Thursday, May 23, 2013

Strange but good: chocolate porridge

It a great irony that one of winter's worst features - the horrible cold - directly leads to one of winter's best things - waking up in a warm doona cocoon while the air outside your bed is disgustingly chilly. This morning's bedtime experience was particularly delightful because it involved a purring cat (the best type of cat) so I was incredibly cross to have to get up and do grown-up things like meet deadlines and earn a living.  Because apparently I have the reasoning skills of a toddler, I decided that if I was going to get up and do things I needed a treat. I wanted chocolate for breakfast and chocolate for breakfast I was going to have!

However, despite my lack of impulse control I am still an adult so I decided to make a healthy(ish) chocolate breakfast treat: Chocolate Mudslide Oatmeal from the weird and strange food blog Chocolate-Covered Katie.

Yes, I know that is a terrible photo! I'm not a food photographer but, even if I was I don't think it's possible to make a pile of cocoa-flavoured oats look in any way appealing. I also think that based on her blog Chocolate-Covered Katie has a severely disordered relationship with food and some of the stuff on that website is crazy! (like this, these and this ... um no. Never). Disclaimers aside, this turned out to be a bizarrely yummy way to start the day that kept me full for hours while making me just that little bit less resentful for being out of bed on a cold winter's day. I put it in my strange but good file and I recommend it for the next time that your inner toddler really really wants to stay in bed.

Recipe for Chocolate-Covered Katie's Chocolate Mudslide Oatmeal

1/4 cup traditional oats
1/4 cup milk
1/4 water
Pinch salt
1 Tbsp dutch-processed cocoa
2 Tbsp raw sugar (this is a lot of sugar for me to add to my cereal but it's only 24 grams, which is less than the sugar in a bowl of All Bran. Processed cereal is really really bad for you.)
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1. Cook porridge as per package directions (I cooked the oats with the salt, milk and water on a medium heat for about eight minutes). I'd never cooked oats with salt before and I think it does improve the flavour.
2. Take oats off heat. Add cocoa, sugar and vanilla essence and stir well.
3. Put in bowl, top with milk and eat. Enjoy the surprising and weird deliciousness.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Swim like a smug person, knit like a crazy one. Or is it the other way round?

I like to start my week off by going for a swim. My favourite weekend activities are eating, drinking, watching movies and the football and knitting, so I spend a lot of time sitting on my arse. A Monday swim gets the blood pumping and, because I use a hydrotherapy pool (sorry, a 'wellness' pool) where the water is kept at constant (lovely!) temperature of 34 degrees, when I leave the pool I feel both energised and relaxed. It's a wonderful cure for the Monday blues (also good, wine. I like to use both methods.)

My resolve was tested yesterday though. There was a moment where I was sitting in my car in the pool car park and this was the view from my window and I thought, "What crazy person goes swimming when it is twelve degrees and raining outside? Go home, you insane person!"

But I went and admittedly did feel better for it and (this is important!) both smugly virtuous and mentally prepared to start my week. Mainly smugly virtuous :) I suspect I was a bit insufferable to spend time with yesterday afternoon...

You've got to love Melbourne, though. After yesterday's miserable weather, today was lovely, sunny, clear and bright. A beautiful day for going to the pool. ARGH!

Oh well. I took advantage of the sunlight to take a photo of one of my lingering WIPS - the Endpaper Mitts for my sister.  I am really struggling with finishing them. They're the third pair I've made so the pattern is familiar and boring. The cast on is too tight so as soon as I finish with the stranded knitting I need to frog the cuffs on both gloves and reknit them. I'm doing at least one row a day but at that rate it'll take me another month to get them done. In the meantime, want to knit on anything and everything that is not these mitts! Blah blah whine whine complain complain. I really need to stop whinging and taking photos of them and just sit down for a few hours with a DVD and get them over and done with. As my friend Cara would say, suck it up, princess, and get the job done! 

We'll see how well that plan goes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Knitting as art (2013 FO #9)

A while ago, I finished my Moderne Log Cabin Baby Blanket from Mason Dixon Knitting, one of my favourite knitting books.

The blanket was gorgeous but, lacking any appropriate babies to give it to, I didn't know what to do with it. 

One day, I was looking at the bare walls in my living room (as you do, of course) and inspiration struck. I think my knitting is beautiful. It's modern (or at least moderne) and stylish...the perfect type of art for my house that really represents me. So, why not use a piece of knitting as an artwork?

For this to work, I had to figure out a way to frame the blanket. I decided to mount the blanket on a blank canvas. The first step was to attach the blanket to the frame. To do this, I placed nails along one side... even intervals...

..then used the world's smallest hammer to bash them in to place.

The blanket fit the canvas lengthwise but I had an overhang on either edge of about 7 centimetres, so I folded it over the edge, trying to 'envelope' the excess fabric like you do when wrapping a present.

This is what it looked like from the back. The beauty of hanging the blanket means I don't have to weave in the ends! 

The final step was to hang it...


Very modestly, I think it looks great. 

I now have incontrovertible proof that knitting is art and can be stylish, modern and look really fantastic. I am super chuffed with my knitted piece of art :)

PS: I have been reviewing up a storm over at my book-review blog so pop over and have a look if you're interested in my opinions of bookish things. There have been some very interesting books released recently that I have thoughts on.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Honey Cowl and Amanda Hat (2013 FOs #7 and #8)

Happy weekend, everyone! I hope you had a good one. At my mother's request, we spent Mother's Day at a vodka bar where I got embarrassingly drunk after one cranberry martini - those drinks are strong! Fortunately, as can be expected of any good vodka bar, there was also a selection of excellent Russian food, all of which seemed to be deep-fried, made of potatoes and/or covered in sour cream, so I soon sobered up.

I also finally managed to drag Sam outside to take photos of a project I finished a while ago - my Honey Cowl and Amanda Hat.

I swear, I can't even recognise myself in these photos. In my head I do not look like my forehead usually so pointy?

But anyway, the Honey Cowl is one of those patterns that has been knitted one million times. It is easy (just a simple four-row repeat) and is great mindless knitting. It can be worn as above, hanging unlooped...

..or looped once, for extra warmth.

My favourite way to wear it is double-looped (because I do love to be warm) but I love the cowl's versatility. It's an excellent pattern and deserves its popularity.

Now the hat, on the other hand...

Not so much. I am really lazy with hats - I never swatch or measure, just start knitting. With this hat, I did that and it was coming out huge - like, could have been worn as a jumper huge.

So I frogged it, went down three needles sizes to get stitch gauge, and started again. Only then I couldn't get row gauge, so I had to add extra rows and the hat just doesn't fit me. It sits like a pillbox on my head - tres sexy, no?

Ah, no. I am certain the hat didn't work out due to user error rather than any problem with the pattern but still - not a great finished object.

A one for two success rate is okay but, since I love the scarf so much, I'm designating the whole thing a massive success. Plus I am so very warm right now! A total win :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Sisyphusian spiralling scrapbusting baby hat (2013 FO# 6)

Yesterday I told you that even after finishing my very cute Blue Baby Surprise Jacket, I still had a pile of crepe yarn left. It was only 35 grams, but I was not going to put that back in the stash again! But what pattern uses odd bits of yarn that only weigh 5 - 8 grams?  I knew I had to put my thinking hat on ... Then inspiration struck! A hat was the perfect project and I knew exactly what I had to do to make it work.

I took three colours and cast on 24 stitches in each colour. 

Let's call them A, B and C, going from the left.

I then divided the stitches up for magic loop 
(all of A plus 12 of B on needle 1, 12 of B and all of C on needle 2)

Then started to knit as follows.
Round 1: Knit the A stitches with C. Knit the B stitches with A. Knit the C stitches with B.
The stitches are now are divided as follows:
all of C plus 12 of A on needle 1, 12 of A and all of B on needle 2.
Round 2: Knit the A stitches with B. Knit the C stitches with B. Knit the B stitches with A.
Every time one of the colours ran out, I closed my eyes and grabbed another ball at random out of the bag.

I continued with the spiralling pattern until the hat was as long as I thought it should be, then I cast off by decreasing every second row - I decreased every eighth stitch then every seventh then every sixth etc until I had nine stitches left, then I knitted an icord for a few centimetres.

I wish I was a better photographer because this shot does not reflect the total squee-ness of this hat! It's tiny and the rolled brim is so cute. It's pretty teeny so it should fit the same baby as the BSJ.

I suck so bad at photography! You'll have to trust me - it's very cute. It also took me about two hours to knit and used up annoying odds and ends out of my stash - I will definitely be making this hat again! The question is, can an adult get away with a fetching icord finish? Maybe not...

Oh, the cuteness!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Not WIP Wednesday: Blue Baby Surprise Jacket (2013 FO# 5)

Is it Wednesday again already? This week has just flown by in a blur of reading, writing and procrastinating. I honestly feel if all I have done in the last week is chip away rather ineffectively at the endless pile of work I need to do. Such is the nature of research but still! I understand now why postgraduate study is considered so difficult - it's not the work that's hard but rather finding the mental strength to remain motivated and focused at a really long-term goal with few short-term payoffs that people struggle with.

So, in that vein, instead of sharing with you another bunch of unfinished projects, I thought I'd vary my routine and show something that's actually finished.

The Yarn Harlot once said the unseamed Baby Surprise Jacket looked like a knitted manta ray, and it really does! It's crazy to think that with a few short shoulder seams... becomes an actual piece of usable clothing!

I know it's a bit twee but I love using novelty buttons on baby knits. It's not like they're going to complain and it makes me smile.

Of course I remembered to sew a spare button on the inside. 

There's not much that I can say about this jacket that hasn't been said before. One thing I did do (by chance) that looked absolutely fabulous was to use the same colour to cast on and do the first three rows and then the last few rows of the sleeve and the cast-off. When I seamed using that colour, it created a very professional-looking finish to the whole garment.

I'm pretty pleased at using up all of that crepe stash (some of it is over eight years old!). However, once I finished I still had all of this left over:

Argh! Will it never be done? Maybe this crepe is my yarny Sisyphusian task - every time I finish a garment, the wool regenerates and I need to start all over again.

Or maybe not and I've been spending just a bit too much time in the library. Till next time :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A chronicle of derpitude and a gorgeous free pair of socks (2013 FO #4)

Chronicle of derpitude

I do not know what is going on inside my brain at the moment but I have turned into a derpy, scatty vacant-minded idiot. Yesterday, I locked myself out of the house on an eight-degree night and had to wait over an hour for my spare keys to arrive. The worst thing is even though I had both books and knitting it was too cold to knit and and too dark to read! Completely the worst. This morning, I went to the library and left my keys on the loans desk, then spent five minutes staring at my car door trying to figure out how to get inside. Just then I had a shower and shampooed my hair twice instead of using shampoo then conditioner. I'm going to get some multivitamins or something because this level of absentmindedness is terrible!

In happier news

I have a new finished object to share with you: my Ocean Wave Socks.

These are made up completely of leftovers - the Ocean Blue Socks (Rav link), the Ishbel I knitted in Hamilton Island (what a divine place!) and Sam's Anniversary Socks.

It actually made a really-fitting and handsome heel and it meant I could easily continue the spiralling pattern I was using but it was a bit fiddly and did mean more ends to weave in, so I will probably only use this technique on socks where striping is vital to the sock.

On the subject of weaving in ends, I actually finished knitting this sock during Finish It February. However, because it was made up of lots of leftovers there were lots of ends (felt like about 300, probably really 40) and it has taken me this long (two months!) to weave them in. I hate hate hate weaving in ends!

But now they're done and I have a lovely new pair of socks that were effectively free and have the added bonus of making me feel smug about how thrifty and crafty I am. Win win win.

Now let's just hope I can go through the next few days without doing something really stupid like locking myself in a cupboard or forgetting my pin while standing at an ATM with a queue of people behind me...