Skylark Stole

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Introducing my latest finished project: Skylark Stole from the book, Custom Knits Accessaries, by Wendy Bernard. It was knit with four skeins of Frog Tree Meriboo MW yarn in purple (7511).

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My friend T visited me from Portland a few months ago, and brought with her four skeins of lovely, 70% merino wool / 30% bamboo blend from her neighborhood yarn shop called Dublin Bay Knitting Shop for my birthday. The awesomeness was two-fold: I’ve never worked with these soft blends before and I was dying to try; and this wonderful gift came from a non-knitter! How cool is this? Someone who’s never knit got me one of the softest and lovelies yarns I’ve ever owned!

She told me that staff at the shop who recommended this yarn was confident that I would love it. They were absolutely correct about that!

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Blocking an intricate lace is such a treat. I love watching the design come to life simply with a pull of the blocking wires. This is when you realize your time and energy spent knitting this garment was totally worth it. (It can also be a major heartbreak, however, when you discover a mistake or two you didn’t notice until now … eek!)  By the way, I folded the stole in half to block because I didn’t have enough room to stretch out the entire thing flat.

As for the knitting, I have to confess that I got confused by the pattern at first. Looking back, I’m a bit embarrassed to even admit this since Wendy’s patterns are always, always impeccable, and this one was no exception. I just didn’t read the direction carefully enough. Mea culpa.

My confusion was from the eyelet pattern repeats. I needed to add this 4-sitch eyelet repeat before each, 21-stitch chevron pattern plus one at the end  (for a total of four times) and not just at the beginning and the end of each RS row I incorrectly interpreted. Because of this, I had eight wandering stitches that I just could not find a home for!  Once I figured it out, knitting this stole was a breeeeeeeze.

The pattern is simple but interesting enough that kept me engaged throughout the entire project. I think placing markers after each pattern is key. I recommend that you utilize those little rings as much as possible. I even put one after two garter stitches at the beginning and end of rows for good measure!

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I had to think of an interesting way to photograph the finished stole. I thought about just laying it flat on the floor to showcase the design but I was afraid that my two year old will get to it and rip it out before my eyes (and she will)! So I decided to just hold it against the white wall.  I hope you can see the lovely lace pattern from these photos.

Here are other ways that I’ll be enjoying this stole.  It’s so versatile, I can wear it as a stole or a scarf.  I have a feeling that I’ll get a good use out of this garment all year long!

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Birthday Fun: Color Me Mine

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My BFF Maya and her family came down to LA from PDX for my birthday weekend. I got to spend two solid days with her while Kevin kindly watched Pon Pon (thank you, honey). She took me on a 2.5-hour massage on my birthday at rA Organic Spa in Downtown Burbank (ask for Anne — she was amazing), followed by my husband treating us to cozy dinner at Café Bizou in Pasadena, the same place we had our wedding rehearsal dinner. I’m incredibly blessed to spend the special day with those I truly love.

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The highlight of the weekend was painting at Color Me Mine in Pasadena. I know I was not turning10, but this place brings out my inner child and makes me so, so happy. Unfortunately, I can’t really find people who’s willing to come and paint pottery with me these days so I’m glad Maya was game! We grabbed a cup of coffee and tea at 85 Degree Bakery across the street and spent three hours painting a bowl, colander, aka “bowl with holes,” according to Maya’s husband (for Maya), and two mug cups (for me).

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So may lovely colors to choose from!

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It took me about a hour to plan how I wanted my mugs to look like! I initially wanted to create a chevron design using masking tapes but after several failed attempts, I decided to just paint it solid (with color 84) and add tiny polka dots using white puffy paint.  The cup looks grainy and light blue but it should turn into shiny and light lavender after it’s blazed.

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After I finished the first one, I couldn’t get myself to go through the entire process again so I just used the puffyy paints and created rainbow-colored polka dots.  I might have gone a little overload with the dots!

I can’t wait until the mugs are done this weekend!

Udated on 1/13/15: The mugs are done! We went to pick them up over the weekend and I’m delighted with how they came out. I’m already using them during my daily tea break!

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Happy New Year 2015

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The New Years Eve rituals continued at the Lavender and OLiVE household, starting with assembling the Osechi boxes on the New Year’s Eve at the in-law’s house. We started earlier this year at 9:00 a.m. instead of the usual noon so we could be home in time to prepare for the NYE party with our friends at home.

I took a bunch of photos this time around so I can compile them into one photo book for memory and record. Here are the photos and a short description of each dish:

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Kaki to Daikon no Namasu (柿と大根のなます):

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Matchstick daikon radish and persimmon marinated in vinegar.  This is a new menu added to Osechi this year, thanks to abundant crop of the fruit in grandmother’s backyard.

Renkon no Umezu Zuke (レンコンの梅酢漬け): 

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Thinly sliced lotus roots marinated in plum vinegar.

Kuri Kinton (栗きんとん):

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Mashed chestnuts and yam cooked in syrup, with chestnut on top.  It’s very similar to the Italian dessert, Monte Blanc, and very lovely.

Kawasagi no Nanbanzuke (かわさぎの南蛮漬け):

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Fried wakasagi marinated in sweet vinegar.

Tataki Gobo (たたきごぼう): 

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Pounded burdock roots cooked in dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.  Yes, as the name indicates, these poor little branch-looking burdock sticks are pounded with a rolling pin into submission, but don’t fret, they come back as delicious vegetable dish.

Kouhaku Namasu (紅白なます): 

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Shredded carrots and daikon radish marinated in sweet vinegar.  It’s very similar to the persimmon and daikon sunomono, but the vegetables are shredded much thinly than its red and white cousin.

Tazukuri (田作り): 

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Dried sardines cooked in soy sauce.

Koromame (黒豆):

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Another type of Kuromame (黒豆):

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Soy beans cooked in brown sugar.

Okara (おから):  This is my favorite dish in Osechi, and I don’t know the proper name of this dish!

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Okara mixed with marinated mackerel, radish, and carrots.  This is pure deliciousness.

Kikka (菊花):

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Chrysanths flower made out of radish.

Kouhaku Kamaboko (紅白かまぼこ):

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Red and white fish cakes.

Daikon to Samon no houshomaki (大根とサーモンの奉書巻き):

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Smoked salmon rolled in paper thin radish marinated in vinegar.

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There’s an art in packing each item in the ojyu, or Osechi box.

The top layer is called “ichi no jyu” and typically contains nerimono (fish cakes, etc.)

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The second layer, or “nino jyu,” contains seafood.

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The third layer, or “san no jyu” contains “nimono.”

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So, after we were done with Osechi packing, we headed home to prepare for the shabu shabu dinner party we were hosting. It has become a ritual for the four of us to enjoy shabu shabu on the NYE. Last year, we only make it to 10:00 p.m. before everyone passed out, but we actually make it past midnight this year!

I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015!

Slouchy Problems

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I love these slouchy beanies – so much so that I knit three last week – but there are two things I just can’t seem to get right.

First, the slouch. I can’t seem to achieve the perfect droop, without them looking like a Rasta hat. I think my problem here is that I don’t know when to stop and begin the decrease! I’m so determined to knit up the entire skein of yarn that I just keep on going and going, even though I know deep inside that I’ve gone too far. I just hate to have a little bit of yarn left that it either become a waste, or sit in my yarn stash that I’m trying so hard to pare down. This is when my inner cheapo gets the best of me.

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Second issue is the decrease. I can’t seem to get the perfect tip, without looking, uum, messy. I’m doing the k2tog (knit 2 together, for the right slant) and ssk (slip, slip, stitch, for the left slant) really carefully and I don’t know what I can do differently to make it look cleaner.

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If I don’t improve, I’m going to have to start hiding them with a cutesy pom pom or something, and I don’t want that since I look at these slouchy beanies as something Samuel L. Jackson would sport. They need to look like a bad ass mother f-er.

Anyway, I’ve got more work to do on this one.

Infinity Scarf = Infinite Possibilities

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This lace pattern will most likely go down as one of the most frequently knit patterns in my knitting history book. I don’t know how many of these scarves I’ve knit in the last few years but the surprising thing is that I’m never sick of it. It’s simple but interesting enough that it keeps me intrigued even after many repetitions.

I knit up a few more over the last weeks for the holidays (I have another green one, a black one, and a grey one that are not pictured). Some were made into an infinity scarf by binding the ends together, while the other ones (the wider ones) remained a shawl. A few went to my friends who will give them away as Christmas gifts, and the others will be gifted to my own friends.

It’s amazing how many different ways you can wear an infinity scarf and a shawl. I tried a few, but I know there are so many more.

Infinity Scarves:

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Cascade 200 Sport in Lemon (4147)

scarf 2

Cascade 220 Sport in Cerise (7802)

scarf 3

Cascade 220 Sport in Como Blue

Shawls:

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Cascade 220 Sport in Cerise (7802)

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Cascade 220 Sport in Primevera (8903)

Knots of Love: Groovy Slouch

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No, no. It’s not a Rasta hat that’s on Ms. Penguin’s head. It’s a Groovy Slouch from Knots of Love!

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I found an organization called Knots of Love while looking for a charity to donate my money and time to this holiday season. This time of year always reminds me how blessed I am, and I feel the need to extend help to those in need. According to the Website, the donated caps are given, at no cost, to “men and women undergoing Chemotherapy, burn victims, brain surgery patients, head trauma patients, and individuals with Alopecia.” It also accepts blankets for babies in NICU.  In addition to the monetary contribution, I thought this will be a great opportunity to put my knitting skills to a good use.

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The Website has lots of lovely knit and crochet cap patterns we can use. I went ahead and knit up Groovy Slouch from the catalogue of patterns and I love it! It’s a real quick knit and I love its simplicity. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to donate this particular cap because I used a yarn that is not on the approved list, but once I obtain the right yarns, I’ll be knitting this up again.

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This is what the finished cap looks like. I had to get some help from the Penguin to get a good shot of the cap from the side. I used Cascade 220 yarn and it’s super warm and cozy, perfect for those chilly nights.

“Everyday” Caramelized Onion Muffins

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First came the Smile Biscuits, then the Sesame Sticks, and now, the Onion Muffins! I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying the “everyday” cookbook series by Shiho Nakashima. They’re definitely two of my favorite book purchases of 2014.

The Onion Muffin recipe is in the book, “Mainichi (everyday) Tabetai (want to eat) Gohanno (meal) Youna (like) Keiki (cake) To (and) Maffin (muffin) no (of) Hon (book) まいにち食べたい”ごはんのような”ケーキとマフィンの本.” Instead of cookies and biscuits, this book focuses on cakes and muffins.

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So, savory caramelized onion in sweet muffins, you might ask? I was a little confused at first too, and even more confused that the author named this as her “basic” recipe. I would think the basic would be something like blueberry or chocolate chips, but she wrote that she chose this particular recipe because it just tastes fantastic. I guess that’s a good enough reason!

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I must admit that I didn’t love the muffins. I liked the lovely balance of sweet and savory, and they were actually delicious (and fluffy, considering there’s no eggs in them), but they tasted more like cornbread than a muffin. I think I might like to serve these on a side of soup or salad, and not necessarily eat them as dessert with a cup of tea.

Oh, and I actually tried the banana muffins from the book and those were pretty awesome. They were so good, they disappeared even before I had the chance to take photos. Maybe it’s a good thing so I don’t have to change my blog name to “Baking My Way Through the ‘Everyday’ Bake Books.” :)