Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My first Fair Isle

My son's ever growing head needed a new hat. It seemed that the multitude of 12 to 24 month hats were just too small, and as my daughter's princess and pink obsessions started around 2, the only other options for him in our house involved Belle, Sleeping Beauty and a lot of pink hearts.

Two things you should know: I am cheap. Ok, frugal. I guess that's the nicer word for it. Also, I hate seaming, which is where I am at with my other current projects (which, for now, will remain cloaked in mystery). The powerful combination of these two forces brought me to the Norwegian Star Earflap Hat. It was the hat my son needed, which could be created with yarn I already owned (cheap... err, frugal) and would give me excuse to put down that awful tapestry needle and pick up my knitting needles again. Joy.

I was thrilled with the end result. Until I put it on his head. Too big. Really, comically too big. It fits my daughter, it fits me. It even fits my husband. But my son... well, it's kind of cute when little kids are in too big hats, right?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You knit some, you lose some...

Last week, I came back from a wonderful vacation with my family with lots of photos, wonderful memories... and a knitting project significantly smaller than it was when we left. There I was, cheerfully working on my February Lady sweater, when something about the lace pattern seemed off. The lacework wasn't lining up just right - I then realized that somewhere several rows up, I had repeated a portion of the pattern where I shouldn't have. So, I began unraveling. And then... I kept going. I saw a weird gap on my garter stitch button band. And then there was those buttonholes. And before I knew it, I was down to the neck band. It's kind of weird how all that frogging is heartbreaking and weirdly satisfying all at the same time.

But I'm working to get back to where I was. I'm much more satisfied with my the top buttonhole this time, so I feel happy with my decision. Except when I look at where I was... sniff... and where I could have been if I hadn't done all that unravelling... sniff, sniff... but I know I'll be happy with the end result.

Of course, I'm thinking my sweater might take a backseat for a few weeks to get some (cue festive music) holiday knitting underway.

Ooh, look at that lovely little stash of Patons Wool. So full of potential. I can't wait to get started.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I got a rock.

Halloween is an interesting time of year. For 364 days out of the year, we tell our kids, strangers are bad. Don't talk to strangers. And for goodness sakes, don't take candy from strangers. Unless it's Halloween. Then, by all means, take their candy. And if they're doling out the full-size candy bars, go home, throw together another costume, go back and take more of their candy.

Last night, I paid my daughter for all of her chocolate candy. After dinner, she dumped out her bag of candy, separated her chocolates from her non-chocolates and presented me with a box filled with Snickers, Milky Ways, Kit Kats, Reese's Cups... pretty much the stuff of my childhood dreams. But she hates all of it. She hates - yes, hates - chocolate. While out trick or treating, she was very polite, dutifully saying thank you no matter what was dropped into her bucket. When she'd come back to me, she'd mutter in this dejected voice, "Chocolate." You would have thought she had just gotten a rock dropped into her bucket instead of bits of chocolatey deliciousness. At least promising her money for each piece of chocolate helped with her disappointment.

As luck would have it, one girl's rock is another girl's baking treasure. Last year I used her discarded Reese's cups for some pretty tasty Peanut Butter Cup Blondies (thanks to that blondie recipe I told you about before). I'm thinking of doing a mix this time around, sort of a candy bowl blondie. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Making progress

When I began knitting, the idea of a knitted sweater seemed... oh, I don't know... insane. A scarf - sure, no problem. Hats? I'll give it a try. Why not? Even a baby sweater - a much smaller scale, so a little crazy, but doable.

But a sweater? A full-on, me-sized, knitted-by-my-own-hands sweater? With the seaming, the blocking, the pattern following and, ack, worst of all, swatch knitting? Even the idea of it was daunting.

But somewhere along the line, the idea becomes... less daunting. A pattern calls for blocking, so you give it a try. That little baby sweater seems a little too Mr. T-like without sleeves, so you learn to seam. And, yes, your daughter ends up with a few extra blankets for her little dolls as you learn the value of knitting swatches.

So the idea of knitting a sweater for myself, as crazy as it seemed when I first picked up a pair of needles four years ago, became less crazy. A pattern was found, yarn was ordered, a sleeve was started... and quickly discarded. Perhaps a mid-thigh length lacework cardigan, as gorgeous as the Celeste was, wasn't the best choice for a first sweater.

So I scaled back the plans, using the same laceweight yarn on a simpler, more manageable project - the very lovely Featherweight Cardigan. With its basic stockinette and top down construction, it seemed like the perfect first sweater. And it was. Until it was eaten by moths. Yes, really. Moths. Fun, right? Nothing like pulling a project out of the bag you had it in and seeing a fat little moth come out with it. (Consider this your public service announcement on the importance of proper yarn and project storage.)

So the third time, so far has been a charm. New yarn, new pattern: the tried and true February Lady sweater, from Flint Knits, knit up in the very lovely Berroco Weekend.

It's actually coming along nicely.... with a caveat. I feel like I really messed up the button holes. For some reason I have a large, loose piece of yarn going down the middle of the top two. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of knitter who would rather make due with mistakes in the interest of getting it done (and then point out the mistakes to myself years after the project is complete, of course), so I'll be figuring out a way to salvage those once it's almost finished. I can't believe I just used the words "almost finished" in the context of a knitted sweater.

Could knitted socks be too far behind? No way. That's just crazy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And it's mine, all mine

As promised, I am posting pics of my already much loved Clapotis. There is something about a scarf or wrap that makes me feel very jaunty and put together, and this one is no exception. The feel of the yarn - Brooks Farm Solo Silk - is divine; it's ultra soft and very warm at the same time. The photo to the right, of course, is me showing off my very lovely Clapotis (notice the jauntiness) while imagining your jealousy that you are not ensconced in its warm and soft loveliness.

Of course, it isn't all perfect. This project was boring. Really... incredibly... boring. And LONG. As I wrote about before, I really had to force myself to keep going. But, really, aren't most big projects that way? I'm trying to tell myself that as I dive into my next knitting project - the February Lady sweater. I've already got the yoke done and am a few repeats into the lacework body. So far so good - it's knitting up relatively quickly, and the yarn - Berroco Weekend - seems to work well with it. The green color is gorgeous - it was the first thing that drew me to the yarn. I kind of/sort of made up a swatch to test my knitting gauge, but I quickly unraveled it to make sure I had enough yarn to complete the whole thing. So if you see my 5-year-old sporting a rockin' green February Lady sweater, you'll know why.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's done! It's done!

I'm so excited to post pictures, but that will have to wait - in the meantime, I just wanted to share my excitement. My Clapotis is finished!

Did you ever have a project that seemed to, for the lack of a better term, gum up the works, creatively speaking? This was mine. I felt like I couldn't work on any other projects until it was done - it seemed like if I just put a few good evenings into it, I could get it finished. Unfortunately, there is a stretch of this project that is just SO boring, I didn't want to work on it. So I was stuck. I couldn't post on my blog because I wasn't "making" anything. (As an aside, I need to correct that and figure out what I can do to keep my blog active while I'm in the midst of projects. I am baking stuff all the time, but it was never really my intention to do a baking blog. I really wanted it to be a mix. But that's a conversation that's best left to my own mind - likely late at night, when I should be sleeping. )

But now, it's finished. Finished! I'm so happy. I can't wait for the weather to cool down a bit again so I can wear it. And I'll take some pictures this afternoon. As an added bonus, I'm feeling incredibly creative again. It's like the floodgates have opened back up. I'm ready to start... HOLIDAY projects. Family, you've been warned. And maybe a sweater for myself too - my first! I'm thinking I'll continue jumping on the bandwagon of popular Ravelry patterns and try out the February Lady.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Much love for the mix

A couple of years ago, I came across a recipe in Everyday Food for a baking mix that could be used for four different recipes. One recipe was for a Chewy Oatmeal Blondie, one was... you know what? Sorry. I didn't get past Chewy Oatmeal Blondie. I read "Chewy Oatmeal Blondie" and that was it. I was sold. Wouldn't you be?

The blondies turned out to be one of the most versatile, delicious, and easy to pull together recipes I have come across, and since then I have kept a batch of that baking mix on hand - tweaked a bit with some whole wheat flour - when life calls for... nay, demands, a blondie (Sometimes I think I hear that demand a little more than others).

A few weeks back I came across that Everyday Food issue and found the recipe for the mix again. This time, I made it past the Chewy Oatmeal Blondies and saw Jam Sandwich Cookies. I was on a bit of a jam kick this summer, so of course this caught my eye. Then something else did as well - the entire cookie is just three ingredients - the mix, butter and milk.

So the other day, I trotted out that baking mix to make Jam Sandwich cookies. The recipe is beyond easy - mix and butter in the food processor, then add milk. Bake, fill and eat. I filled mine with the blueberry and strawberry jam I made earlier this summer. Yum.

Maybe in a couple of years, I'll try out another recipe for the mix. Until then, it's jam sandwiches and blondies all the way. Not a bad way to be.

Everyday Baking Mix
(adapted from Everyday Food, April 2008)
Makes 9 cups
3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
3 cups whole wheat flour, spooned and leveled
3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon salt

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 months. Whisk before using.

Jam Sandwich Cookies

(from Everyday Food)
4 cups Everyday Baking Mix, spooned and leveled
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup whole milk (I used 2 percent with no ill effects)
3/4 cup seedless jam or jelly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse baking mix and butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk; pulse until a dough forms.
Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto sheets, 4 inches apart. (You will fit about 9 cookies to a sheet; bake in two batches to make a total of 36 cookies.) Bake until cookies begin to turn golden but center is still pale, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Spread flat side of half the cookies with 2 teaspoons jam each; sandwich with remaining cookies.

And the recipe for the Chewy Oatmeal Blondies can be found here...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tomatoes - Part Deux

Our tomato windfall continues here, and I finally had a half decent looking pepper come out of our garden - a jalapeno. So it was time to put two and two - or in actuality, 15 and 1 - together, and make some salsa. In my head, I hear Jerry Seinfeld's voice saying, "Excuse me, do you have any salsa?" "We need more salsa." "Where is the salsa? No salsa?"

Well, we now have salsa. It's real, and it is spectacular.

Unfortunately, my rules for salsa making are much like my rules for sauce making: as little contact with the tomatoes as possible. That eliminates pretty much all of the fresh salsa recipes out there, which is ok, because a bowl full of tomato chunks might hit the spot for some, but not me. I'm more the person who dips their chip in, soaking up the accumulating juices and avoiding any large chunks of anything- and leaving you with some dried up tomato and onion bits in the bowl. Oh yeah, that's just how I roll, baby.

I came across a recipe on All Recipes that sounded absolutely perfect to me. Like the sauce recipe I posted previously, everything gets thrown in the oven. The idea of a roasted tomato salsa sounded really good and a little different, so I was ready to give it a try.

It starts out easy enough - toss 12 whole tomatoes (I used 15 to make up for a few smaller ones from the garden), a jalapeno pepper, a quartered onion and 2 garlic cloves, still in the skin, into a baking dish. Drizzle with some olive oil. This goes under the broiler for about 10 minutes - I wanted to make sure everything was good and roasted - so I did a flip about halfway through and bumped it up to 15. It worked for me but probably unnecessary.

They come out looking... well, roasted. The smell is delightful, though. From there I took the tomatoes, cut off the top and pressed on them with the back of a chef's knife to remove some of the extra water and seeds. Leave the skins on though - it gives the salsa a bit of a smokey flavor. The tomatoes went into the food processor, along with the onions. Then I split the jalapeno in half, removed the stem, got rid of about half of the ribs and seeds and dropped it in the food processor. Same with the garlic (smash them with the back of your knife and they slide right out of the skin). A few pulses... then a few more pulses (you do recall the general distaste for large chunks, right?). Into this mix goes a nice amount of cumin, lime juice and cilantro. Stir and pop it into the fridge - unless lukewarm salsa is your thing.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Roasted Tomato Salsa

(adapted from allrecipes.com)

12-15 Roma (plum) tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 small onion, quartered (I used a Pennsylvania sweet onion, but I think any type would work)
1 jalapeno pepper
Olive oil to drizzle
1 teaspoon cumin (I went over this - I love me some cumin. Just adjust to your taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the broiler. In a medium baking dish, place tomatoes, garlic, onion and jalapeno. Drizzle with olive oil.
Broil for 10 minutes, checking often, or until outsides of vegetables are charred.
Remove from heat. Remove and discard tomato cores, jalapeno stem (and some or all of the ribs and seeds, depending on your heat tolerance) and garlic skins.
Process the charred vegetables in the food processor. Transfer to a medium bowl, and mix in cumin, salt, lime juice and cilantro.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The stealth wrap

My mom celebrated her 50...ish birthday this week, so it was time to break out the stealth knitting project. You know that project that you never talk about, that no one knows you're working on on, then bam! Voila! I've knitted you a wrap.

I like those kind of projects - this one was completely under the radar. I bought the yarn months and months ago at the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival, from my one of my absolute favorite vendors there - Brooks Farm Yarn. The colors are gorgeous and the yarn is a dream to work with (whenever I can get past petting it, that is).

This particular yarn is their Duet, which is a blend of wool and kid mohair. I was sucked in by the wrap they had on display, a simple garter stitch knit on the bias done on larger needles to get that open, loosey goosey look. It turned out to be as boring as all getout to do with its row after row... after row of knit stitch, so I'd work on a row or two here and there between other projects. Then came crunch time - so a few evenings spent with the garter stitch, and I got it, heh heh, wrapped up. (Oh yeah. I'm bustin' out the puns.)

This yarn is incredibly soft - and very VERY warm. Not so good for August weather, but should be perfect for the fall.

Check out the pattern for this lovely - because I know you're just itching to try it out now that you've heard how boring it is to do - can be found here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pass the tommy-toes

Full disclosure: I hate tomatoes. Hate. I am using the word "hate" here, about tomatoes (thanks Jack Nicholson). So of course the one thing in my little backyard garden that has actually produced anything would be.. yes, you guessed it.

Ok, ok... I will admit that I have gotten a fair amount of herbs - basil, rosemary oregano and parsley. And earlier this summer, I will concede that we had a few decent salads from some lettuce I planted. But the peppers and strawberries were nonexistent. The cucumbers measly. The tomatoes, however... well according to our tomato lovers in the family, the tomatoes have been delicious.

There I was, looking at what turned out to be 6 pounds of Roma tomatoes - from ONE plant -- with a sprinkling of cherry tomatoes from my other lone plant. All from my otherwise pathetic garden. So I did what any self-respecting, tomato hating, yet equal opportunity giving cook would do - made tomato sauce.

But there are rules here. Yes, rules about tomato sauce making (this is where my crazy comes out). 1. I wanted as little to do with the tomatoes as possible. That means no seeding, no peeling. The less actual contact with the tomatoes, the better. 2. The sauce had to be smooth. No pieces or chunks of tomato. I'm kind of like a 9 year old in that regard. 3. I was not about to spend hours tending to a hot simmering pot of tomato sauce. It's AUGUST, for crying out loud.

It turns out those requirements don't leave you with a lot of options. It was hard enough tracking down a recipe that didn't call for canned tomatoes. Then I found it-the perfect recipe. Really. Read on.

It starts with quartering the tomatoes. No need to blanch and peel them. No seeding, no dicing. I'm already in. Add to that a couple of onions, roughly chopped, a whole lot of garlic, along with some herbs (I used basil and oregano). Toss it in a 13x9 pan with some olive oil. That's the prep involved. This was my kind of recipe.

But it gets better: the vegetables are roasted. No breaking up tomatoes with your spoon, no simmering. Delightful. And the kicker? Once it's done, it all goes through a food mill. No big chunks of anything. Heaven. And I hadn't even tried it yet.

And then I did - yum. Am I allowed to use that word about something that started as a tomato? But this was good - the roasting gave the sauce a really rich flavor. For dinner that night, I sauteed some cremini mushrooms, tossed in some of the sauce and served it over pasta. So easy, and everyone loved it.

Is it possible that I'm thinking of planting two Roma tomato plants next year?

Roasted Tomato Sauce
(adapted from Bluekat76's recipe at Dave's Garden)

4 pounds tomatoes, stemmed and quartered
2 yellow or other onions (I used a couple of sweet onions I picked up from Soergel's)
16 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
Fresh basil and oregano (about 3 tablespoons chopped)
A healthy shake of dried red pepper flakes

Combine ingredients in a 9x13 inch pan. Roast at 450°F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until juices get thick. Tomatoes will get a bit blackened and will smell wonderful.

Let cool, and run through a food mill to remove skins & seeds. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

When good diets go bad

There are some ingredients that just mess with my sense of right and wrong.

Perhaps I should explain. A piece of chocolate has never sent me on a robbery spree or landed me in jail on assault charges -although I will not hesitate to throw a few elbows for a corner piece of cake.

I'm saying that I know it's wrong to make a sauce using a stick of butter. I know it's wrong to add a mass of pancetta to that melted stick of butter. But this is gnocchi we're talking about. Delicious, puffy gobs of potato-ey goodness. And this wasn't just any gnocchi. This was sweet potato gnocchi. Rules must be bent.

I suppose I could have done a light marinara sauce. But I wanted to play with that natural sweetness from the sweet potato. A brown butter sauce was a good start. And to the sweet, why not add some salty? The pancetta was calling my name. More likely an artery's name, but what do you know? We're named the same thing. So pancetta it was. A bit of nutmeg, a couple of healthy pinches of cinnamon, fresh rosemary and little grating of Parmesan rounded it out. Yum.

We had a salad with it, so I think that makes it a little better, right? But come on, a little indulgence once in a while is never a bad thing.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pancetta
(makes four servings)

1 lb. of sweet potato gnocchi (I picked mine up from the Dormont Farmers Market.)
3/4 stick unsalted butter
4 oz. diced pancetta
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 healthy pinches ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
course salt and fresh ground pepper
Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add pancetta and cook until brown and slightly crispy. Add the rosemary and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain well and add to butter sauce. Toss with the sauce until coated.. Divide among plates and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Eat now, regret later.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I love when inspiration strikes. Or in this case, when it shows up in my inbox.

Kathleen Cubley over at Knitting Daily blogs today about her experience working with silk stainless steel yarn. Her inspiration to try out the yarn came from (surprise!) the fall issue of Interweave Knits, of which the Knitting Daily blog is affiliated. The project is the Hoarfrost Mobius, designed by Annie Modesitt, and made using a new yarn from Lion Brand's LB Collection, Wool Stainless Steel. It is beautiful, although I could never pull off the "mobius over my head ethereal beauty" look the model's got going on.

I have been intrigued by the idea of this yarn since I first saw a few jewelry projects using it earlier this year. They came out of the book "Elements of Style: Knit & Crochet Jewelry with Wire, Fiber, Felt & Beads" by Rosemary Hill. The yarn Hill used, Habu Silk Stainless steel, is gorgeous, but hard to find. And frankly, I was a little intimidated to try it out. But Cubley says I have no reason to be:
I know—when you think "stainless" you don't think "yarn." If you're like me, you think "refrigerator."

But it's really an amazing yarn; you really wouldn't know it's stainless steel unless you pinch it—it keeps the pinch. But it also straightens out beautifully. It's a unique yarn—and not at all scary when you're working with it—that you really have to try in order to appreciate.
I love the idea of combining the flexible hold of wire with the feel and drape of silk or wool. I already have a bunch of ideas I'd love to try out with it.

Now if I could only find the inspiration to finish the projects I've already started (Clapotis, I'm looking at you...)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jammin' on the one

I'm not sure who the masochist is that came up with the idea of jam. Don't get me wrong - homemade jam is, well, awesome. But I just can't imagine the person who, in the middle of the summer, saw a berry harvest and, wiping the sweat off their brow, thought, "Hmm, I think I'll take these berries and heat them until I have a hot boiling pot of sugar and fruit - but I'll want to stand over said hot boiling pot stirring it the entire time. And then, I'll put the insanely superheated result in some hot jars and then put those jars into a vat of boiling water." Getting the theme here? That being said, I guess I'm a masochist. I love me some jam, and I've discovered I love making it.

My first experience at making jam came late this spring after a trip to Trax Farms in Washington County, where we headed out to the fields to pick our own strawberries. If you haven't done a berry picking trip with your kids before, go. The sight of your kids picking those berries, looking around to see if anyone's watching, then sneaking them into their mouths, is worth any complaints you hear from them on the walk to and from the field. Despite the sampling, we ended up with pounds and pounds of strawberries. I hated seeing them go to waste, and - as much as my husband would disagree - there are only so many baked goods one can make with strawberries. So I figured I'd try to make jam. The result was 9 half pint jars of some seriously good strawberry jam, and, surprisingly, it wasn't all that difficult to do.

This time, it was blueberry jam, with fresh blueberries the kids and I picked at Soergel's Orchards. A fair warning - blueberry jam requires a massive amount of berries... all right, 2.5 pounds, but more than my kids were in the mood to pick. They're my babies, not day laborers, so off we went inside Soergel's market to augment our own berries with a few extras.

After the kids were asleep (I did mention the hot boiling vat of sugar and fruit, right?), I set to work. The recipe is easy:

Blueberry Jam
(adapted from Ball Pectin recipe insert)

2.5 lbs (about 4 cups) crushed blueberries
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 package Ball original fruit pectin
4 cups sugar

1. Combine crushed berries and lemon juice in large saucepan. Gradually stir in fruit pectin, and bring to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
2. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return to a full rolling boil, and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and skim foam if needed. Recipe says you'll get 6 half pint (8 oz.) jars, but I got 7.

That's it for the jam. Really. The canning is also fairly simple. I follow the instructions that come with the pectin, using my big pasta pot instead of a canner and it hasn't failed me yet. I won't lie - you'll be sweaty. But yummy blueberry goodness is well worth it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

From yarn to wire

When I first started knitting, I came across Knitty Gritty, a television show devoted to modern hipster knitting projects. Of course, I once saw a knitted tissue box cover on there, so "modern" and "hipster" are relative terms. But there was one episode I ended up saving on my DVR for months (and likely deleted to make room for yet another Imagination Movers) about wire knitting. I wasn't crazy about the projects they had done, but the idea intrigued me. I wasn't quite there yet with my own knitting, and not quite ready to take on the challenge. About a year ago, though, I thought why not? I bought some beading wire, a string of cheap beads, grabbed my knitting needles and set to work.

Massive fail.

I had the wire wrong, the needle size and type wrong. About 3 hours, one jumbled mess of wire and beads and two gouged bamboo needles later (RIP my lovely Chiao Goos - alas wood needles and wire do not mix), I threw everything back into the store bag and shoved it in the bottom of my stash box.

Then on a lark, I took the bag out and brought it with me on a weekend crafting retreat. A good friend (thanks Jenn E!)taught me how to crochet, and something clicked. I crocheted a granny square, then I took out the wire and beads and the lone hook I had and made a necklace. The wire took on a whole new form when it was crocheted in a simple chain rather than knit - light, airy, flexible, a perfect base for whatever I wanted to string on to the wire. I knew I had found something new to love.

Since that first necklace, I've moved on to other necklaces and bracelets, trying different styles, different type of wire and different beads. As if the thrill of new yarn wasn't enough (Yes, that really is the kind of geek I am. New yarn THRILLS me.), now there's a whole new section to ooh and ahh over.

Above is one of my favorite pieces I've made so far. It's fairly simple - craft wire crocheted with these little Czech glass beads I picked up at Crystal Bead Bazaar in Lawrenceville. What an awesome store. But that's a subject for another post.

And this weekend I made a big leap - I actually gifted my first piece of jewelry. Granted, it was to my sister, who I think by law has to like everything I make for her, but I think she really did like it. It was a cuff bracelet, crocheted with the same black wire, mother of pearl coin beads and little silvery gray pearls.
I was really pleased with how it turned out, and, of course, completely forgot to photograph the finished piece. Instead, here's the bracelet I wore this weekend - smokey quartz colored wire with fire polished glass beads.

Tonight or tomorrow I'll be making something completely different - blueberry jam. Can't wait to share that with you... the photos, that is. The jam is all mine. Until then...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Something new

I have been staring at this blank form for what seems like forever. I wanted my first blog post to be witty and clever. I wanted it to tell you all about me in a way that doesn't seem like I'm trying too hard or that I'm trying to come off as something I'm not. I want the perfect first blog post. And because of that, I've stared at an empty blank post form for days. Well, not just staring. Typing a few things, then deeming it not good enough, too quirky, not quirky enough... you get the idea. Instead of just starting, I get wrapped up in the details of starting, wanting that first try, that first effort, to be perfect. This is the story of most of my endeavors.

I remember when I worked as a reporter, staring at that blank screen, willing the perfect lede (newspaper speak for a story's first sentence) to come to me so that I could write the rest of the words I already had banging around in my brain. People would tell me to just start writing, then go back to the lede. But I can't. It's just not how my brain works - I need that jumping off point. That first sentence was and still is the hardest. But once it's there, it's like opening the flood gates, everything just pours out of me. It's just getting there, getting that perfect start so I can move on... that's the challenge.

But it's time for something new. My days of writing ledes and editing copy full time are long behind me, replaced with days spent playing princesses, exploring new playgrounds, potty training, building block towers and baking cupcakes. In between, I've been exploring my own interests and hobbies, and surprisingly, they haven't involved writing. I have found that I love working with my hands, and even more so, I love MAKING: simply the act of working to create something tangible. I learned to knit a few years ago, and a few months ago, I learned to crochet. From there, I've gotten into knitting and crocheting with wire, which has turned out some really cool pieces of jewelry. If I can get over my fear of failure, you might be seeing some of it on Etsy. Until then, I'll be talking about them here.

So here it is: Maggi Makes. It's a chance to explore writing again and to share some of what I've been up to -- knitting, crochet, baking, cooking, making. This is my new endeavor, and here's my jumping off point - I'm ready to take the leap.