Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Pair of Beautiful Books

Two books have recently come into my life that have made me drop everything else in favor of 'ooh'-ing and 'aah'-ing with every page turn. The first book is Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, written by my favorite ice cream maker Jeni Britton Bauer, and the second is Little Red in the City, written by my favorite knitwear designer Ysolda Teague. Both highly-anticipated books have lived up to their hype, making it pretty much seem like Christmas for me this week.

I know you're eager to hear about the knitting book, but I'm going to tell you about this amazing ice cream book while I still have your undivided attention. You may have heard of Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream from knitters who attend TNNA, as it is a popular destination while at the convention in Columbus, Ohio. For those of you who have never heard of the brand, Jeni's is known for their bold flavors such as 'Salty Caramel' and 'Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries', as well as their unusual ice cream flavors like 'Olive Oil with Pepita'. Each batch is artisanly crafted and deeply flavorful.

If you love Jeni's ice cream (and you should), you will love this book. She gives away the recipes for her most popular flavors plus many more. There are also recipes for amazing sundaes, colorful push-pops, and delicious ice cream add-ins. Additionally, the book is beautifully laid out and the instructions are clear. I made the 'Baked Rhubarb Frozen Yogurt' and let me tell you that it was incredible. If you've ever thought about making ice cream, you should buy this book.

Now, onto the knitting book! You probably know by now that I have a bad case of Ysolda Fever, so I was just a bit excited to get my hands on a copy of Little Red in the City. The book itself is beautiful and the patterns are classic and lovely. Little Red is a sweater book, both in terms of patterns and techniques, but it stands out in this classification because of its egalitarian view of sizing: the patterns are written for bust sizes from 28" to 60" in 2" increments and each finished sweater is modeled on both a smaller and a larger body. That is quite an accomplishment and one that will benefit every knitter who picks up this book.

Beyond the sweater patterns, there is a great amount of information on swatching, picking the best yarn, and choosing the pattern size and making necessary adjustments based upon the actual measurements of your body. I particularly liked the discussion, complete with photos of a sweater on a resizable dressform, of how bust should not be the sole factor in choosing size. Ysolda furthers this discussion by addressing modifications that make a sweater truly fit. The book gives detailed examples, complete with calculations, of adding short-rows to the bust, increasing ease in the sleeves, and moving a cable motif vertically to flatter the waist. All of this information transforms Little Red from a pattern book into a valuable resource.

I could write at length about either of these books, but perhaps it's best just to say that they've both impressed me with their depth of information, clear instructions, and attractive layouts. I highly recommend both Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home and Little Red in the City.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Potter Party Pals: The Event

I had some friends over this weekend for my Harry Potter party, which turned out to be a lot of fun. We did trivia, enjoyed some Potter-themed food, and watched Harry Potter 7 part 1. Because I shared my initial party preparations and my awesome invitations in a previous post, I'm now sharing all of the final party details in case you also want to host a Potter party before the release of the final movie.

My friends got a big kick out of the entrance to platform 9 3/4, aka my kitchen. (This photo is also a reminder to 'measure twice, cut once.') I made the curtain out of some spare red fabric and painted on the brick pattern with white fabric paint. I made blue signs to point the way toward platforms 9 and 10 using construction paper and a sharpie. It took a little time to put everything together, but it was inexpensive and totally worth the effort when I saw people's faces light up with recognition.

I served a bunch of Potter-themed candy at the party including: Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans (Jelly Belly beans), sherbet lemons (lemon drops), and licorice wands (Twizzlers). I found the apothecary jars at Anchor Hocking and labeled everything with little orange tags. Also notice in the background that I used the Potter books as simple and inexpensive decorations around the house.

I invited everyone to come in costume, should they like. I personally threw together a simple Ravenclaw student costume using items from my wardrobe and a tie belonging to my husband. The hat can be seen in all its needle-felted glory in this post.

Most of my planning efforts went into preparation and purchasing of food. I made chocolate frogs on a stick using 2/3 semi-sweet and 1/3 dark chocolate and supplies from Bake It Pretty. I also whipped up some 'cauldron cakes', which were really molasses and ginger cupcakes (recipe from this book) with vanilla icing. I topped the cakes off with spider and black cat picks, again from Bake It Pretty.

And if the sugar overload wasn't enough from the food, I served butterbeer. My version involved cream soda with a shot of butterscotch schnapps (from a bottle labeled 'Felix Felicis'), which was just as delicious and buttery as it sounds. Also in this photo: my Hogwarts bunting (described in a previous post) and the 'Lumos' and 'Nox' labels on the light switch.

Overall, it was a really enjoyable event to plan as well as to host. I could see an event like this working well for children and not just my 20-something friends. In any case, it's made me more excited to see the final movie when it comes out next month. I can't wait!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I recently realized that I've been knitting a lot less since I finished grad school last October. My blog posts attest to this: I've only blogged about 5 finished objects in 2011. What's funny is that I now have more free time but I'm filling it with reading, exercise, and all the other things that normal people do. It's been wonderful but I do miss sharing actual knitted objects with you. So let me attempt to fix this problem with a promise to knit more and a photo of an actual finished object:

These are my little imps from the pattern Daphne & Delilah, which is just about the cutest design I've ever knit. I made them smaller than usual, with DK yarn on size 1 needles, but I think that makes them even more adorable. I particularly love their little faces; Rebecca Danger was onto something when she dreamed up these little monster teeth for her designs.

I don't knit many stuffed animals, but I'm starting to get a sense that they're really hard to part with. The imps, in fact, are joining my only other knitted toy in the too-cute-to-give-away pile. I hope this isn't a permanent trend, as that will soon make me the owner of a magical menagerie of creatures. Quick, some one have a baby so I am forced to part with one of these adorable toys!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Confessions of a Knitter

This has not been the best knitting week for me. Not that it was a bad week (in fact it was quite a good week) but I don't have much good to report on the knitting front. For the first thing, I fell hard for the KnitPicks yarn sale. Like, a-whole-sweater's-worth-of-yarn hard. But since I've been coveting this fair-isle sweater pattern for years and the yarn for it wasn't even $30, I don't feel too bad about my actions (except the part where I told my husband what I had done).

My second admission is that I did not even knit a single stitch this week. My Mama Imp is still arm-less and face-less and no more stuffed than last week. I would feel more guilty about this fact if I hadn't just spent a long weekend looking at this:

'This' being the sun going down over Green Bay as viewed from a cabin in Door County, Wisconsin. DH and I spent 3 nights in Door County with my parents-in-law, siblings-in-law, and all of the significant others. It was a packed cabin, but a wonderful trip.

One of the best parts of the vacation was our day-trip to Washington Island, which is just off the tip of the pennisula and only reachable by ferry. The vistas were beautiful, the weather was fine, and the ferry ride was really fun. I even convinced everyone to make a stop at Sievers so I could ogle the fiber and weaving tools, which I think gains me back a little knitting cred.

So this week, I promise to be diligent in the knitting department and complete my required stitches. If only so I have awesome things to show to you on the blog next week!