Monday, October 7, 2013

R is a skier.

The Fuzzband and I have been blessed with wonderful friends. Sometimes these friends are glorious enablers! In the summer of 2012 we were at our friends' M and R's - delicious food, fun people, croquet in the back yard, the neighbors' kids had a party and ended up playing a game that involved running around with glo-sticks. It was fabulous!

One of the outcomes of the party was that R - a dashing gentleman with the most sincere kindness you could ever hope to meet (Fuzzband and I do not think he is capable of a negative thought) - got to talking about sweaters. Now, R is an AVID cross country skier. He told me it had been his dream since for ever to have a sweater with cross country skiers on it. Really? Well, let's Ravelry it! I'll knit a sweater if he pays for the yearn. Really? Really. We did some searching on Ravelry, and found little. In the end we decided to combine the pattern from a hat with a sweater I would make from scratch. Exciting! And R got a hat out of the bargain as well: 

The pattern is by Bea Ellis Knitwear, which can be found on Ravelry, Facebook, and e-Bay. It seems they are no longer in business. I caught them at a moment when there were a couple of items up on e-Bay, and after a few messages, I managed to get in touch and actually purchase the pattern. They only sell kits, so R and M decided which colors they wanted from the beautiful Falk yarns at Dale of Norway - that's the yarn the kit uses. It was very nice of Bea Ellis to accommodate the colors I requested, and the kit arrived nice and prompt. Score! The hat was very much appreciated:

After this, I did some serious measuring, knitter's math, and figuring things out based on Ann Bud's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns:

Much tea was consumed. I ordered the yarn from my Dale of Norway purveyor of choice, - and service was cheerful, friendly, and prompt:

I don't like knitting to deadlines, and R was the perfect recipient - cheerful, grateful, excited, and always telling me to take my time. I cast on Dec. 9th. I ended up unraveling the ribbing and trying out the tubular cast-on (thank goodness I bought Nancie M. Wiseman's The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques all those years ago!) - it is cast-on love! Where has it been all my life? 

I copied the skier pattern and multiplied that until I had a ribbon on skiers. The lower band - I think of it as the snowbanks R skis over - also grows out of the ribbing. I am a little bit ridiculously proud of the back as well, and the collar is a Kitchener Stitch bind-off - again my first! I did the body in the US, and the sleeves while teaching in Germany.

I ended up finishing the sweater on August 4th, 2013. In other words it had dried from blocking, and I sewed my "handmade by Miti" tag into it. Apparently I did a marvelous job:

To add to the incredible excitement of this year has been M and R's little baby J! I had leftover yarn from daddy R's sweater, so of course a matching piece had to be produced, right? I settled on Valerie Wallis' Presto Chango which I'd also knit for another friend. I like the option of multiple panels so grandma can hold a kid without milk drool, should that be an issue. It also meant I could do two panels - duh!

Presto Chango calls for heavier weight yarn than the Falk I had, so after a bit of knitters' math, it was easy to cast on the number of stitches needed for a one year old, and do the measurements for 6 months, and with a bit of luck it will get cold enough in New England for J to actually, you know, wear it before he gets too big. I feel I have done the patterns as well s the yarn justice. Not much more I can eke out of that combo. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Cake that Beet Carrot Cake

Once upon a time, my Fuzzband and I were hanging out with friends, and somehow we got on the idea "what would happen if one substituted beets for carrots in carrot cake"? This is of course a question undoubtedly many have had over the years. 

I love, love, love beets. Love them. Love! So I decided to test this theory at the first opportunity:
And because I know everyone wants to see a close-up of the cakes pre-baking:
Yes - that is the Pepto-Bismol pink batter, ready to go in the oven! To maximize the oven-usage on a hot summer day, I roasted the leftover beets at the same time.

Disappointingly, the baked result is not as tantalizing a color:
Seriously. Not pink? No. 

As this was an exercise in test-kitchen hysteria, I resurrected some cream cheese icings from the freezer and iced the loaves to take to an evening with the same gang of friends. I believe shooting a BB-gun from inside the apartment at a target on the patio was involved later in the evening...
At the top left is featured my spiral bound recipe book that I put together to take Mother's (and other peep's) recipes with me when I moved out from my parents' place. Since then it has moved to Rome, Canada, and now Connecticut. The Carrot Cake recipe I revamped was my grandmother's. It is without a doubt the best Carrot Cake recipe in the world. Despite this, my husband has declared that the Beet Cake is the better of the two, and asks: "Why should we ever make Carrot Cake again?" 

It is true: the Beet Cake is delicious! Not unlike Carrot Cake, but earthier, and a bit less sweet. Everyone at the dinner loved it, and our friend LH swore repeatedly that night, and later in a 100% sober state, that it is her favorite cake EVER! She asked me to make one for her birthday later in the summer. I, of course, did, but added some cake decorating flare:

Yes, it is cream cheese icing, and it was very much appreciated. Several people have asked for the recipe, so here goes:

1,5 cups canola oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp soda
2 tsp baking powder
3 cups grated beets
(1 cup raisins or nuts - optional)

0. Heat the oven to 175 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit)
1. Beat the oil and sugar until pale and fluffy. Or until you get distracted...
2. Blend and sift the dry ingredients (I never sift, and barely blend...)
3. Mix the sugar-oil goop with the dry ingredients.
4. Add beets (and raisins and/or nuts)
5. Bake for 30 mins, or 1 hour in a tube pan. When a wooden tooth pick comes out clean, it is done.

Slather with your favorite cream cheese frosting.


Sunday, February 10, 2013


Men like breasts. I will not even qualify that with "heterosexual" - some of the men I know most interested in breasts are in fact not sexually attracted to them in any way. The bra discussions we have had... You know who you are...

Anyway, I have a cake pan that is meant to make the dress portion for a princess cake. I have made a nun cake with it. Now, obviously they beg the thought: "two of those would make great boobies"! I just needed the excuse. Of course, I am married, so by "excuse" I mean time, place, inspiration, and temperature have to come together. My Fuzzband's birthday is in July, and there is no, I repeat, no baking happening in this apartment in July. But never fear! I have friends! Not that I need to wait for a birthday, but it adds solemnity to make a special cake. Wait, I just used the word 'solemn' in a post titled 'boobies'... Nevermind.

Back to cake. My friend JG happens to be heterosexual, and like boobies. Other things he likes are food, baking, cooking, beer, compost, outdoor toilets, crass jokes, whiskey, and his wife, also a J, but JW (or JayDub as my Fuzzband sometimes says). My kind of guy! To make the combo even more precious, JW is a dear friend who has helped me though some tough times, like qualifying exams. 

For JG's birthday last May I decided to make him the boobie cake! Some investigation (I have connections!) told me he is very fond of caramel. I also happen to know he likes whiskey. My friend AR once made a DIVINE cake (recipe from our friend LB... It is complicated, I know...) with butterscotch and whiskey. It is really something else. I have also made it with a maple buttercream frosting that caused another friend, AV, go into some kind of epileptic spasms... Instead of maple, I decided to use whiskey and caramel as my themes.

Hence was born the whiskey butterscotch boobie cake with caramel icing:

 Two cake batters baked in form later - you can see the butterscotch chips in the cake. You can also, just, see the holes in the tops of the cakes - that is where a hollow aluminum rod is screwed into the cake pan to ensure cooking the center of the "skirt" cake evenly.
 I forget what we were drinking, but it must have been good - JW's camera angle is wonky...
 Note the Jack Daniels bottle on the counter...
 Marachino cherries add the final (realistic?) touch. You can tell the smoother boobie was done by the then fiancĂ©e of JG, JW. We had a blast - girly time spent to make one fiancĂ© a happy camper! Officially we were studying - bootcampage as we call it! Hah! Little did HE know!
 The happy birthday boy!
One half consumed boobie. 

I have a serious crush on JG's sense of humor. And of course the cake was perfect for bringing out the best (worst?) in everyone present. Several at the party were part of my friends collectively called "friends from Church" - a Church they go to regularly, and we sometimes crash, but still. They are some of the most upstanding citizens out there, and wild and crude humor is brought to the group by yours truly, and JG. So imagine my delight when CB, who does cuff links like few others, commented that my cleavage is delicious! I almost peed myself laughing. It was great!