Posts Tagged With: baking

Flying Time

No, I won’t be flying anywhere any time soon. It’s time that’s flying. Far too quickly. Do you realize it’s almost February?? How the heck did that happen? That endless spiral of hour following hour, day following day, week following week just seems to suck us all in, doesn’t it? Before we even realize it, another month has gone by. And what do I have to show for this past month? Not much.

Knitting has been sporadic at best. To be honest, I’m not even missing the needles. Yes, I pick up the Loop shawl occasionally, finish a row or two but, honestly, the satisfaction level I usually feel while knitting just isn’t there right now. I know the urge will return. It always does. Right now just doesn’t seem to be the time for knitting.

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I’ve started doing a little sketching again; and when I say a little, I really do mean that. Doodles have been popping up on my desk calendar at work. Little scribbles have been showing up on my desk at home. Apparently, my pencils have been calling and I’ve been hearing the siren call, picking up a pencil. It’s a start. And it’s about time.

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I’ve also been a little obsessed with macarons for the last couple of weeks. These little French delicacies are so yummy and so finicky, especially when you have an oven that’s way hotter than the dial shows and bakes unevenly.

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Lemon Macarons – These look pretty good but they’re hollow inside.

I’ve been trying to bake THE perfect batch and, after three or four batches, I haven’t done it yet. Maybe today, right? It’s definitely been an enjoyable, and tasty, learning experience. Even a “failed” batch tastes amazing. If you’d like to read more about my “experiments”, check out my cooking/baking blog here.

Around the yard, the kids have been skating more and getting much more comfortable. Ethan no longer needs, or wants, something to hold on to. He’s even been practicing with a hockey stick and puck! Trinity has finally gotten over her disgust of the figure skates (and the “pickers”) and was trying some “moves” last weekend (until she fell hard on her hip). Temperatures right now are hovering around the freezing mark and the ice is still great. It would be nice to see it used a little more often but, in the meantime, we’re having fun. And, no, I have not gotten back on to the ice.

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Apparently, John DID get on the ice this past week, with Ethan and his friend, but there’s no photographic evidence to support his claim. I’ll have to verify it with Ethan.

To be honest, I’m making it sound like January’s been a downer. It really hasn’t been. It’s just been a quiet month and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a time for quiet, a time for rest, a time for restoration. It’s just going by far too quickly!

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Categories: Baking, Just stuff, Kitchen, Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Practicing

Now that November 11 (Happy Birthday, Gloria!) is past, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. The operative word there is “thinking”. I’m not big on decorating for the holidays, really. When we were growing up, the tree didn’t go up until just days before Christmas. When we had our children, the tree didn’t go up until school let out for the holidays and came down when they went back to school in January. It’s a day, not a season.

However, all that said, when it comes to Christmas baking, a little bit of time and preparation is required. This year, with the discovery that Kristen is gluten intolerant, it also means practice runs of promising recipes. That’s what this weekend has been about.

This is going to seem like a digression, but it really isn’t. When it comes to cookie baking, I’ve always wanted a cookie press. Each year, I check out Amazon.ca for their prices. I wander over to Michael’s to see what they have; and each year, I don’t buy one. My mother had an aluminum one years and years ago but it was never really used and I have no idea where it ended up. This year, I decided it was time to just get one. I went to my favourite kitchen store (Chef’s Edge in Kelowna, if you must know) and bought one. The price was reasonable, very much in line with buying it online, and taking into account the delivery costs. Plus, I didn’t have to wait for it to arrive.

With new toy, er… tool, in hand, I set about to finding some recipes to play with. I came across one that looked really good – Vanilla Cardamon Spritz. The recipe I used is from Serious Eats, one of my favourite food websites. The only thing I did differently was to use a 1:1 gluten free flour.

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The cookies are crisp, buttery, perfectly flavoured. The cardamon doesn’t overpower the vanilla but gives the cookies a depth of flavour that’s really nice. With a cup of tea or coffee, these are perfect.

I didn’t do much in the way of decoration, as you can see. I wanted to try out the recipe gluten free. However, I did play a little bit later.

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A little melted dark chocolate, some sprinkles… it doesn’t take a lot to make these little cookies look festive and cheery.

Then, because I’m not super big on sweets, I decided to try my hand at some savoury biscuits. During my hunt for the spritz recipes, I came across a cheesy spritz recipe. It seems this recipe is all over the internet – how have I never come across it?

This time, I inadvertently used wheat flour, even though the gluten free flour was already on the counter beside the mixer. Doh!

cheesy

These call for a pound of aged, sharp cheddar so they’re not an inexpensive treat but, my oh my…. they are addictive! They go very well with a glass or two of white wine. VERY well. Don’t ask how many I ate, ok?

I did have a bit of an issue in getting these on to the cookie sheets – they wouldn’t stick very well, even after I washed, dried, and cooled the cookie sheets in the freezer. In the end, I rolled out the last bit of dough and cut cookies out with a small square cookie cutter, kind of like Cheez-Its.

I followed the recipe on the TGIF (This Grandma Is Fun) blog but I’ve noticed that the same recipe appears on numerous other blogs. Some bakers add a little dry mustard to their mix but I found that the addition of a little hot sauce (I used Franks’s) works well. Seriously, these are good!

If you do bake them, whether with wheat flour or gluten free (that will happen at some point), I’ll offer one tip: beat the heck out of the butter and cheese mixture. Seriously, you can’t underbeat it. The longer you beat that mix, the easier it will be to put it through your cookie press.

Categories: Baking, Christmas, Just stuff, Kitchen | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Still Knitting… and More

Yesterday, I ended by writing that, yes, there has been knitting. I wish I could say that John’s cardigan is finished but that just wouldn’t be true. I’ll be picking it up again soon, though, now that sweater weather is really here; it just isn’t the kind of project I can work on in the summer (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).

However, I did come across an interesting shawl pattern that I just couldn’t resist. The pattern is called “Loop” by Casapinka. It’s a simple shawl with an interesting stitch, almost mindless knitting. It is constructed mainly of stocking stitch with a textured stitch row every 8 rows.

chroma-loop

I’m using KnitPicks’ Chroma Fingering weight yarn in two colourways; the main yarn is Fogbank, shades of grey and a little bit of brown and the coloured one is Carnival. I’m loving the yarn (70% superwash wool, 30% nylon); it’s soft and squishy and will, I’m sure, make a shawl that will be an instant favourite.

Right now, I’m just over half way and I’ve only been working on it for about a week and a half. As I said, the body of the shawl is almost mindless knitting. I can work on it while watching tv. The coloured rows take a little more concentration, especially on the wrong side but, if you’re looking for a relatively simple knitting project, this would definitely fit the bill. One bonus about the pattern? The designer has included a row and stitch chart to help you keep your place, including a column to check off completed rows.

Knitting isn’t all I’ve been doing, obviously. A few months ago, I decided that it’s time to start replacing some of my aging baking and cooking supplies…. baking tins, kitchen implements…. that kind of thing. As you may remember, I now have new muffin tins, cake pans and a few other things. There are still a few things I’ll be replacing (as I come across things that have passed their best before date… so to speak).

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been two things that I’ve wanted to have back in my kitchen or have in my kitchen… period. One thing I’ve never had but have wanted is a cookie press. As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, I love to bake. A cookie press has never been in my kitchen but my mother had one years and years ago; I’ve been looking for one but I’m being picky. Yesterday, I went to my favourite kitchen store and looked at their (very meagre) selection. They had two; both looked and felt rather flimsy. If I’m going to get one, I want a good one. I’m keeping my eyes open.

Years ago, I had a krumkake iron, a Nordicware product that would be heated over an element on the stove. Krumkake is a Norwegian waffle cookie, very delicate but very tasty cookie. They can be served flat, rolled into a cigar shape, or formed into a cone and filled with cream. In Holland, they’re called “kniepertjes” (translated? Clothes pegs) (pronounced knee-pert-yes) and were a favourite of everyone in my family. When I left, I didn’t take it with me for some reason. I’ve always wanted another one.

I now have one.

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This is a Chef’s Choice Krumkake Express iron and I love it! It’s so much easier to use than the old, manual iron I had before.

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These are, believe it or not, gluten free. I tried two recipes and decided my first try would be gluten free because, of course, Kristen is gluten intolerant. It worked very well and, honestly, you cannot tell that there’s anything different about these.

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The kids loved these, especially when filled with vanilla whipped cream! For that matter, so did the adults. I also made a batch with white flour, following a Sons of Norway recipe; I was told to bring them to work because there are enough baked goods in this house already and we don’t need the added weight. The people at work thank you, John.

Categories: Baking, Cooking, John's Sweater, Kitchen, Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Odds & Ends

It’s Saturday again. Why does it feel that the weekdays crawl by but the weekends fly? It isn’t just me, is it? Anyway, today is a day of odds and ends.

First, over the course of the last two weeks, John’s had cataract surgery on both eyes. His eyesight had been diminishing rapidly and his ophthalmologist decided it was time. The first eye was done October 25 and seemed to go well but, with only his regular glasses, his eyes had to work pretty hard and he was often uncomfortable – tired and headachy. Not unexpected. This past Thursday, the second eye was done. Now, he has to get used to seeing the world in a whole new way and it’s shaken him up a bit. He will still need glasses for distance but he can see very well (perhaps too well) close up. He’s suddenly seeing all the dust and grime that, unfortunately, has built up around here.  Hmmm… with his time at work (gardening) coming to an end for this season, perhaps that’s not a bad thing??

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Last weekend, we decided to have roast beef for Sunday dinner. Normally, when we have a roast beef dinner, one of our staple sides is, of course, Yorkshire puddings. However, recognizing that Kristen is gluten intolerant, I wanted to try something different. I’d also picked up a beautiful head of cauliflower on my trip to the market. I went hunting on Pinterest and found what looked like an interesting recipe… for cauliflower cake. The recipe incorporated one whole head of cauliflower and three eggs.

The recipe is one from Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli born British chef and I can heartily recommend it. John has been talking about that cake all week! Leftovers warm up beautifully and, with a bit of gravy, you’ll never miss the Yorkshire puddings.

It does call for one cup of flour but I substituted a cup of gf flour and it worked just fine.

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The photo is not mine; it comes from the blog I found through Pinterest. Mine looked very similar though (I thought I had taken a picture of it; I didn’t). The recipe can be found on Ciao Chow Bambina‘s lovely blog.

This past week was also a week of surprises in the mail. I came home from work Tuesday to find two small packages on my computer desk. It isn’t that I wasn’t expecting anything, I was. I was involved in a soap swap on Ravelry so I knew there would be a couple of packets coming. My son had also let me know that a couple of bottles of essential oils were coming my way by mail so I knew there were parcels on the way. It’s still a nice little surprise to walk in the back door and see parcels waiting for me. Another parcel was waiting for me when I got home on Thursday!

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This one was the first to arrive, from a Ravelry friend in Pennsylvania. The white flower bar of soap is a brine soap; the bar is a citrus soap; both have been aged for more than a year and, so, should be really good soaps. I’ll put them into rotation once the current bars in use are finished.

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The second parcel came to me from Michigan and included some Peeps chocolates. John had never heard of Peeps before; I had but I wasn’t aware that Peeps also made chocolates. I’ve had to hide the chocolates as there’s a chocoholic in our house… and it isn’t me. The bar at the left is scented with Honey & Leather and the bar on the right is made with powdered peanut butter and Peanut Stout scented.

It’s always nice to try someone else’s hand made soaps and I’m very much looking forward to trying all of these.

There, I’ve rambled on long enough. I could go on and tell you what’s on my needles (yes, there has been knitting) but I’ll leave that for another day.

Categories: Baking, Health, Just stuff, Knitting, Making Soap, Soap | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving!

Even though today is our Canadian Thanksgiving, we decided it would be nice to have a do-nothing kind of day before going back to work and school tomorrow so we had our dinner yesterday.

Normally, I wouldn’t post about what we ate for dinner but I’m really proud of the meal we had. I mean, the dinner itself wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. We had a roasted chicken, slathered with Dijon mustard, liberally sprinkled with my seasoned salt for chicken, and stuffed with a blend of sweet onion, rosemary, sage, and thyme. We had a cheesy cauliflower casserole, boiled carrots, brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes with gravy. I didn’t buy enough brussels sprouts, apparently. We all love them and I think, had there been more, Ethan would happily have had a meal of nothing but chicken and brussels sprouts. For the kids, I picked up a bottle of Martinelli’s sparkly crisp apple juice (served in wine glasses). Everything was perfectly done. That, in itself, made me happy.

The best part of the meal, though, the part everyone was eagerly anticipating was dessert. You saw the Lemon Meringue Pie I posted yesterday. Well, after posting, I thought about the other half of the pie dough in the fridge and decided to run out to pick up a few things. Like Jonagold apples. And whipping cream. And brown sugar.

The first thing I made was a Salted Caramel sauce. Oh my, so good I could eat it by the spoonful. I didn’t. But I could.

Then, I made a gluten free Dutch Apple Pie.

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There are one or two things I would do differently next time but they’re minor. For instance, next time I would make more of the topping and use more butter in it. I’d sprinkle a bit of lemon juice over the apples just to brighten the flavour a little more. As I said, minor things.

I did do something a little different with this pie, other than making it gluten free. Instead of using cinnamon and nutmeg, I used Speculaas seasoning, a wonderful warm and aromatic blend of spices.

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It came out beautifully! The only critique I had was that the bottom crust didn’t bake properly (I should have baked it in the lower third of the oven, not the middle). No one else cared. We served it with freshly whipped sweetened cream, drizzled with salted caramel sauce.

I think Trinity had at least two pieces of the Lemon Meringue Pie (lemon is her favourite flavour!) and we all left the table feeling rather stuffed.

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We had a wonderful dinner and we all shared some of the things we were thankful for… family, friends, a bountiful supply of food, a safe place to live…. from the big things to the little things.

I hope that you all have a very happy Thanksgiving. Remember, there’s always something to be happy for. We are, truly, blessed.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gluten Free Experimentation

Let’s get things out in the open right from the start… I am not gluten intolerant. So, why am I experimenting with gluten free baking? Well, I happen to have people in my family who ARE gluten intolerant. Because I do a fair bit of baking, I’ve been challenged by my daughter to change at least some of my recipes to gluten free. Ok, challenge accepted.

With Thanksgiving on Monday, I decided it was time to try making a gf dessert – Lemon Meringue Pie. This morning was spent looking up gluten free baking and recipes for pie pastry. I’ve got the filling down pat; I’m using a recipe I’ve been making since high school (a very long time ago!). The recipe I settled on was this one, from Gluten Free Girl.

I’m following the directions from a Serious Eats recipe, one that worked very well for me last week when I baked an apple pie. One thing I noticed right away is that the dough is much whiter than my regular pie dough. That may be the result of the flour blend I’m using, I suppose. This particular blend is a mixture of  white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, and guar gum. The directions say to substitute 1 cup of wheat flour for 1 cup gf flour mix so that’s what I went with. The slip of paper that came with the gf flour reads “This Gluten Free Flour blend is good for breads, cookies, cakes & most general gluten free baking”.

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Right now, my pie shell has been baking for about 10 minutes; I’ve just removed the parchment and baking beads and it’s back in the oven at a lower temperature to finish baking.

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Ok, I let the bottom get a little dark. At least I know it’s baked through! In my reading, I read a few posts that said that an all butter crust doesn’t always hold its shape well. Many suggested freezing the pastry for about 15 minutes to half an hour before baking so I did. I must say it held its shape quite well. I’m pretty happy with it, all in all.

As I’m writing this post, I’m also baking this pie. This is real time blogging! At this very moment, the pie is back in the oven. The lemon filling is in, the meringue on top and it’s baking for a few more minutes, until the meringue is lightly browned, just the way we like it.

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Unfortunately, I can’t tell you… .yet… how it turned out. I’m really happy with the appearance. There were some bits of pastry stuck to the parchment and they were pretty flaky and tender but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. It needs to cool; it needs to set. Thanksgiving dinner must be eaten. Only then will dessert be presented.

If we can wait that long. I’ll let you know.

Categories: Baking, No Knitting | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Almost Christmas

Time certainly flies when there’s much to do. It’s almost Christmas already. Here, in the house, you’d never know. The only decorations up are the Christmas cards that have been trickling in and the giant 3D snowflake Trinity made for us.

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While the kids were here yesterday, we made a batch of sugar cookies; Ethan was more interested in breaking eggs and adding ingredients while Trinity was most helpful when it came to rolling out the dough and cutting it with cookie cutters. We embellished them very simply with some coarse vanilla sugar. When they left, I gave Kristen a small tin of cookies and kept a small tin for ourselves.

Sugar cookies

Today, I’ll be baking up a couple of very Dutch recipes, speculaas squares and koek, a spiced loaf cake. If you’re interested, you can find the recipe on my cooking blog (also sorely neglected), In Ev’s Kitchen.

We’ve decided to go completely non-traditional with this year’s Christmas dinner. When I asked Kristen what we should have, and suggested turkey, she nixxed the idea right away. Between the three of us, Kristen, John, and myself, we decided to have a prime rib roast with Yorkshire puddings and a variety of vegetables. No stuffing, unfortunately. That’s my favourite part of Christmas dinner. Yorkies make up for it a little bit, I suppose. They’re definitely a favourite around here.

As for Christmas day, the weather man has guaranteed that we’ll be having a white Christmas this year. There’s snow on the ground now, with light snow falling.

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To all of my family and friends, I hope you have a wonder-full, safe Christmas and I wish you a happy and prosperous 2016.

Christmas Tree Hand-Lettering

 

Categories: Baking, Blogging, Cooking, Just stuff, No Knitting, The Weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

And The Winner Is….

Heather!

Email me your relevant information, Heather, and six samples of my hand crafted soaps will be making their way to your doorstep, along with an extra surprise or two. Congratulations!

Yesterday, Beth asked how she might be able to subscribe to my new soaping blog by email. This morning, I figured out how to add that to the blog and there is now a spot to subscribe by email… for anyone who would like to.

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This is how the soap turned out, by the way. It’s a nice hard soap that was hard to cut. It did gel but not completely; that won’t affect the final product, just the aesthetics. Considering that it’s soap and will all be going down the drain eventually, I’m not overly concerned about it.

I did do a little more knitting on John’s sweater yesterday; I have about 6″ done so far. Right now, it’s straight up the back for 17.5″ before starting the armhole shaping. I don’t think much knitting will happen around here today; there is lasagna to be put together (I made the meat sauce yesterday) and a dinner to prepare for.

John’s planning on making a cheesecake for dessert, using a recipe his mother received years ago from a NYC native. I’m looking forward to it; he’s never made it for me. This is a traditional, basic, baked cheesecake with the cherry pie filling on it. Yum! It will be a lovely finish to our dinner, I think.

Now, it’s an absolutely gorgeous fall day around here. We had a bit of a wind storm last night; it was an amazingly warm wind that scattered chairs and leaves around the yard. Today, it’s bright and sunny out.. beautiful! It’s time to get motivated and out there!

Enjoy your weekend, all, and to my Canadian family and friends… Happy Thanksgiving.

grapes

Categories: Baking, Blogging, Cardigan, Contest, Cooking, Making Soap, The Weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ah, the Weekend!

And I’m feeling like it’s already getting away from me. There are so many things I want to do but, so far, not much is getting done. Well, I shouldn’t really say that. After all, I did make a small test batch of soap for myself (using 12 ounces of oils) and I did get some shopping done, including the purchase of a cake for a certain someone’s 60th birthday on Monday (but you didn’t hear it from me).

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When I say a small batch, I do mean a small batch. I bought a small carton of milk so I could have milk with my tea at work. Once it was empty, I washed out the carton and brought it home for this very reason. That makes about four bars worth of soap. The soap inside…

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…is a recipe I designed as a face soap, with lots of moisturizing, pampering oils (like cocoa butter, rice bran oil, coconut oil, and olive oil). The colorant is spirulina, which turns the soap a lovely shade of green. Right now, it’s still too soft to remove from the carton but I’m itching to get it out and see how the swirling worked out. To create the swirl, I used about one quarter of the soap batter, incorporated the spirulina into it, and poured it back into the soap pot before pouring the whole batch into the carton. I’ve scented the soap with the last of my sandalwood essential oil (there wasn’t much left).

I’ve also blind baked a pastry shell for the quiche we’re having for a birthday lunch tomorrow. And I’ve cleaned out the fridge.

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Lunch tomorrow will be Quiche Lorraine. I decided to blind bake (bake ahead of time) the pastry so it’s one thing I won’t have to do tomorrow. I did have a nice fluted edge on the pastry but that kind of melted. Oh well, it’s all in the flavour, right?

Still on the slate for today or tomorrow… finish John’s slippers. I got absolutely nothing done on them this past week. Two soles… that’s all I have left to do. In my defence, we did have company this week and the slippers take a good deal of concentration. I did do some knitting, though.

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The checkerboard face cloth is off the needles and I’ve started one of the ubiquitous garter stitch face cloths. I much prefer it in the finer yarn, to be honest. The chunkier ones are fine for dish cloths and such but for a face cloth, I do like the texture and feel of the finer yarn. Plus, it’s mindless knitting… never a bad thing.

Well, this post is taking a lot longer to write than I’d anticipated. It’s now Sunday morning and I’m already thinking about what needs to get done before Kristen and the kids get here for brunch.

While they were out rollerblading yesterday, I made another batch of soap. This one is a hemp soap.

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I love the colour! This morning, I’ve unmolded and cut it and I’m really happy with it. I’ve tried lathering up a small end cut and it lathers beautifully. I really think I have a winner with this one. I wasn’t sure what to scent it with so I’ve left it unscented; I don’t mind unscented soaps, especially if it’s something I’ll be using on my face.

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And the Spirulina soap, out of the milk carton and cut?

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I’m really pleased with the way the swirl came out. I haven’t tried lathering this one yet but I am definitely looking forward to trying it.

Now…. time to do some prep on our brunch. Quiche Lorraine coming up. I’ll tell you about John’s new (upcoming) cardigan another time.

Categories: Baking, Blogging, Contest, Cooking, Finished, Just stuff, Making Soap | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Knit Happens

Sorry.. bad pun, I know. It’s true, though. Knit happens when you least expect it. I haven’t been doing much knitting lately at all. John’s slippers still aren’t done.

However, while perusing through patterns on Ravelry, I came across one that I thought I had the perfect yarn for. Turns out I was right.

001The yarn is King Cole Soft as Silk, 100% acrylic. The pattern is Baby’s Car Seat Blanket. Whether this remains car seat blanket sized or wrap sized remains to be seen. As written, I’m already one quarter of the way through the knitting. The lace pattern is an easy one to read and to remember. The yarn is a joy to work with. I don’t usually like acrylic but this one lives up to the name, soft as silk. It’s also knitting up very quickly as it’s worked on 4.5 mm needles.

Unfortunately, there won’t be much knitting time today. I’ll be picking up the grandkids and a few tomato plants (not necessarily in that order) today. The plan is to do a bit of gardening, tidy up some of the beds, plant a couple of tomato plants along the driveway, plant some garlic in pots, and then to roll out, roll up, and bake the croissants that have been resting in the fridge since yesterday. It will be a busy but productive day.

 

Categories: Baking, Blogging, Garden, Knitting, Slippers | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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