Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cookies and a Knit-a-long!!

Chocolate Pecan Oaties

Inspired by Isa's  jumbo oatmeal cookies from her new book Isa Does It, this is my kind of cookie. Healthy enough to not feel bad about, but still decadent enough to share with people who aren't so in to that "healthy" thing. Oats and coconut provide the texture, pecans add a buttery decadence and mini chocolate chips and chopped dark chocolate take them over the top!
(oh yeah, and they are whole wheat and vegan if you are into that kind of thing...)

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped 70% dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Grease two cookie sheets and set aside.

Combine the oil, applesauce, vanilla, sugars, and flaxseed in a mixing bowl and whisk together until well incorporated. Add the flour, soda, salt and spices and mix until almost combined. Add the remaining ingredients, and mix until just well distributed.

I used a size 30 cookie scoop, which I would say is about the size of 2 tablespoons. This got me about 14 cookies. Bake for 6 minutes and rotate the cookies and move them from the top rack to the bottom (or visa versa). Bake for 5 more minutes. The cookies should be just golden on the edges. Adjust your baking time if necessary (if your cookies are a different size or your oven runs hot or cool.) Let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets and then transfer to cooling racks.

Eat them. They are delightful with a cup of tea.

In other news, the ladies of Journey have just announced a knit-a-long for their book! I already have Onward and Climb on the needles so I will just put them on hold until the knit-a-long starts! (Giving me ample time to focus on finishing that baby blanket.) I would love to also get started on Swift! Leaving me just the two sweaters on the book to dive into. I think I will put those on hold until I don't have a giant belly anymore. 

(Does anyone else out there find it totally challenging to write without emoticons?! What is happening in todays world?! How will you know when I am joking? Will you pick up on the sarcasm? Will you truly know that I am smiling as I write? Winking?)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On My Needles: Onward, Climb, and The Baby's Blanket

Sunrising over our backyard

It is currently -7F here in our little part of Michigan, and that doesn't include the -30F windchill. The only proper thing to do is to surround myself in yarn, tea and maybe turn the oven on for some baking later.  I actually really love winter. But the winters you can participate in. Not so much the days where they warn you to not go outside for more than 5 minutes and your heating bill sky rockets to almost $300. Full of ice storms and wind sheers, power outages and dangerous roads. This kind of winter I would like to hit the fast forward button on. Thankfully though, I knit. And knitting really does make winter worth it. The cold air continues to push my motivation button, and I wish there were more hours in these short days.

So on my needles, keeping me busy as I am trapped inside...

Baby Girl Mowry's Blanket

The baby blanket is almost finished! I had to order more yarn because of the custimizations I made to the pattern, and those last 3 skeins arrived this afternoon! All of my notes can be found on Ravelry, but I will also do a post here with finished instructions for my alterations. I can't wait to finish it and have it all washed and cozy for her arrival in just 6 weeks! We attended our first birthing class last night and really enjoyed it. We are so happy we found a class that really seems to touch on everything that is important to us.  The excitement builds everyday as we get closer to meeting her!

After finishing the Spate mitts from Journey, I couldn't wait to get more of their projects on my needles. First off, I cast on for Onward. This pattern by Shannon Cook is simple, yet so satisfying and interesting. The shawl works up fairly big and in the book they have pictures of the model wearing it wrapped around her. So cozy! I thought it would double nicely has a nursing cover, and so I got to move it up higher on my priority-to-knit list.

This is the pattern I first really fell in love with from Journey. Jane Richmond  produced an incredibly simple pattern with such perfect accents (and color choices), that pretty much everyone on Ravelry has followed the pattern exactly, including the yarn choices! Simplicity makes these socks timeless and perfect.

And just for fun...I did turn on the oven! So I could make a batch of these granola bars from Isa Does It. They are vegan, gluten free and refined sugar free.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
Recipe from Isa Does It
//Ingredients// makes 8 bars
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup crisp rice cereal (aka Rice Krispies)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Prep an 8-inch square pan with parchment and cooking spray.
In a medium size bowl, stir together peanut butter & syrups until smooth. Add in the oil, vanilla and salt and stir again. Mix in the oats and cereal. She suggest using your hands to knead it all together but I found my sturdy spatula worked just fine! Work in the peanuts and chocolate chips.
Pour mixture into your prepared pan and use wet hands to firmly pat the bars into the pan in an even layer. Bake for 22-25 minutes. Let cool completely before depanning and cuttting. Can be stored by wrapping the bars individually in plastic wrap.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Meals in know- Smoothies

Our favorite green smoothie is a slightly adjusted Glowing Green Smoothie from Kimberly Snyder. Both my husband and I would have a quart jar of green hued beauty every morning...until I got pregnant. Enter: english muffins with PB&J for me and Honey Nut Cheerios with almond milk for him. Thankfully now that we are well into my third trimester I am actually craving healthier foods again (such as my yogurt bowl!) and we have welcomed our green tradition back to our daily routine with open arms! 

//An Almost Glowing Green Smoothie//
makes enough for 2
1 cup water
1 head romaine lettuce
4 stalks celery
2 huge handfuls of baby spinach (or kale)
1 pear
2 bananas
juice of a lemon

I like to prep all my ingredients at once, so then I can just feed handfuls of goodness to my blender without having to stop to wash or chop anything. I layer all of the ingredients (except the liquids) in a bowl in the opposite of the order listed (so that the lettuce is at the top, and therefore the first item to be added to my blender, and the bananas are at the bottom of the bowl and the last thing I will add to the blender besides the lemon juice. I wash and chop everything into pieces that are manageable for my blender.
Add the water to the blender and then at medium speed begin adding in all of the other ingredients in the order listed. I finish with the lemon juice and then turn the blender to high for 30-60 seconds just to really get everything nice and smooth.

**I do use a Vitamix and am of the opinion that a super high powered blender is really ideal for a green smoothie-if I wanted to chew it, I'd eat a salad ;)**

Now when I need something a little more approachable, with a little more staying power, this is my other favorite smoothie.

//Blueberry Chia Smoothie//
serves 1
1 cup of almond milk
1 cup blueberries
1 tsp chia seeds
1 banana (frozen is nice, but not necessary)
1 Tbsp almond butter (or any nut butter of your choosing)
splash of vanilla extract

Blend and drink!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Off the Needles: Spate

I really can't say enough good things about Journey. We can thank Jane Richmond and Shannon Cook for this gorgeous book and the inspiration that lies within its pages. This is not just a knitting book. This is a book you leave on the coffee table and flip thru anytime you want to escape.  It is easy to envision yourself taking the place of the model in each of the breathtaking photographs. Both authors contribute an introduction that leave you wanting a) be their friends and b) step it up and create something equally as stunning!

Now the true testament to this book- I want to knit every single pattern. That is so incredibly rare! Typically, when you buy a new pattern book there are maybe a small handful that speak to you and make you want to splurge on some new yarn and pick up your needles. When I received my copy of Journey in the mail, I immediately headed out to the coffee shop and spent the afternoon picking out yarn for each of the projects, so when it came time to cast on I knew what I wanted to use.

On to my first finished piece...

My mom got me this beautiful heathered green yarn for Christmas. It is a superwash wool, so they will be easy to wash and super cozy.

The pattern is a breeze, knitting up quickly and with the perfect amount of detail to keep me interested! My pattern notes can be found on my Ravelry page.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Joys of Pregnancy

12 weeks

As you may have heard-pregnancy can make you pretty emotional. Hormones raging, giant bellies impeding everything you try to do, loss of grace, balance, and self control. Sure, it's a beautiful, life changing, magical, birds chirping sort of life event-but that's not what this post is about. No, this post is about the darker side. The side maybe your mom and friends don't warn you about. (Or maybe they do, but those damn birds are chirping so loud you didn't even hear them.)
Anyways...this evening I felt what has become a regular occurence these days, the sting of tears in my eyes.  Even my gentle, patient, nurturing husband isn't safe from them.  A less than enthusiastic response, and there they are. Blurring my vision. Chapping my face. Filling my nose with even more snot. Feeling foolish about my inability to not be a weeping mess, I tried to make a dash for the bathroom where I could run a bath and cry to my hearts content and then return to some feeling of normalcy. But my husband, being the sweet man he is, followed me in to give me a hug and reassurance.
And that is when my body decided to really defy me. To remind me I really have lost all control over what it does and when it does it. As he looked down at me, deep into my eyes, wiping away my tears and telling me gently that it was okay and I shouldn't feel foolish....

I tooted. Honestly. Right there in front of him and the dog, without any sort of warning to the rest of my body, it just slipped on out. And with no attempt to be quiet either.

My husband laughed. I cried. And the dog left the room.

32 weeks

**Upon revisiting this beautiful moment with my husband, he declared "I think it just perfectly sums up your pregnancy!" And then I laughed so hard I cried.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Yogurt Bowl

This, my friends, is one of my favorite parts of the day. This summer our good friends let us try their homemade yogurt. Tangy and creamy, topped with honey, I promptly ordered us a yogurt maker. What makes this yogurt so special is that it is fermented for a full 24 hours. This removes pretty much all of the lactose (a necessity for me) and leaves you with perfectly set, tangy, awesome yogurt.

Here's how you do it:

2 quarts high quality whole milk
10 grams yogurt starter (I use yogourmet)

Heat 2 quarts of whole milk (I use the local stuff that comes in a glass jar) to 180 degrees fahrenheit. Gently stir the milk while it is heating to avoid scalding the bottom. While it is heating up, fill your sink with cold water.  Once the milk has reached 180 (this kills any harmful bacteria that may be present), you are going to dip the pan in the cold water and continue stirring. This is a really fast and effective way to get your milk to cool down to the temperature at which you want it to ferment, basically between 108-112 degrees fahrenheit. Poor all but about a cup of the milk into the canister for your yogurt machine. In that remaining cup, whisk in your yogurt starter, making sure it is completely dissolved. Then you stir that mixture in with the rest of your milk. My yogurt maker has me fill warm water to a certain line, and then I just plug it in, add my canister of yogurt-to-be, cover it and voila! In 24 hours I simply remove it from the maker and pop it in the fridge to set for about 8 hours.

While it is a lengthy process- the hands on time is really only about 10 minutes. And it is absolutely worth it. It is better for you and far tastier than any supermarket yogurt!

//My Favorite Yogurt Bowl//

1/2 to 1 cup of homemade yogurt
drizzle of honey, agave, or maple syrup
handful of pomegranate seeds
handful of blueberries
1/2 banana, sliced
sprinkle of ground flax seed
sprinkle of chia seeds
small handful of chopped raw almonds
small handful of toasted coconut flakes

Favorites: Larch

I love knitting sweaters, but all too often I finish them and then never wear them.  Thankfully, they tend to fit my mom great!  After so many years of knitting (and a lot of trial and error) I am finally figuring out what seems to work best for my body type and style preferences. I have learned that I really prefer a tight knit fabric at a smaller gauge. Anything too bulky just makes me feel heavy when I try to wear it-especially if it is a longer sweater that goes over my hips. I think the most valuable key for me to get a fabric and drape that I like is knitting on small enough needles for my yarn choice. If I am using a worsted weight yarn, I prefer to use a needle size US 6 or smaller if I am knitting a sweater.

Larch taught me this. For the first time ever, I finished a sweater and absolutely loved how it fit. I still gave it away (it just wouldn't be right to deny a knit gift to the woman who taught you how to knit! Love you Grandma :)  But I knew even though it meant hours more of non-stop stockinette and picking up hundreds of stitches, that I would have to make another to keep for myself.

I love everything about the finished sweater, from the shawl collar, to the sweet little border details from binding off the ribbing stitches and then picking them all back up to knit the body and sleeves. I also learned how important it is to really watch your tension when transitioning from knitting in the round to knitting back and forth (i.e. the sleeves and their caps.)

I've worn the sweater layered over everything from tanks to thermals and flannels to dresses. The first Larch I knit I opted for wooden buttons placed as the pattern suggests, but with the second, I have quite the belly to work around and found a belt worked great!


I already want to make another one after seeing the incredibly sweet color work Sueja added to her Larch!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Off the Needles: Christmas 2013

I don't typically do a lot of Christmas knitting. I'm pretty much a selfish knitter, who begins most projects with the intention that I am knitting them for myself. Of course, about a week after finishing them I manage to find someone that I feel is a better fit for the item (my mom is the lucky recipient of almost all of my knit sweaters.)

This year since I am not working I had a little more time and decided to knit for my sisters and my husband. Three of my sisters got Drop Stitch Cowls. If you have never knit one, I highly recommend the pattern! It is incredibly easy and fast and they look great on everyone! Abi Gregorio generously shares the pattern for free, only asking in return that you then don't sell them for a profit. I can finish one in about 2 hours and it only uses one skein of yarn!


For my other sister, who has already been gifted a few cowls, I made her Jane Richmond's Autumn hat. Again, this is a pattern I would highly recommend. It uses less than a skein of yarn, and can also be finished easily in an evening. I happen to feel it isn't complete without a pom, but that may just be me...

My big project was for my husband. As of yet I had never knit him more than socks and scarves. I decided it was high time he got a sweater. I also hadn't done any colorwork knitting in years, and he is a huge fan of what he likes to call the "Ron Weasley" sweater. I found a great pattern for a Norwegian Ski Sweater, that wasn't too overwhelming since the colorwork didn't come into play until the yoke. It took me way more time than I anticipated, so Christmas morning he got to open a present containing a sleeveless sweater. Luckily, once I could work on it in front of him, I got it finished shortly after the New Year. And I couldn't be happier with the outcome! The fit is perfect. I worked both sleeves at the same time and was worried the whole time that they would end up way too wide, and the shaping for them is a bit odd. But if you just trust in the pattern and do what it says, all seems to turn out well! Knitting with both hands for the colorwork (holding the dominant color in my right hand, and the secondary color in my left) turned out to be my favorite part! It gives you a great chance to practice a different style of knitting (I typically am an English style knitter) and is incredibly satisfying. I will say, next time I think I would knit the entire project in the round and then cut out the arm holes using the steek method, as knitting colorwork back and forth was a bit of a bummer. All my pattern notes can be found on my Ravelry page.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Babies, puppies, and knitting...

Babies, puppies and knitting-pretty much sums it up!
With less than 8 weeks to go (hopefully), I finally let myself start the baby knitting! That is only about half my belly trying to photobomb up there! We are having a little girl in March, and my sister-in-law inspired me to cast on for the insanely simple Super Easy Baby Blanket from the Purl Bee.

I ended up adjusting the pattern to fit my needs. I cast on 150 stitches instead of the recommended 130. I am also just using up each skein per stripe, which gives me about 17 garter stitch ridges per section. I already know I am going to need to order more yarn. I am using the superwash Wool of the Andes from KnitPicks, and with my added width and reduced height, 7 skeins isn't going to be enough. It will be fun to pick out some more colors though!

The puppy sleeping next to me is our 3 month old Chug named Fargo. We are the crazy people who decided it would be an awesome idea to get a puppy during my 3rd trimester. We are head over heels for the little guy and can't wait for him to be besties with our girl.