Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Small Update on a Big Blanket

It feels like every time I get stuck on my knitting, it is because I have something going on in my life that has gotten me down. Last week, I knit a ton and I thought that I was going to have an awesome blog post about two of the socks I had been working on because they would have both been past the heel and actually looking like socks.

Instead, I offer you my big stash blanket which is now five years old. I am doing an attached I-cord border in the same white I have been saving since I started the blanket before I went into college. I am on the second side of the blanket and I have successfully passed a corner. I have figured out that I need to pick up each stitch on the blanket one at a time when I get to them or else my bind off is just too tight and my hands start hurting. This is my knitting while watching television project right now because it is just so big. I can't wait to actually get it done. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Closer Look at Classic Lolita

Picture from
“Lolita do not recognize any authority. They follow only the values they have chosen for themselves, regardless of what anybody might say.” ― Novala Takemoto
 Understanding the lolita fashion is simple enough. All you really have to understand is the basic silhouette and remember that the key to any lolita fashion is modesty.  That means skirts are down to about knee length, knee-high socks are in, blouses are worn with jumperskirts, and you don't show off your cleavage. Knowing those basic guidelines is easy enough, but what about all the different styles? You have classic lolita, sweet lolita, gothic lolita, hime lolita, and more. What's the difference between all of them?

Out of all of the lolita styles, I feel drawn to classic lolita the most, so that is the style I'm going to talk about first.

When people talk about classic lolita, they like to reference it as the "grown up sister of sweet lolita". On one hand, this is an entirely true statement. Classic lolita looks more mature and grown up than sweet lolita. It focuses a fair amount on solid colors and floral prints instead of the bright pastels and sugary sweet candy prints of sweet lolita. Classic lolitas are also more likely to wear tights instead of knee high socks. Brands like Victorian Maiden and Innocent World are also more likely to focus on simpler all over patterns than prints (but they still have their share of classic prints). Gloves and hats also seem to play a part in this style more than the oversized bows and bonnets.

In my opinion, classic lolita is more about looking refined and classy. Imagine being invited to a fancy garden party. All the flowers would be blooming all around you, the guests are decked out in their formal sun dresses and pearls, and even the refreshments are stylized in a manner that says "this is important, this is classy, this is sophisticated". That is what classic lolita is trying to embody.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Spinning Update

Taken with Instagram
It feels like forever since I last talked about my spinning, but it wasn't really that long ago. In one week I managed to spin enough yarn to make my spindle heavy enough for me to wind it off onto a bobbin and start loading up the spindle again.

This bobbin is special to me. I found it at a flea market when I was visiting my fiancee's father's house. All I know about it is that it is an old bobbin that had mill-end yarn on it. I assume that it is a part of a very old textile factory that had been out of service for a while. Or possibly updated. It looked like the vendor had saved these bobbins from someplace. The yarn on the bobbins wasn't very good and one of the colors was actually drifting apart because it wasn't spun very solidly.

I got three of these bobbins for handspinning. Even if I do get a wheel one of these days and have lots of extra wheel bobbins to wind on, I might still use these because they just look cool. Old fashioned and full of history. Plus, the bobbin matches my spindle nicely right now. It is difficult to wind onto, but I think that is because I have never wound onto a bobbin before. I always wound it up into a ball. I like displaying them on bobbins though and I'll just wind it into a plying ball later. Either that or the bobbins will be so annoying to me that I will just display them and never use them again. We will see what ends up happening.

This is the last half of the fiber I have been spinning. I decided that I am going to spin it into one continuous thread and N-ply the thread to get a three-ply yarn. I am pretty sure that it will turn out into a perfect sock weight yarn. The N-ply will also preserve any color changes that I am getting in the yarn, so I have a feeling that I will get a striping yarn. I will see when I get it done.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Downfall of the 30 Days of Blogging Challenge

On Tumblr, if you fall behind on a 30 Day Challenge, it is usually a short enough prompt on each day that you can catch up easily. Sadly, I am now more than three days behind on my challenge and there is no way to catch up and still keep up the quality.

I have learned something by doing this challenge. I remembered why I wanted to blog in the first place. I am excited about my knitting and I love sharing what I am doing. I don't mind messing up online because it shows new knitters that all knitters are not perfect and it is fine to make mistakes. We can learn how to fix them. It is the same with cooking and fashion.

I have also learned that I don't really like blogging every day, but I really like blogging multiple times a week. To keep up the pace of an every day thing starts feeling like work to me after a while and blogging is a fun thing for me. A happy pace for me is posting about four to six times a week depending on what I want to talk about.

Even though I completely fell down on my challenge because of some outside influences, I really love blogging and I am going to keep going at my own pace. I am going to start looking into lolita and other fashions more and I might include some fitness posts to help keep me motivated to work out on my own. I will probably post more about cooking when I do something new or interesting. But most of my blog will probably focus on crafting because I can pull whatever I am working on into both cooking and fashion.

If you find yourself stuck on blogging, try a challenge. It might help you in ways you don't expect. Happy Blogging!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Panda Silk Socks

Taken with Instagram
"Everybody tells me that they would love to knit, but they don't have time.  I look at people's lives and I can see opportunity and time for knitting all over the place.  The time spent riding the bus each day?  That's a pair of socks over a month.  Waiting in line?  Mittens.  Watching TV?  Buckets of wasted time that could be an exquisite lace shawl."  ~Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit's End:  Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much 

 I finally finished knitting my socks. They feel like dress socks instead of hand knitted socks. That is actually pretty cool because I can wear them with some of my fancier shoes and be a little bit more comfortable in them. I really like how they pooled.

For this pair of socks I decreased the toes down to eight stitches on each side of the sock before finishing them off. I think this gives my toes more wiggle room and they feel more comfortable. My heel still keeps sliding down my foot when I wear them for some reason and the toe of my right sock has developed ladders already when I have just worn them for one day. This is getting really frusterating that it keeps happening. I believe that a pair of well-fitting socks should not be developing ladders on the side of the toe.

I have a theory about the ladders down the sides of my toes, but I will have to knit one more pair of socks to test out that theory. I always mess up one decrease round and I have to decrease on one side for two rounds in a row. This might be affecting the ladder problem and explain why I have it on one side of my sock.

Yarn Review: Crystal Palace Yarns Panda Silk Print

Panda silk is a merino/bamboo/combed silk blend. It is a very light fingering weight yarn bordering on the laceweight side of the thickness scale. 

While you are knitting with it, the yarn is a little slippery because of the high bamboo content, but if you are not bothered by a little slickness, it doesn't interfere with the normal knitting process. The yarn has a really nice sheen to it and when it is knitted up is very lightweight. The fabric is also soft even before washing it.

The only bad thing about this yarn is that it is a little splitty to knit with. If you drop a stitch it is a little difficult to pick back up if you start to panic because the yarn will run down the fabric pretty easily, but it doesn't automatically drop down if you accidentally drop a stitch.

Overall, I would knit with this yarn again. If I could find enough of the yarn in the same colorway, I would pick up enough for a sweater if I had the money. The only thing I would make sure to do is alternate skeins I was making a big project out of it because the yarn will pool. For socks, I don't really care about pooling because it provides visual interest.

Score: $$$$

Update: After a day of hard wear in the rain, this yarn will felt a little bit. The felting doesn't really seem to be that bad, but it will felt. I would probably want to hand wash and dry these socks.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Egg Nests

Taken with Instagram
“Cooking requires confident guesswork and improvisation-- experimentation and substitution, dealing with failure and uncertainty in a creative way” ― Paul Theroux, Sir Vidia's Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents

A while ago I stumbled across a recipe for egg nests. Being the curious person that I am, I followed the recipe to the letter and made an egg for my brother and me. If you remember having eggs in a basket when you were little, this is almost exactly like that. Only instead of using bread for your basket, you whip up the egg whites to create the basket. Since this recipe came from an old french children's cookbook originally, I don't think very many people know about it.  My mindset is if a child could do it, then I can do it. And I know that if I can do it, then other people can do it. I am still a beginner cook after all.

Step 1: Preheat oven to 450. Separate egg yolk and whip egg whites
In my opinion, the hardest part to do is the very first step. You have to separate the egg yolk from the egg white. This requires some hand-eye coordination to do and some patience. As you can see, I separated the egg well, but I wasn't very careful putting the egg yolk in a separate container. It broke and I had a little puddle of yolk instead of a whole yolk like I did the first time.

Whipping the egg isn't very difficult. The difficult part is knowing when to stop. You basically stop when the egg whites get nice and fluffy and you get stiff peaks hanging off of your beaters when you pull them out. It is fun watching the liquid whites turn into clouds. It is also the same technique that you use to make the meringue on top of the lemon meringue pies. I hope to make one of those one day since whipping the egg whites up into clouds is so easy.

Step 2: Fold in 1/4 cup of cheese and put on foil lined baking tray
The second part is where I decided to experiment a little this time. The recipe calls for Parmesan cheese and salt to keep the egg whites a pretty white. I didn't have any Parmesan on hand, so I decided to put in some cheddar cheese. I also ground up some rosemary and a little bit of sage go fold into the egg whites too. It doesn't make it look as pretty, but it was tasty.

The part you have to remember about this step is that you have to press a deep hole in the middle of your cloud. This will let you have an indent to put your yolk in so it won't slide out. The deeper you make this indentation, the more obvious it will be when you go to put the yolk in. The tin foil makes for very easy clean up later. You won't have to clean the baking tray because the egg won't even touch it. If it does stick, it will be on the tin foil. My mom keeps the non-stick tin foil in the house, so I didn't have any trouble with sticking at all.

Step 3: Bake for 3 minutes, pour in yolk, bake for 3 more minutes
The baking step actually takes place in two separate steps. First you bake just the egg whites for three minutes. Then you have to slide the tray out of the oven and carefully pour in the egg yolk.Then you cook the egg whites again with the yolk for another three minutes to get a light browning on the egg whites and to bake the egg yolk.

If you accidentally break the yolk like I did, it will still fit in the egg basket you have made. It will just cook up a little bit harder and won't be as runny as it would be if the entire yolk was in tact. You might want to experiment breaking the yolk on purpose if you are one of the people that doesn't like runny yolks. You could also bake the egg whites until browned and then scramble the egg yolk and put it in the egg white basket. That could also be a very yummy variation if you don't like runny yolks.

There are probably several other ways to take the basic recipe and make it your own. I do recommend following the recipe I linked to one time before branching out and trying different variations. That way you know what it is "supposed" to taste like. I think it tastes like a savory meringue with a very silky yolk.

Of course, half of the fun with cooking is experimenting and you won't learn anything new if you don't try. The one thing that I took away from making the egg nest for the second time is that the taste of sage covers up the taste of rosemary. I probably won't be using those two spices together again. I wouldn't have learned that if I didn't try it in the first place.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Socks and Cookies

Taken with Instagram
"I like making a piece of string into something I can wear."  ~Author Unknown

Today has been a fairly stressful day. I haven't been feeling that well today and I think that made my job searching go down the tubes. Instead I took the day to knit some. I have been working on these socks and I made it past the heel and they are currently zooming down the foot. I should be ready to start the toe within a day or two if I keep working on them at this pace.

Since it is August, the Sock Knitter's Anonymous (SKA) group on Ravelry has entered their yearly sock-finishing competition. The rules are simple: to finish as many pairs of uncompleted socks that you can that have been cast-on before July. Both of the socks I am working on right now qualify. These socks were cast-on June 2 and the Wedge socks for my mom were cast-on in June 27, 2011. I'm not sure if I want to participate in this one though. It just might add up to one more thing I would feel obligated to do and right now, I don't think I need that. I'll just wait for the end of the month and see what the schedule is for their monthly sock challenges and plan appropriately.

Taken with Instagram
Since I have been fairly bummed out recently because of my lack of finding a job, I decided that I needed to do something that I would have to focus on. So, I made cookies. Warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies.

Baking calms me down when it is something I have made several times before. There is also something with sharing something you have made with friends and family that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The cookies will also be a surprise for my parents because they don't know I'm making them.

The only thing that I find funny with making these cookies is I can never get the shape to come out fully circular. They are always a little wonky. At least people will know that they were made by hand because they were wonky and not store-bought. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

From Rags to Frills

Drawing by the talented AmaneMiss on deviantArt
"Shedding my disguise of being normal for the princess I am is priceless. The world has enough ordinary people. Why waste my life trying to be mediocre and average as well? I refuse to be common. I refuse to assimilate." -Lady Kristen, Princessly Living

I am not fashionable. I have never understood high fashion or why every one of my classmates were obsessed with the latest styles on Seventeen or Vogue when I was in high school. My "style" consisted of jeans (that may or may not have had holes in them), oversized t-shirts, and a pair of sneakers. When I got older, that expanded to several pairs of different earrings and a little bit of eyeshadow if I was lucky.

 I have been looking at lolita fashion for long enough that I know that it is not a phase that I am going through. I would truly like to start wearing it because I like the style. But, I wasn't sure why I still liked the style. Compared to all of my other friends, it is more frilly than anything else I have seen. Being a full-fledged gamer tomboy when I was younger, this fact both amused me and made me wonder why there was such a shift. I used to complain when there was even a little ruffle or piece of lace on my clothing. Now, I'm flocking to a fashion that is covered in ruffles, lace, bows, ribbons, and even sweets (in the case of sweet lolita).

I sat down for a while to think about it. I have always been overweight. I have never really felt pretty. I have always wished I had the confidence of some of my favorite television heroines like Wonder Woman, Sailor Moon, and Piper from Charmed.

Then it hit me.

Ever since I started to get interested in this fashion, I could imagine myself wearing it and I felt pretty. When I felt pretty, I felt more confident and kick ass. Who cares if the fashion was different? I could bring in different styles and make it truly my own. Having an off day? How about a fun skirt with no petticoat and a favorite blouse? Need to be more professional? How about a more simple skirt with a blouse and a hand-knit sweater vest over it and business shoes with a strand of natural pearls? Want to go over-the-top? Break out all of the crazy candy colored accessories and have a blast!

For once, I feel like I can finally wear something that will make me look good and make me feel like a princess while wearing it. For once, I feel beautiful and I don't even wear it yet.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Spinning!

Taken with Instagram
“I know that spinning sets me in a trance; it soothes me and charges my batteries at the same time. When times are tough I sit down to spin during the news-broadcasts, with therapeutic results.”
Elizabeth Zimmermann, Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac

I first started to get interested in spinning when I got interested in knitting socks. I have been trying to get enough yarn spun so that I could finally have a pair of handspun socks. First the yarn was too thick. Then the yarn was perfect, but I just didn't have enough of it to make a pair of socks without a coordinating color. So, I am trying again.

I am spinning up the rest of the KnitPicker Corriedale fiber in the Buckleberry colorway. I love how this yarn is turning out to be. It is mostly blue with shots of purple in the single. I am planning on spinning it all up and then N-plying the single. The fiber in the picture is only half of the remaining fiber left. I just split it up into smaller and more manageable bundles before I started to spin it.

I was so focused on trying to make it into the perfect sock yarn that I put it down for a long time. I had to admit to myself that I wouldn't spin if I was so focused on the end product that it would suck the joy of spinning out for me. Spinning is soothing and magical in how it works. It shouldn't be something that I obsess over. I have enough things to worry about in my life. Spinning is relaxing and it should be fun to do too. So I am now spinning it up as my default weight which will end up being a good three-ply sock yarn anyway.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Can I Make a Boring Stir-Fry?

leftover pork and vegetable stir fry
“ one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” ― Julia Child, My Life in France

Once you have been in college without knowing how to cook and all you can make is mac 'n cheese or ramen, you gain a whole new appreciation for the simple stir-fry. This is a dish that simply does not get old because you can make it so many different ways. It can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be and it can hold a variety of different flavors. Best of all, depending on how you make it, it can be perfect for calorie counters.

However, there will come a time where you can just get in a rut with stir-fry. You will become comfortable using certain things in certain places. When the last five you made ended up having the same base of onion while having the second main ingredient as rice, you might be stuck in a rut. That was where I was a few days ago. I wasn't sure how to go about changing my stir-fry into something just as tasty as the ones I have made and still have a good flavor. So, I turned to the internet for some inspiration.

My favorite base to use in a stir-fry is onion, but it never crossed my mind that there might be more than one way to cook an onion. I would normally grease my pan up with some Pam and then throw the onion in with some green bell pepper and cook them until the onion was translucent. With the help of Simply Recipes, I figured out how to caramelize an onion. I always thought that caramelizing was an advanced cooking technique, but that post made it simple to understand just how it was done.

For lunch that day I prepared all of the ingredients I wanted with some minor changes. I used a whole onion because I knew that the onion would cook down during the caramelizing process. I kept my green bell pepper because I wasn't tired of it yet. I left out the rice and put in some leftover green beans and a carrot. Then I threw in a handful of sliced almonds with the leftover cooked pork. Finally I used low sodium soy sauce with ground mustard instead of my usual orange ginger stir-fry sauce. I also used olive oil to start the stir-fry.

Best of all, the entire plate was a reasonable 582 calories*. The only reason the calorie count was so high was because of the olive oil to start the process out with and the pork has a higher calorie count than the rest of the veggies combined. But when I compare that amount to the dinner I had that day (McDonalds) I would say that 582 calories is much better than 900 calories. (and that isn't even including the drink I had!)

It was just the right amount and filled me up for the rest of the day until dinner. I consider that a very tasty and interesting success.

*calorie counts according to

Friday, August 3, 2012

Second Sock Blues

“As usual, the sock yarns have no idea what is going on.” ― Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin

I love knitting socks. I love the fact that I can get a perfect pair of socks that fit my feet like a fine leather glove. I love the fact that I can take one sock with me wherever I am going and be perfectly content no matter what happens. I even love that one sock can look so different from the other sock because of slight differences in the way the yarn was dyed.

I simply cannot stand actually knitting the second sock sometimes. When it is a complicated pattern, I can usually push through the second sock with no problem at all. The pattern either becomes soothing or interesting to knit again. The trouble comes when I want nothing more than a pair of vanilla socks with a rolled hem at the top. The second sock just becomes so boring, but I want the end product so badly that I keep knitting anyway.

The yarn is the big savior in this second sock. It is spiraling instead of stacking on top of itself. Even better, the cuff spirals one way while the leg of the sock is spiraling a different way. This makes the whole thing more visually interesting even though the knitting is so simple. I think I am reacting this way because my life has become easy enough that I want something challenging to distract me. But I started something simple and I have to finish. If I let myself become distracted now, I will never want to finish this pair of socks.

This might be a good time to get caught up on my television shows.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why I Love Herbs

 “Until I discovered cooking, I was never really interested in anything.” - Julia Child

 I love to eat, but I was never interested in learning how to cook. It was too slow for me and I was much happier reading to take time and ask my mom or dad to show me how to make something more complicated than a bowl of cold cereal. I was also taught that something that took time wasn't really worth doing when there was more important things that I could have been doing. So I never learned how to cook.

This isn't to say that my mom and dad were bad cooks. Everything that they learned to do came from one amazing woman, my grandmother. They are good cooks, but when I was little they were so busy that every other day was one fast meal after another. It was a treat for holidays when they slowed down enough to cook extravagant meals or when my mom slowed down enough to bake a cake or a loaf of bread.

A few months ago I was having problems with pain whenever I ate anything that contained meat or a lot of fat. I was at college and my first instinct was to change my diet and just not eat the things that would make me hurt. This resulted in me going vegan for a few months until we figured out that it wasn't any weird sudden allergy to food, but it was my gallbladder causing me the trouble. During this time I got interested in cooking.

I started out small. stir-fries became my best friend during my stint as a vegan. After a while, my pile of veggies became less and less appetizing because they started to taste the same no matter if I used soy sauce or another type of stir-fry sauce. That was when I had to admit to myself that I really didn't know how to cook.

Fast-forward to now and my problem with my gallbladder is gone (thanks to my wonderful doctor and surgeon), but my desire to learn how to cook is still the same. I remembered that my parents have a spice rack and I discovered it in a big way. I have started to make savory pancakes with thyme, nutmeg, and allspice. Garlic is not the only herb that I throw into my stir-fries any longer. Now they are packed with mustard and basil if I want to up the heat or with rosemary and lemon if I want to play up the sweeter flavors. Sage makes an excellent punch in scrambled eggs or even on a plain fried egg along with a little fresh ground black peppercorn.

Herbs and spices have made exploring cooking fun and interesting.What most people don't realize is that using herbs does not mean "spicy", it just means more flavor. People need to open up their minds and their spice cabinets and just see what one new herb can do.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

30 Days of Blogging Challenge

It is August and I have blogged a total number of eight times in the last eight months. I used to blog all of the time when I had my older blogs and I really enjoyed it. So, I am going to be doing something a little different this month. On Tumblr I enjoy doing 30 Days of Challenges, so why can't I do something similar with my normal blog? In essence, it would give me a prompt, it would help me start writing again, and hopefully it will provide you with a little bit of entertainment.

Each day will include these:

1. Theme: Knits, Food, or Frills with none of these repeating more than twice in a row
2. Quote of the Day
3. Picture of the Day

This means that the blog might look a little something like this:

Day 1:
1. Theme: Knits
2. Focus on Theme: Blankets
3. Knitting Quote of Day
4. Picture of a blanket

Day 2:
1. Theme: Food
2. Focus on Theme: Stir-Fry
3. Cooking Quote of Day
4. Picture of stir-fry

Day 3:
1. Theme: Knits
2. Focus on Theme: Baby Booties
3. Knitting Quote of Day
4. Picture of baby booties

Day 4:
1. Theme: Knits
2. Focus on Theme: Sewing
3. Knitting Quote of Day
4. Picture of sewing project

Day 5:
1. Theme: Frills
2. Focus on Theme: Nail Polish
3: Fashion/Beauty/Inspirational Quote of Day
4. Picture of nail polishes/nail art

And so on. As you can see, none of the topics repeat more than twice in a row. I am using the term "knits" to cover all crafting, "food" to cover all food/home/tea stuff, and "frills" to cover all fashion/beauty things.

I think this would be a very fun way to do this blog for a month and hopefully get me blogging more again. If anyone wants to have a fun challenge of their own, feel free to take my guidelines and manipulate them to your own blog theme. If you end up doing so, leave me a comment. It would be interesting to see what you do with it.