Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A new long-term knitting project

log cabin blanket started!

A few weeks ago, a Ravelry friend and I had a "little" swap -- some of my soaps for some of her extra Juniper Moon Farm yarn.

It turned out to be more than a little yarn!


I thought of some small projects to do with some of the colors, but I kept wondering if I could really break it all up. Even though it didn't all "match" necessarily, I loved the way it looked all together.

I stewed over it for a while and it came to me. A blanket. Something big enough to use up and showcase all of these glorious colors (and a few hanks of alpaca-y heaven that my friend Susan had sent me as part of a HUGE box of yarny goodness before Christmas).

Classic Elite Inca Marl

Angel's Kiss - Fern

Once I saw them all wound up together, I knew I was making a good choice.

a little yarn winding today...

Something about the bold colors seemed that they would really lend themselves to a free-form, very geometric plan, and I found myself thinking about some of my favorites of the Gee's Bend quilts.

So I decided on a Log Cabin style, but with a more relaxed feel (aka: I don't want to have to follow a pattern for this).

more Log Cabin progress

It knits up really fast and easy. And since it is totally a free-form knit, I can take it anywhere and stop and start at any point without getting messed up. Perfect project-between-projects!

log cabin blanket progress 1/23/12

I am expecting more yarn today, and some more at some point later this week. Gotta love swapping! So expect periodic blanket updates. I am thrilled with this project and can't wait to see how it progresses.

Speaking of expecting, here is last week's gratuitous belly shot. I am taking them every week now and this one was at 23 weeks. Hard to believe how far I am already. Seems like I've already been pregnant for so long, and yet not long enough at all again.

23 weeks 3/4 view

That's all for now, but I'm sure I'll come back soon with another blanket update. :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Soap swap!

all the chunks

I was contacted a little while back by a wonderful woman in Australia interested in swapping some handmade soapy goodness with me.

Her soaps came wrapped in this adorable fabric bundle (inexpertly retied by yours truly for a photo), and the fabric square is the perfect size for a kerchief, which I am actually wearing as I type this.

all bundled up

So without further ado, I give you Soapchunks!

peppermint swirl soap

peppermint swirl unwrapped

calendula blossom soap

calendula blossom unwrapped

strawberry yoghurt soap

strawberry yoghurt unwrapped

calamine soap

calamine unwrapped

detox soap

detox unwrapped

I can honestly say they are even more amazing in person than in these pictures -- not only do they smell amazing, they lather beautifully and leave my skin feeling so soft. Check out all the website has to offer. So many wonderful things to choose from!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Finally, a baby quilt for Noah

secondary fabrics for Noah's quilt

Four years ago (as of the end of next month), I sat down at a sewing machine again for the first time since middle school home ec. After piecing together some patchwork quilt blocks I had sewn by hand about five years prior to that (nothing special, I am just really sloooooooow with the hand-sewing), I decided I was head-over-heels in love with machine sewing and dove into a thousand little projects.

It was around this time that my Etsy obsession was really flourishing, so when I came across Kelly McCaleb's shop of amazing goodies, I HAD TO HAVE one of her baby sized quilt kits! I mean come on. All awesome fabrics, vintage and modern, neatly bundled in a little package deal ready for you to lay out and assemble-- could not resist.

quilt progress - old

And so my first fully completed quilt was born, in the form of a baby quilt for young Ethan, who was already 17 months old at the time...

Ethan's Quilt

Hoping to break my Worst Mom Ever record by being even worse, I just now got around to making Noah's.

main fabrics for Noah's quilt

Yeah. He is three and a half now. Thanks for reminding me.

quilt top assembled

quilt sandwich

Done! I love it. Like super love.

finished quilt for Noah

And I got to use my brand spankin' new assorted safety pins,

perfect for safety pins

which live in this awesome box my friend Greg gave me a little while back.

old box

The best part of course is that Noah loves his quilt and it now has a proud place on his little bed every night.

I think he likes it

Monday, January 9, 2012

Apple Butter

A million years ago, or a few months, one of those, I decided to finally make some apple butter. I had a bunch of applesauce in the freezer that was okay but not great, and wanted to make way for a new season's apples (and hopefully a better batch of sauce) but I was also sick of paying too much in the store for something that proudly boasted two kinds of corn syrup in its ingredients list.

apple butter 1

I had no cider and no apple juice on hand, so I looked up some tips online for making apple butter with applesauce only and found a few ideas. So I'm going to share what I ended up doing, because it turned out great!

First off, because my BIG slow cooker went to live in soap making land long ago, all I have for actual cooking is this 4.5 quart one.

Applesauce frozen in 18 oz increments creates little bricks that only comically fit into my medium crock pot. Rather than thawing them, I just shoved in as many of the sauce bricks as I could and added the rest (thawed by then) the next morning after the first round had reduced.

apple butter 2

So without further ado, here is what I did.

I had on hand 4.5 quarts of homemade applesauce (8 18oz containers in the freezer). Whatever amount you start with should cook down to half its original volume, so I ended up with about 4.5 pints of apple butter.

Also, I make our applesauce with only a dash of cinnamon and about a 1/4 cup of sugar (if any) per huge batch, so if you are using sweetened applesauce to start, you may want to taste test before you add the amount of sugar I am about to suggest.

Okay, so once your crock is full of applesauce just itching to get going (and again, these amounts are for a batch made from 4.5 quarts of applesauce; if making different batch size, please adjust accordingly!), you can add 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground allspice, and one cup sugar.

Stir well, set slow cooker to low, and prepare for the long haul. (note: I left the lid on mine to start so it would help thaw the frozen applesauce. Once it had thawed, I placed the lid slightly askew so it could vent and facilitate the reducing process but still keep any splattering down to a minimum.)

Because my crock pot is pretty new, it heats very evenly and doesn't have any hot spots yet. Still, I did scrape the sides and stir mine down every few hours before I went to bed just to incorporate the edges into the main mixture. I kept mine on low overnight, but again, use your judgement. If you have an overzealous cooker, turn even lower or do not leave overnight.

After about 13 hours total on low, my first round of sauce had reduced enough for me to add the remaining applesauce and the rest of the sugar and spices.

In went 2 more tsp ground cinnamon, another 1/2 tsp ground cloves, and one more cup of sugar.

apple butter 3

Because it was morning, and because I was feeling especially feisty, I turned my crock up to high for a few hours to really get things going, but I also stirred more often.

Progress was made.

apple butter 4

Throughout the day, it darkened and reduced more and more.

apple butter 5

This is what the whole pot looked like by the evening of the second day: cooked down to half the original volume and nice and dark.

apple butter 6

After a good stirring, I had a sample and found it to be delicious! The consistency was perfect with a vigorous stirring, but if yours doesn't come out as smooth as you like it, you can also put it through a food mill.

The flavor is very similar to any commercial brand you can buy in the store, but a little tangier and less cloying as it contains no corn syrup or other excessive sweeteners.

apple butter 7

For storage, I chose freezing (my usual method of choice). My hat is off to all you devoted canners, but I just can't do it. I used small jars and other containers so we wouldn't have any go to waste in the fridge. Storage time/safety are up to you. Our containers, once thawed, have all been eaten within a week, so I haven't had to worry about it. Upon poking around online for storage time suggestions, I came across anything from "I dunno, a week? Two months?" to "Heck, I don't even have a refrigerator! Mold is medicine!" so you can understand if I feel safer leaving that part up to your judgement...

Anyway. If you try it, let me know please! I'd love to know if you're as happy with it as I am.

apple butter 8