Assorted Thoughts and Plans

Knitting

My Apres Surf Hoodie is a bust. It’s just too snug and the snugness isn’t easily resolved. I think part of the problem is that it’s hard to measure gauge on an overall stitch pattern. But I suspect a bigger part of the problem is that I switched the way that I was working my SSKs about 2/3 of the way through the back. I also should have blocked my pieces as I finished them to make sure that they were knitting up to the appropriate size, but I didn’t. Oh well. I still really want this sweater, so I’m going to just put it aside for now until I’m emotionally ready to rip and reknit.

Grandpa Cardigan

On a more optimistic knitting note, I’ve finished my Grandpa cardigan. It just needs a bath and some buttons and it will be all ready for the dip in temperature that we’ve got coming up this weekend. More pictures and details to come shortly.

Gloomy Pullover in Progress

I also started a new pullover. I’m using some Cascade 220 Fingering in a heathered black. I had first planned to use the yarn to make Carpino, but that pattern was written for Brooklyn Tweed Loft which is apparently closer to a sport weight than an actual fingering weight. Cascade 220 Fingering is firmly a fingering weight, so the stitch pattern looked terrible at the recommended pattern gauge. So I switched gears and decided to try making Catkin, but the dark color of the yarn combined with the heathering effect meant that the stitch pattern wasn’t really visible. So now I’m improvising a simple light-weight pullover. So far, it’s all stockinette knit in the round, which feels wonderfully meditative at the moment.

Sewing

I managed a small bit of sewing over the last week and have been thinking a lot about what I want to make over the next few months. Here are some of the things I’ve got my eye on:

M6658

I’m planning some very basic t-shirts in very basic colors that will really just become shirts for layering. Boring, but useful. The black and gray fabrics are both cotton-spandex blends and the white is an organic cotton interlock. I’m planning to use the V-neck t-shirt pattern included in McCalls 6658, which is the same pattern I used to make my recent vine-print tank top.

Knit top plans

I’ve also got some more interesting knit tops planned. From left to right, I’ve got the Jalie scarf top that I’m planning to make up in a dark teal rayon-spandex blend, Vogue 8831 (a raglan pullover with a cowl neck) which I’m planning to make with a black rayon sweater knit, and McCalls 7018 (a jersey button-down), which I planning to to make in a heathered black cotton jersey.

Burda zipper raglan

I also have a gray cotton jersey that actually feels somewhere between a traditional jersey and a sweater knit, and I’m planning to use that fabric to make this zippered Burda raglan top.

McCalls button downs

These shirts are probably more aspirational than the other projects I’m planning, but I’ve got a white cotton broadcloth that I want to use to make a basic button down using McCalls 6649 (sans color blocking, thank you very much). I’ve also got this polka dot rayon challis that should work nicely with McCalls 6436.

I’ve been knitting long enough that starting a new project or picking up my knitting whenever I have a bit of time isn’t a challenge. But sewing isn’t as intuitive for me at this stage, and when I’ve stopped doing it for awhile, getting back into it starts to feel really daunting. So I’m going to aim to squeeze in 15 minutes of sewing everyday. I’m hoping this will help me work my way through the fabric and patterns I’ve been accumulating while also keeping me from feeling like I need hours of uninterrupted time to get any sewing done.

Baking

Apple Zucchini Muffins

I’ve been doing some simple baking lately—easy stuff like banana bread (I’ve been using this recipe from Simply Recipes and it’s great). I made these apple zucchini muffins two weeks ago and they were really, really good. Good enough that I’ll definitely be making these again soon. I substituted a pinch of allspice for the cardamom and used 1/2 a cup of vegetable oil instead of 1/4 cup because I didn’t have any applesauce on hand. The best part about these muffins is that, unlike a lot of muffins, they stay good for days.

TV

Aidan and I have been watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and are at the beginning of season 3. Kira Nerys has officially joined the ranks of my all-time favorite female TV characters. She’s pretty much on the level of Dana Scully in terms of the depth of my love for her. My favorite things about her include: her ongoing distrust of the Federation, her salty attitude, and her Bechdel-test approved friendship with Jadzia Dax.

DS9-Stills-major-kira-nerys-12090311-500-641

I also appreciate the fact that 90% of her smiles are sarcastic. She is a woman after my own heart.

Raspberry-Topped Muffins

I like to listen to music while I’m in the kitchen and while I’m working on my laptop. Sometimes, I listen to my iTunes, but a lot of the time I listen to Pandora. I have a handful of very different stations I’ve set up, and for the past week each station has started playing Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” and/or “Rhiannon” several times a day. It’s getting a little eerie.

I can hear you calling to me, Stevie Nicks. And yes, I will be your best friend. Next time, feel free to just call.

(Seriously, though. Make sure you watch that video all the way through, both for Stevie Nicks’ intense performance and for the retro videography.)

Anyway, the creative non-fiction class I started earlier this month is over now. On our second-to-last day, I made some raspberry topped lemon muffins to share at our break. I found the recipe through Smitten Kitchen, and it’s one that I’ve made before to share with friends on a road trip to Louisville for a conference. It’s a basic buttermilk vanilla muffin flavored with lemon sugar (that is, lemon zest mashed into a little bit of sugar) and then topped with a couple of raspberries. It’s enough flavor to keep the muffins interesting without it being the kind of taste explosion that a lot of people don’t care for at breakfast. The muffins are really delicious, and I like this recipe precisely because it’s not your typical struesel-topped blueberry muffin. Believe me when I say that I don’t have anything against blueberry muffins–far from it. But it’s nice to have something a little different. Plus, these muffins are particularly nice for these 80° May days since they taste a whole lot like summer.

raspberry topped muffin

You’ll have to excuse this muffin for being a little . . . well . . . homely. I’m not sure why it’s raspberries are so sunken in or why it’s having trouble keeping it’s little muffin clothes on. But this is the only muffin that made it back with me from class and so it was the only muffin I was able to photograph since I forgot to take pictures before I went to class. You should just trust that even in its ugliness, it was a very delicious little muffin.

The striped muffin liner is from a whole gaggle of muffin liners my friend Abby collected for me after I blogged awhile back about running out of them. Now I have a ton, and a whole host of colors and patterns to choose from. It really does feel like dressing my baked goods up. I see many (hopefully prettier) muffins in my future . . .

Just for fun, here’s what I listened to while I was whipping these babies up:

  1. Heart, Alone
  2. Blondie, Call Me
  3. The Bangles, Walk Like an Egyptian
  4. Joan Jett, Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah)
  5. The Go-Go’s, We Got the Beat
  6. Madonna, Material Girl
  7. The Runaways, Rock and Roll
  8. Joan Jett, I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll
  9. Billy Idol, Rebel Yell
  10. Patty Smyth, Goodbye to You

As I write this, Edge of Seventeen just started playing. Perhaps its time for me to take a Gypsy 83-style Stevie Nicks pilgrimage?

What are you listening to this weekend as we kick-off the unofficial start of summer?

Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins (from Smitten Kitchen)

Note: This recipe is supposed to make 14 muffins, but I decided to just divide the batter evenly among one muffin tin to make an even dozen. I was able to top my muffins with a 1/2 pint of raspberries and still had a few leftover. But if you want to put more raspberries on the top or make more than a dozen muffins, you might need another 1/2 pint.

  • 1 c sugar, plus 2 tbsp for the lemon sugar
  • Grated lemon peel from 2 large lemons
  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 – 1 pint raspberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F and line 12 or 14 (see note above) muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. Mash the 2 tbsp of sugar and lemon zest together in a small bowl until well-combined. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and remaining 1 c sugar. Beat in egg. Add buttermilk, then vanilla, and then the lemon sugar, mixing after each addition until combined. Beat in the flour mixture.
  5. Divide the batter among the muffin cups and top each with 3-4 raspberries. (I used three berries on the top of each muffin.) Bake 30-35 minutes until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Apple Muffins

I learned at a very early age that cold breakfast cereal is a shitty way to start the day. I owe this early life lesson to my father who, throughout most of my childhood, would rise at an ungodly hour to make sure we were properly carbo-loaded before school. (This, of course, wasn’t his only morning activity. He would also pack our lunches, get us up and dressed, do my hair, take us to school–the whole deal.) My dad passed down his love of all things breakfast with the usual things like eggs, pancakes, waffles, and french toast, but he was always branching out. So we also had coffee cakes, stuffed french toast, crepes, etc. In tribute, I think, to Bill Cosby and his sketch on letting his kids have  brownies (or was it cookies?) for breakfast, leftover pie and cake were also always fair game in the morning.

Around the time I was 11 or 12, my dad went through a substantial muffin kick. I don’t remember my dad ever making muffins before this, which may very well have been related to an aversion to anything involving a muffin tin. As a kid, I knew that my dad would bake just about anything from cookies to bread, except cupcakes. Because cupcakes, what with all the cupcake liners and batter pouring and increased number of surfaces to frost, were just a pain in the ass. My father is not the kind who has much (or any) patience with the finicky things in life. But at some point, he tried his hands at muffins and almost instantly, the muffin production kicked into high gear. Dad’s muffins came in two varieties: apple and chocolate chocolate chip. (When it was on hand, I’m pretty sure the chocolate muffins were also modified to include marbled layers of cream cheese. I salivate at the memory.) While the chocolate muffins were naturally my favorite, both kinds were terrific and only improved each time he made them. But these muffins didn’t really become a signature “Dad” food until he acquired a set of muffin tins that made gigantic heart-shaped muffins that screamed, “I love you so much I think you deserve a muffin the size of your face.”

It was definitely my dad’s apple muffins that I had on my mind when I decided to make this apple muffin recipe from the King Arthur flour website. All this sentimental nostalgia (combined with the fact that I actually made these on Father’s Day) seems like it’s probably leading up to exclamations about how these muffins were just like dad used to make, or a story about how I’ve spent the past few mornings eating them dreamily, thinking about the days of yesteryear when someone made my breakfast for me. But I really just found them disappointing.

Ignore the ugliness of the over-browned brown sugar topping.

Don’t get me wrong–it’s a fine muffin recipe and all. The King Arthur site sells these muffins as being extremely moist and as keeping well for days, and it’s all true. It’s even quite possible that I’ve eaten, like, three of these today. But they were just not what I wanted. I followed the recipe as written, expect for substuting yogurt for the buttermilk because I didn’t have buttermilk on hand. Buttermilk would have been a better bet and probably would have given these muffins a more substantial flavor. Since these are made with 50% whole wheat flour, I also expected them to have a more distinct whole wheat flavor but the taste of the whole wheat is essentially drowned by the tablespoon of cinnamon that goes into the batter. I also wish that I would have used a more tart apple. I cut up what we had on hand, which was some kind of mild, sweet apple. The result was apple chunks that have a subtle honey flavor that, while pleasant in its own right, doesn’t stand up well with the strong cinnamon flavor. Oh well.

Apple Muffins

Hello, apple chunks.

Basically, I think this recipe is like a pair of jeans that looks like crap on me but might look great on you. The texture is great and they’re quick and easy to make. Ultimately, these would be great if you dig a good apple-cinnamon combo or are wary of an overly-sweet muffin. Or if you are the kind of person who feels compelled to bake with whole wheat flour but doesn’t like the taste of it. (Although, really, if you are this kind of person you should just give up the jig and make what you like. Life is too damn short.) I’ll keep eating these muffins, but I’m also not giving them anything other than a shrug of the shoulders.