Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring journey

The lilac bushes at Chez Arrow are blooming! The flowers appear more blue in the evening light...

Lilac blooms in evening light
Lilacs after work

And they look more violet in the morning light...

Lilac blooms in morning light
Lilacs before work

Either way, it makes me happy to see them. I hope the flowers are still in bloom when I return from Taiwan next month. I'm off to Taipei for two weeks with the fifth graders...while there I also hope to see relatives, eat yummy food, and do fun things in addition to working. And I am taking a couple of knitting projects with me...hopefully there will be some progress on them!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Knitters treat exchange

Springtime swap! I've signed up for the Knitters Treat Exchange, which sounds like fun. Here is my questionnaire...

1. What's your favourite type of yarn?
Natural fibers! Colorwise, greens are my favorite. (Celadon!) But there are so many other colors that I like too. Right now I am really enjoying chocolate brown paired with blues, pinks or yellow. I like knitting with alpaca and soft merino wool...mmm, yum...a few favorite yarns I've knit with are Manos del Uraguay, Malabrigo and Noro Silk Garden. I also like petting the silk blends at the yarn shop.

2. What's your least favourite type of yarn?
Acrylic. Also I can't knit with black yarn...can't see the stitches!

3. What's the first thing you do when you visit a new yarn shop?
It depends. Usually I have a pattern and am searching for a specific yarn. I also usually try to figure out how the yarn is organized...by weight, fiber, color or what... and see if there are any sales! And I check the color selection of staples like Cascade 220 and Lamb's Pride.

4. What other crafts do you do / would like to do?
I like to sew small things, like zipper pouches, tissue holders, aprons, and the occasional bag. I like pretty paper and have tried to make cards. I also love to bake...is that a craft?

5. What magazines do you currently subscribe to?
Sunset and Bark, but there are so many others I like perusing...

6. Put this type of magazine in order of preference:
It really depends on the magazine! Here's my order:
- Food/Home/Garden/Fashion (like Blueprint or Real Simple)
- Knitting/Craft
- Celebrity gossip (guilty pleasure)

7. What items do you like to knit / crochet?
Since I cannot knit for too long at once (tendonitis), I am unable to knit all the things I would like...so I usually stick to small things, like the Sweet Mary Janes and capelets. My first sweater has been in progress for *gulp* almost a year now...

8. Are you allergic to anything?
I don't think so.

9. What do you like to* smell of?
(*This is not a typo. The question is: What do you like to smell of)
Some of my favorite smells are freesia, grapefruit, yuzu, green tea...so I guess I'd like to smell of those.

10. What's your favourite way to relax?
I like to play with my beagle, knit, sew, read magazines or a good book, watch movies, go to baseball games, bake and eat cupcakes. I also love a nice foot massage. Naps are nice. And I enjoy swimming and hiking.

11. You're stood in front of a Victorian style sweetshop, an Italian cafe, an old fashioned bakery and a dainty tea room. Where do you go first?
I have to choose? I think most likely the bakery first.

12. What do you come out with?
Pie...or cupcakes...or bread pudding.

13. Where do you go next?
Probably the Italian cafe, for coffee and some Italian cookies like biscotti...or another dessert...cannoli with candied pistachios...mmm. Or maybe the tea room for tea and sandwiches and scones. Hard to decide!

14. Any other words of wisdom for your pal?
I am really excited about this exchange!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring posies

The first day of spring has finally arrived! Although it is rather gray and wet today...I've been sewing up yo-yo flower pins (also seen here).

Yo-yo flower pins
Little posy pins

On St. Patrick's Day I baked another loaf of Irish soda bread (from Cooking Light), but this one was a bit under-baked...oops. Dan and I also went to the local bar for black-and-tans and corned beef with cabbage.

Irish soda bread
Looks okay, but not quite baked through

And I made a big batch of granola, with almonds, sesame seeds, coconut, and golden raisins...yum!

Granola
A brekkie favorite with yogurt

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cupcakery & green grub

My friend Joanne is getting married in May, and I get to make cupcakes for the wedding...yay! So many possibilities, and the best part: taste testing all the different recipes.

Last month we tried dark chocolate cupcakes and basic chocolate cupcakes with easy vanilla bean buttercream, as well as Meyer lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream, presented on a cupcake tower. Though tasty, I thought the dark chocolate cupcakes were a bit too brownie-like in texture. My favorite chocolate cupcake has such a tender crumb that I fear the cupcakes may not hold up to frosting, travel, and possibly warm weather...but I still have one more chocolate cupcake recipe to try...

This weekend Dan and I helped with invitation-making, also the perfect opportunity to try coconut cupcakes...

Coconut cupcakes
Cream cheese frosting...yum

Snowball coconut cupcakes
Shredded coconut snowball effect

I used unsweetened coconut flakes in the batter, which resulted in not overly-sweet cupcakes...after frosting, they were just right on the sweetness scale...but the coconut was not tender enough, since Bob's Red Mill is preservative-free. Next time I will either soak the flakes in water first to soften (as directed on the package), or use Baker's Angel Flake Coconut, which is super-moist (but contains preservatives).

Along with the cupcakes, we decided to celebrate St. Patrick's Day early with lots of green goodies...

Green food for St. Paddy's
Green grub for St. Paddy's

Joanne made guacamole and pesto penne pasta, and I contributed salad and spinach to the green repast...I also made Irish soda bread, and we drank Guinness for a bit of authenticity!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Daffodils & chocolate

Harbingers of spring in the backyard...

Daffodils
Gus the garden gnome with daffodils

Dan's mother gave us a bag of bulbs at Christmas, and they are starting to bloom! It is feeling a bit like spring around here...even though its official start is in a couple weeks...

And I received chocolate in the mail! Dawnya sent locally-made Minneapolis chocolates for the candyswappers chocolate swap.

Chocolate from Minneapolis
Yum

Pecan caramel alligators and ginger toffee...sounds delicious. Her package of local chocolates is in the mail...hope she enjoys them!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Salty streets of Chicago

Chicago was delightful, despite the wind and snow...brrr! Marilyn and Rob's wedding was lovely, and Dan and I ventured out in the cold and saw a bit of the city. It snowed a couple of days, and I got salt all over my boots and jeans...I guess salty streets are normal in snowy places. Also on Saturday we smelled chocolate all over downtown...mmm...someone told us there was a chocolate factory nearby, so if the wind is blowing in the right direction: mmm...chocolate...

Highlights included Sue the T-Rex at the Field Museum, lots of beautiful paintings at the Art Institute, the gorillas at the Lincoln Park Zoo, and I loved Cloud Gate in Millenium Park...the bean sculpture looks different with the moving clouds and changing light and as you walk around it. Really lovely...there should be more public art in San Francisco...

The bean
Dan checks out the bean

We also walked through a few different neighborhoods, Lakeview and Bucktown...and I got to meet Jennifer of piddleloop! Very, very exciting. I think Jennifer was one of the first readers of this lil' blog who didn't already know me. We both love hounds.

Carol and Jennifer
Looking at another camera

It was so fun to meet her in person, she is very sweet, funny, and vivacious. Dan and I also met her boyfriend Nathaniel and his cat Simon (and Mr. Lester the turtle)... now we just need to get our hounds to meet somehow! And Jennifer gave me so many gifties! Treats for Arrow too...

Piddleloop gifties
The loot! (Click for notes)

Pretty sock yarn, a handmade DPN holder with bead stitch markers and three little pouches (cupcakes and pooches!), so many fun buttons, sparkly hair clips, kitty note pad, Snoopy stickers, doggie bone paper clips, a jelly donut charm (hanging on my bag), and lots of sweet treats (some already eaten), including my favorite candy from childhood, the rice candies with edible wrappers. Thank you so much, Jennifer!