Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'm Stitching as Fast as I Can....

As I have mentioned before, I have broken my personal rule: No handmade gifts for the holidays. Now with less than a week to go I feel much less stressed than I expected about the whole thing.

If you had asked me about it last Monday I may have had something very different to say. That was the day I decided to frog the afghan I had started for my mother. Well, here's the new one. A simple granny square made in Peaches & Creme double worsted. That's a ruler in the center. It's about 52" across right now. I plan to work another 3 or 4 rounds (5"-6"), and call it done.

The yarn and colours are the same as the ripple afghan I had started and didn't like. I had decided on them after giving her the Shell Edged Kitchen Set, and deciding that the colours were okay in her kitchen, but PERFECT in her living room.

I got to hooking on this as soon as I ripped out the previous blanket Monday afternoon, by Monday night I realized I was not going to have enough yarn. THANK GOODNESS I am well liked by the Flo over at the Pisgah factory, who put me on hold while she ran around to find yarn in the same dyelots! The new batch of yarn came in yesterday, so I was able to resume my frantic hooking. Now the only problem is whether or not the blanket will weigh more than my mom. It's currently about 4 pounds, but feels much heavier!

Another gift that I need to finish this weekend (so I can priority mail it Monday) is this doll. This had been in the back of my mind forever, then a few rounds hanging off the needles for almost as long, but I have finally gotten in gear with it. I have completely winged this one with no real advanced planning except the image in my mind. I'm pretty pleased with the body, but am frogging the first attempt at an outfit, as I need to make the clothes much smaller than I thought.

No more details on this one until it's gifted....

The thrummed mittens are nearly complete. I'll post pictures in the next post.

I've even started something for myself this week. Last weekend we had a full house here, as we were the only people out of the NH family to have electricity (in case you hadn't heard a major ice storm left 100's of thousand's of people with out power in NH- aka most of the state) and all of the WIPs I had on hand were being gifted to a person that was present. So, I pulled out my camel-merino-silk hand spun and started this neck warmer. The perspective in the photo is a bit off -the neckwarmer is larger than the ball of yarn. It's just a ring of 2x1 ribbing, but it's super soft and luxurious feeling, and I can't wait to wear it. I wish it had been ready for the 8" of snow I woke up to today!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Long post- knitting at the end

Although this blog is usually about knitting or other crafts I'm going to talk a bit about food today. This post is coming at the request of a friend who, when calling and asking "what are you up to?" was a little surprised to get the answer, "I'm making cheese."

First a little background, since it is the stuff I find interesting:

This past summer while taking the road trip down to Pisgah Yarn & Dying, Gerry introduced me to Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The book is the 1 year chronicle of an American family trying to eat only local foods. The book also talks about reducing your carbon footprint by using less fossil fuels to obtain your food.

Before this book I never thought about how much oil was being burned up by industrial farming, and shipping foods around the world so that fresh vegetables are always on hand, no matter what the season. I'll tell you, I can not stop thinking about it now. It's not that I never plan to eat a pineapple again, because it has to be shipped from Hawaii, but I do plan to make my food purchases more thoughtfully, and support local, and organic agriculture much more purposefully than ever before.

So, I found a local farm to put me on their weekly customer list, and I now have a gallon of milk to pick up from them each Monday. I made the arrangements for this last Tuesday, and after I had arranged to buy a gallon of milk each week I realized that I consume just under a quart.

In the book, Barbara had talked about "The Cheese Queen" Rikki Carroll, who started New England Cheese Making Supply Company, which is located in Western, MA. I had thought about trying to sign up for her one day cheese making class, then realized she sold it on DVD. I decided to go that route, but with so much milk coming my way so quickly I went out to buy her book immediately. AS it turns out, I can not obtain vegetable rennet locally, so I will have to order it. In the mean time I am making this simple soft cheese with this weeks excess milk.

The milk is slowly brought to a boil. Cultured buttermilk is added to the hot fresh milk, and curds develop.

The whey is strained off from the curds, at this point you have cottage cheese. You can keep it this way, or hang it to continue to strain for a more firm, solid cheese. That's what I did, I actually weighted/pressed it for a couple of hours.

My finished cheese is somewhere between the consistency of a very firm ricotta, and a soft creme cheese. Now it's chilling to be made into an entree tomorrow.

While I was making the cheese I also made some seitan. For the carnivores- That's isolated wheat protein (gluten), and makes a great vegetarian entree. The wheat was not local, but buying dry powder certainly does save on fuel over shipping a high-water-content food that needs refridgeration.

The seitan starts with a box of "vital wheat gluten" marketed as a product used in bread making (although you could isolate the gluten from plain old flour). A little water added makes this into a big rubbery ball of dough. The dough is kneaded then allowed to rest for a bit, and finally simmered for an hour.
When the dough first goes into the pot it doesn't really look like much, just a couple puny blobs, but it puffs up quick. Halfway through cooking I thought my seitan was going to blow the lid off the pot.

Again, this is now being chilled for meals later in the week. Mondays are the only day that I can really get into complex cooking in the evening, so it's nice to get ready for the week ahead.

Okay, and just so the people who read this blog regularly have something they will be interested in:

I have a mitten from the 2nd set of thrummed mittens nearly completed. I had started this before I got Maureen's advice to keep the thrumms really puffy, and did make them much smaller. As it turns out I can already tell the set with the enourmously pouffy thrumms will be superior. Live and learn.
The second mitten from the first pair is almost done, but I have run out of blue roving, and will have to dye some more. I had hoped to do that today, but the days are just too short this time of year. Maybe tomorrow....