pinch pots with slip-paint only

My pinch pots, slip paint only.

Wet glaze colours also do not look anything like their actual, post-fired colour so if you're doing a lot of projects at once and layering the colours, you have to remember what colour you applied. Here, I can't tell you what these little pots will look like once they are fired. I know we used white matte, turqoise, honey, and foggy blue, and possibly some aqua glaze. The mystery makes it kind of fun.

Next, we worked on our coiled pots. So far the best coiling technique has been to roll out the coils as long and as evenly as possible prior to building up the pot. You can wet your work surface with the swipe of a sponge and roll your coil over that to keep it damp and pliable. There's no need to score the coils if they are soft and easy to smush at the seams. For our coil project, we are making a lidded jar with a lip.

D, starting to form the base

The coils can be formed in any style and then added to the pot

Slip painting the pot

The coils can be left as-is on the outside, or you can smooth the surface in any variety of styles. And to ensure a water-tight vessel, the inside coils need to be smoothed at the seams. Here's a third coil project I started:

My second coil project turned out to have a pear-ish shape, so I made a little lid with a stem, also by coiling. You add a lip to the lid, slanted slightly inward, and allow the lid to sit in the jar as it gets to the leather hard stage so that it shrinks together the same way.

My happy pear jar, which I will hopefully not mess up with glaze

Thursday, April 10, 2008


How's your week going? Mine's been good - splitting time between the bakery and the office, doing a little crafting and reading, and hanging out with D. No updates on Pistachia Vera, but I'm pretty content. The owner of the bakery returned from his trip this week and was very appreciative of my extra helping-out during his absence, and has promised to make it up to me by getting me involved with the cakes. Yea!

The back of Cherry is about two thirds complete - a pretty fast knit so far. I had to take a night off from knitting though, because I was having severe neck and shoulder cramps. Does this happen to anyone else? Knitting is supposed to be this relaxing, meditative hobby and instead I give myself neck strain. Anyhow, I modified the decreasing and increase a little to make it a more petite fit - in other words, a shorter upper body. Instead of decreasing every 7 and 8 rows, I did every 6. Same with the increases. Overall, it is an inch shorter in length than the pattern specifies.

Remember when I was swatching for the charcoal vest? Unfortunately I'm learning that I'm a seasonal knitter, and with the warm weather and all, it has been temporarily abandoned. if there's a cold spell, I may pick this one up and knit a few rows...

I have some movies to catch up on tonight - Hairspray and Becoming Jane - girly movies that I rented while D was away but never got around to watching. I'm sure he'll be thrilled.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Orangina for the Spring

Good sun = good picture taking, so I've got a couple of old projects to show you for the next couple weeks. Here's an old knit I finished back in 2006: Orangina by Stephanie Japel, knit with about 4 or 5 balls of Filatura Di Crosa Millefili Fine. It was my first lace project, and I remember how challenging I thought the stitch pattern was - losing count of how many stitches I had and where I was in the pattern, and being confused about how to pick up the YOs when I ripped back. Ah, those were the days of wanting to tear out my hair. It still happens now, only it's a little less dramatic.

Strangely, I've never worn this knit. It was the middle of winter when I completed it, so weather-wise it wasn't wearable. And I didn't have the right tank top to wear underneath - with black you couldn't see the lace pattern at all, white was too bright, and all the other colours had straps that were too wide. So then poor Orangina got tossed in a drawer, forgotten. Until I dug it out this week, just in time for spring. I love re-discovering things.

This morning I went to pottery class alone and finished my coil jar - it was more or less pear shaped, so I turned it into a pear with a lid. We learned how to make a little lip for the jar lid so it will stay put. Fun stuff. When D gets back, I can start taking photos at pottery again.

And, the baking quest continues. I stopped by Pistachia Vera today in hopes of finding some work in the pastry kitchen. Yes, I know, I just started at a bakery last week, and I do like it very much, BUT, the more I'm there the less I am excited about their baked goods (they don't even use butter, they use vegetable shortening). Their cakes are just...nice. Not Wonderful and Amazing. And since I have about 8 months left in Columbus I might as well try to aim high and see what I can find.

Pistachia Vera is the most beautiful dessert shop I have seen in Columbus (and maybe Toronto) and would be a lovely environment to work in - lots of natural light, clean pristine kitchen. I happened to bump into the manager, who was ever so kind and even gave me a quick tour of the pastry kitchen and introduced me to one of the pastry chefs and the pastry staff, who all waved hello! How nice was that? I liked the people and the place immediately. I found myself wanting to work their so badly that I said I would be willing to volunteer there if there were no positions currently. No kidding. I'm ready to leave my other jobs for this. Fingers crossed!

Friday, April 4, 2008

My Summer Wish-I-Could-Make List

It's Friday already?! What happened? D has been gone for almost a week and I have barely got any crafting progress to show aside from blocking Shetland II. I was envisioning a major craft-fest with the kitchen tablecovered in fabric and yarn, but instead it's covered with cooking and travel books, along with a few dirty dishes and chip crumbs (at least I have been reading - I am almost done with The Soul of a Chef, and next up it'll be The Reach of a Chef to finish the series)

Once again, the problem with being a craftaholic is that I have all these grand plans to knit and sew myself an entirely new summer wardrobe, but I just don't have the time or attention span to work on one project long enough to finish it and then start a new one. I think my favourite part is planning what I could make. I have so many patterns, fabrics and yarns that are all picked out, but they are sitting there waiting to be swatched or cut. Sigh.

Things I would like to do if I had the time:

1) Make beautiful-fitting dress pants to end my pant-shopping drama
2) Knit a whole drawer full of socks in all colours, lengths and patterns
3) Knit a whole bunch of cute little summer cardigans in different textures
4) Sew up a bunch of breezy summer dresses in fun prints and colours
5) Knit more shawls and scarves
6) Sew a cute little jacket with interesting details
7) Make fancy cocktail dresses to wear when I become a socialite
8) Learn to knit fair-isle mittens
9) Make billowy, colourful summer skirts

Since I don't have time to do all those things, I somehow managed to settle on my next project to get things going already. Today I swatched for the Cherry cardigan using US6 needles and the Jaegar Aqua Cotton I bought on sale. My gauge is a little tight, but I think it'll be OK if I just knit one size up. Hopefully I'll be posting some photos of cardigan pieces soon.

How the heck do I find time to learn more about baking and cooking?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Finished: Shetland Triangle II

D has taken the camera to Australia, so I am making do with the webcam this week. After much procrastination, I finally got around to blocking Shetland Triangle II. I don't know what took me so long - I have been wearing it all week!

Pattern: Shetland Triangle from Wrapstyle
Yarn: Alchemy Yarns Bamboo, 3 skeins
Needles: US6 circulars

I love the colour, drape and texture of this bamboo yarn. I had never knit with it before, but it suited this pattern well. It felt a little stiff between the fingers and I thought it might be splitty, but it behaved itself well. Again, the only mods made were adding 5 more pattern repeats (I attempted to use the shawl percentage calculator but failed miserably) and leaving out the last pattern row for the edging. During blocking I was a little worried when it released a fair amount of dye, but after drying it's still got a subtle sheen and the colour has remained quite vibrant. I think I'll be able to get a lot of use out of this knit - it will be good for wrapping around the shoulders on cool summer evenings, and will solve the problem of wearing sleeveless tops and then freezing to death in an overly-airconditioned room. And I'll probably be taking this with me to Paris, the land of fashionably-scarved women.

With this being our transition year, it made sense to do some traveling now, before moving and starting new jobs. We went to Paris a few years ago for our honeymoon, and have been wanting to go back ever since. The pastries, cafes, beautiful old monuments, museums, parks ... and of course, stylish scarves. Hence my scarf knitting. D and I will also be traveling to Opatija, Croatia and will likely spend a few days in another city close to the Croation border - perhaps Venice, Trieste, or even Vienna.