February 27, 2012

Knitting for myself

Chunky Cowl over shoulders

After last year’s epic blanket challenge, where I knit eight gift blankets, I decided it was time to focus my knitting and crafting on me. While I’ve been busy knitting away, I haven’t been keeping up with sharing my finished wares. This post is a bit of a recap of finished projects from this fall and winter.

My first two projects are pictured above. The chunky cowl is a mobius strip, which means it forms a complete circle, but with a twist, so if you follow the outer edge you circumvent both sides before returning to your starting spot. To knit, you work from the center outwards. The whole time I knit I was continually amazed by the geometry of the shape. The yarn came from a single sheep, Jeffery, who has started to go a little grey as he’s aged. I wasn’t sure how often I would use a cowl, but so far it has added extra warmth on cold winter days in my office.

The cable hat was also made from locally produced and dyed yarn. Both the cowl and hat yarn were purchased at the Jefferson Sheep and Wool festival in the fall. I love the color of this hat and it has been my go-to hat since finishing it. To complement the hat I needed a new scarf and found this olive green yarn on-line. The yarn is super soft and the scarf finished at a nice length.

Tipsy Scarf

In addition to the mobius chunky cowl, my work days are warmer now that I have my first pair of fingerless gloves. These gloves are made from left-over yarn and really do take out the chill. I also finished a couple larger projects, but I think they deserve their own post.

Fingerless Glove
February 22, 2012

Primary Tart

Pear Tart

I’ve made many a pie and galette over the years but never a tart, until this week. The tart aversion has been two-fold, first I lacked the equipment and second, most tarts are unappealing to me. Tart recipes often have a heavy cream and egg filling, both savory and sweet. Like in quiche, this egg suspension is a huge turn-off to me. I don’t like the texture or the flavor and after eating I’m left feeling weighted down. Most of this comes from my tepid relationship to the egg.

There are non-egg tarts out there and this year I decided it was about time to extend my crusty baked goods to include the tart. After hearing numerous hints, SB gave me a set of tart pans for my birthday. I decided my first tart would be pear and I knew just the pear I wanted to use.

Last fall I made three variations of pear freezer jam; unsweetened, honey sweetened and low sugar. The unsweetened is bland, the honey sweetened is a bit strange because I used a dark wildflower honey, the color and flavor of molases, which over powers the pear and the low sugar was by far the winner with a robust pear flavor. I’ve been trying to think of things to do with the dark honey pear jam, since I don’t think it is good on its own.

Thus this tart was born. I used a tart shell recipe from Deborah Madison with some extra almond extract thrown in, filled the shell with a whole jar of pear jelly (about 2 cups) and added one sliced pear on top. Then I topped it all with an almond crumble topping from Deborah’s crisp recipe.

The tart came out beautifully. The honey pear jam turned into this almost carmely, soft center and the tart shell was delicate with just a hint of almond flavor. I will make this pear tart again, as I have more jars of honey pear jam in the freezer.

Meanwhile, I’m already on the hunt for more tart recipes. A couple contenders are the Black Bean Tart with Chili Crust and Zucchini and Ricotta Tart. Any other tart favorites?

February 15, 2012


New Console

As you could tell by the last post, I spend a lot of time thinking about furniture. The issue of what to put the tv set on or in, has plagued me for years. When I moved into my own apartment, sans roommates, I solved the problem with a side table I picked-up at a second hand store. It was that bad 80s, American style furniture, but it held up the tv and wasn’t too offensive. After about five years, I moved on to a silver wire rack. This provided a compact solution, where the components could be set below and the whole thing didn’t take up too much space.

This wire rack served me well for almost ten years, but it was never pretty, always more college student than working adult. After I bought a new, flat panel, tv, it became even more obvious that the rack needed to go. That was two years ago.

We searched and searched, eventually finding a sleek, modern console at CB2, with a price that didn’t cause pain. Still we waited and waited, looking at other options, continuing to search, but always coming back to this white one. Did we really want something so modern? Maybe it should be mid-century? Does everything we own need to be mid-century? After 18 months, we finally decided to just buy it. So we did.

Now that it is all installed, it feels so grown-up. This tv, these stereo components, they aren’t some temporary thing, they are a real part of our living room. I really like how it has space for all the components, plus two drawers for storing dvds, games, controllers and what not, and a smart trough in the back for all the wires. There will be no more wire ball monsters in my living room.

This purchase has been a band-aide on my furniture needs, but it still isn’t a love seat….

February 6, 2012

Furniture Itch


A couple weeks ago I decided that I couldn’t stand our couch for another day. Not only that, but we also needed to get additional seating, a nice love seat let’s say, to round out our living room furniture. This led to weeks of obsession, searching websites, visiting local stores and basically doing a lot of hand-wringing.

The more I looked, the more I liked our current couch. It is just the right size for our narrow living room, such a nice color and the right mid-mod period. Maybe I can live with the couch, but what about a love seat? I keep coming back to this ridiculously over-priced, tiny sofa, from DWR, the Poet Sofa. It is just lovely and comfortable, and the right size to add couple more seats to the room but no way am I ever getting that couch.

After careful measuring, I determined that the ideal love seat for us would be 60 inches long. In looking at some of my other favorite furniture makers, like Gus and Thrive, I discovered that modern sofas are hardly ever made in the 60 inch range. Chairs get as wide as 40 and sofas get as narrow as 76. Can you hear the sighing, the exasperation? Was there no solution???

I went back to a broader search and found a new term for love seat, “settee”. Presto! A settee is a small couch with most being around 60 inches. Why these aren’t love seats or sofas is still a mystery. Right now my top pick Settee is the Elton from West Elm. I’d get it in yellow velvet. Ofcourse, I still need to try sitting on it first, which means a trip to Chicago. There is no instant gratification for the furniture shopper.

Just finding a potential solution has calmed my obsession for now. Last week, in the very depths of the search I started to wonder if I had a problem, a furniture obsession problem. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, searching for an answer. SB pointed out that this happens to me every year and every year it ends when a new piece of furniture arrives in our home. I begin to grumble about this or that furniture need around January and by April I’ve purchased something. At first I denied that this is my pattern, but looking back through the blog proved SB right. Maybe this is my cabin fever, the furniture itch.

I did end-up buying a couple items for the living room last week… More on that soon.

  • Eating salted avocados with a spoon in Madison.
  • Blogging since 2003.