Monday, October 10, 2011

Sweet Success


A fresh batch of spelt tortillas

For years I have purchased spelt tortillas; Rudi's mostly but more recently Trader Joe's. Early Saturday morning Jack and I made our regular trip to TJ's. Sadly, there were no spelt tortillas to be found. A kind store employee looked them up in the computer and sure enough, discontinued. Anger ensued but I held my tongue and just said, "That's unfortunate." 

Grumble, grumble on the drive home. How dare they? ... Ding! I'll make them myself! I instantly found a recipe when I got back to my computer.

Why have I never heard how easy tortillas are to make? This batch shattered my expectations. With scratch tortillas under my belt, what else is on the list?

Check out my cooking blog, The Scratch Diaries, for food related fun and frustration. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Birthday Train

Finished with plenty of time to spare, a rarity.

Whenever I open Ravelry, Jack asks to search for Thomas. Yes, Thomas the Tank Engine is his all time favorite at 3 years old. He falls short of drooling at this knitting masterpiece but this dishcloth is a close second. The picture of the boy driving his trains on the dishcloth intrigued him which was all I needed to cast on. Happily I found everything I needed in my stash.

An easy knit as expected but it's my first "picture" dishcloth. I worried I might get miss count or maybe even miss the purls for the eyes but all was fine. No major mishaps. Although quick and easy, I don't see myself making any other dishcloths like this.

Jack was happy to get Thomas for his birthday but not nearly as excited as when Monkey came off the needles. What makes me smile though is when he says, "Mama make," and shows me the dishcloth or points to the tortillas. I love being a mom.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Kitchen-Centric Weekend

Incredible gluten-free bagels.

Labor Day Weekend has been chock full of kitchen laboring. The most satisfying of all projects was the gluten-free bagels. I'll admit I cheated and used a mix I had leftover in the cupboard. My husband thoughtfully bought Pamela's baking mix for me a year or so ago and I nearly forgot about it since I tend to make everything from scratch. A couple weeks ago I used it in the bread machine (thumbs up to including a bread machine recipe on the package) and it worked perfectly. Then yesterday, amidst other new recipes, I got the hair-brained idea to pre-make bagels for the morning. 

As it turned out, the kitchen was too cluttered and Jack went to sleep early so I put it off for the morning. Four ingredients in the stand mixer for 3 minutes, rise for 1 hour, boil each for 25 seconds then bake for 25 minutes. A little messy, but really it's as simple as that. The recipe didn't say anything about toppings but I have longed for everything bagels for years. Surprise, surprise I had both caraway seeds and fennel seeds. Sesame seeds, dried onion and Kosher salt but no dried minced garlic to be found! Garlic powder sufficed and were it not for my heavy hand with the Kosher salt, they would have been perfect. 

Unpictured is the bagel (1 of 6 so it was a small batch, quite manageable) I dipped in a spicy garlic Parmesan blend I found at Winco. Great flavor but I should clarify the application of the toppings. Dipping didn't work because the bagels were too wet and floppy after the boil. I ended up just sprinkling the toppings over top and patting them in a little to set. This wasn't a technique I looked up on the internet so there could easily be a better way to get the toppings to stick after baking. Maybe brush with olive oil, sprinkle the toppings then bake? Butter maybe. Egg wash? No matter, the bagels turned out better than I imagined. Especially since my first foray 20 years ago yielded bagels hard as rocks. Dog treats, really. As you can imagine, I am pretty darn happy with this batch.

Other kitcheny projects this weekend:
  • Cleaned out just the door of the fridge and reorganized.
  • Made Texas Beans (may have been old pinto beans because they didn't quite cook all the way through.)
  • Moved pantry items (nuts, dried beans, etc.) to the pseudo pantry and moved the extra cans and unopened condiments to the cupboard.
  • Configured a recipe for Mexican rice in the rice cooker.
  • Cooked two nice dinners - planned in advance and well executed. (This doesn't happen very often. Usually I forget to start the rice or remember the rolls AFTER dinner.)
Now to finish the weekend with some more knitting!

Bear III

The beginnings of bear number three.

It had been almost two years since I last played around on Ravelry. So many refinements! Most of my books weren't in the library back then, no magazines at all and so many other little things but now, Wow! Back when I added my bear projects I couldn't find a pattern to link it to. This time though, I found it on Ravelry as Due North; an out of print pattern that the designer reworked as Small Bear if you're interested in the pattern. Apparently the book in which it was printed goes for quite a bit on ebay. Dang it! I have the magazine version :)

Jack has the first bear created with this pattern. White wool with mohair carried along. I'm pretty sure it was one of my first felting projects and the store where I bought the yarn didn't clue me in to the possibility it wouldn't felt. White bear is by far the biggest of the bears and barely felted. Still cute though.

Bear #2 went to Jack's cousin. Knit in orange without mohair, it's my favorite so far. Maybe because I was a little better at knitting or felting by then but the orange one is my favorite. Great shape and a nice size for a child to grab, hold, and carry. The other interesting thing I realized while knitting this bear was that I had made an interesting color choice. When I was about 11 my mom knit an orange pig for my younger sister. Adorable but all I could think was, "why orange?" Over and over I thought it to myself, even asked my mom why she made the pig orange instead of pink. She just shrugged, "I don't know." There I was, knitting an orange bear. I smiled and still do to this day when I think of my lost obsession with an orange animal and how I’ve passed it on to the next generation.

The current bear is a gorgeous aqua blue Cascade Quattro which I’m knitting on size 10 needles. The others must have been on 11s because this bear is already tiny. I knew there was a disparity between sizes 10 and 11 but it had never jumped out at me until I was searching for needles this time. This bear just might be named Minnie. I’ve also noticed some holes forming in the piece. I thought I was going to fix what I saw in the orange bear by correctly wrapping and turning but maybe it was always my make ones. Thank goodness for felting but Knitting Help here I come!

Rare Sighting: Monkey

Jack finally slowed down for a moment so I could get a picture of his new monkey.

I loved knitting this pattern and will probably knit it again and again. It's a great go-to kid toy as is the bear pattern I just cast on for a third time (posting soon). Variety keeps me going - I don't often knit patterns more than once, but when they're easy and cute I can't resist. I'll say it again, Yarn Miracle writes such cute stuffed animal patterns!

Yes, I vented the other day about picture quality but just give me a couple days and I'm over it :) I've given up on perfect pictures. If they happen, they happen but I'm just as satisfied with the documentation of our lives whether the pics are good or bad. That is my purpose after all. 

Monday, August 29, 2011


A post! How about the other goings on since I last posted almost 2 months ago? Fun summer stuff and actual knitting...but no pictures yet. I told myself I wouldn't do that but the picture issue got me tangled up in my head. You see, iPhone's* pics are okay but not the caliber I want to see on my blog. I don't want to post without pic because honestly, even I find that boring. Then there's my computer. It's fine and it does the job albeit slowly but some tasks just might put it over the edge. Downloading, importing, uploading ... all of these things test its ancient processor and I just want to get the most time out of this nice, mostly reliable computer. So there. There's picture issues and I'm not happy about it.

While at Surfy Surfy, out of the blue G suggested I look at wet suits so I can start surfing (YAY!). I picked out a really cool spring suit like the girl suggested. Usually spring suits have short sleeves and legs that go almost to the knees. This women's version has long sleeves (no farmer tan) and shorts length legs so you don't get the guys cargo shorts tan (knees and down). I. Am. So. EXCITED!!! Babysitter for Jack and my husband and I can go for a surf :) However, surf class won't be held until after Labor Day so as to clear out the waves of superfluous persons. It really is just better for all involved.

Mystery KAL - Done! It's a cute little monkey and J just loves it. I was just about to put on the tail when he realized I was working on something really cool. "Mine?" he said. How could I resist his angel face? He took off with the tailless monkey under his arm. By the way, yes, I guessed correctly :)

I found a newly formed knitting group that meets at Peet's Coffee and I love love love going to knit! They are fun, happy people. We laugh and joke around, help others with knitting questions and have a rowdy, awesome two hours of productive knitting time. A guy walking by even commented, something to the effect of, "Can I join? You're having too much fun!" One of the girls teaches classes at Michael's (also just down the street) and she'll be teaching a crochet class in the Fall. Bingo! I will finally learn how to crochet! They are all so welcoming to new people. One of the members just happened to be enjoying coffee and a puzzle book one morning a month or so ago and now she's picked up knitting again and on her second project already. I am so relieved to find a great group of people AND knitting all located within my 2 mi radius. Never want to get too far from the beach ever again :)

*iPhone is referred to by name: iPhone. My sisters made fun of my phone and maybe more so how much I played on it (it was new when I was in Seattle visiting). Hence, as a "member" of the family it deserved a name and believe me, they get great enjoyment from including it in conversation. "So where does iPhone want to go?" "How dare you leave iPhone in the car!" Yes, they're a fun bunch of sisters :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mystery KAL

Somehow I came across a mystery knit along (KAL) which piqued my interest. I love knitted toys and after seeing the designer's website, especially the knitted kitty, I jumped in. Knitted toys are just cute little projects that are pretty quick. Not quite instant gratification but progress comes quickly. Some might think they're fussy projects because they're so small and usually on small needles but I disagree. This is my first Mystery KAL and it's kinda fun so far! Each week a "clue" (section of pattern) is released and all week long participants try to guess what it's going to be. (For the record I'm going with monkey.) I started and finished this first section on the 4th. That's pretty quick for me. Four "clues" to the pattern so this is a month-long project. I actually think I'll be able to keep up and finish on time ... but I'll be out of town this weekend. If I take a project it'll be my Seattle Socks on bamboo DPNs because I'm going here again. Different hotel but same destination, same work trip. I also just noticed it's been 2 years since I made my last pair of socks!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Tale of Two Breads

For years I've been pretty okay with the spelt bread I get from my bread machine. Not bad, does the job, dry and crumbly. Two recent events have altered my perspective. First, my husband's business partner is testing out a gluten-free diet and it won't be long before he asks me for guidance. Second, I failed an all rice flour dinner roll recipe. 

On the first point, his biggest gripe was the sticker shock (not taste because he hasn't even gotten that far yet). "Eight dollars for a loaf of BREAD?!!" exclaimed the text. I know it doesn't have to be that expensive but on occasion I've purchased a $4 loaf when I don't have the time or desire to start up the bread machine. Admittedly, that's pretty lazy. Contrary to that tendency, my "conqueress" spirit has emerged. I have now envisioned making bread that would impress even a gluten-lover like my husband -- spongy, moist sandwich bread or a crusty dinner loaf. My current spelt bread is a far cry from normal for most people. If I can demonstrate for friends that gluten-free food can be tasty and yummy and just like their glutenous counterparts, my friends can stop living in agony (and I will feel successful). The closer I can get to "normal" the less intimidating a gluten-free lifestyle will seem.

For the record, spelt is an ancient wheat so yes, it contains gluten. As someone who is sensitive to gluten and not celiac, I tolerate spelt just fine. I like to imagine that the spelt grain hid in the dusty shadows of the pantry while standard wheat underwent poking, prodding, splicing, genetic engineering, everything they've learned since Gregor Mendel opened Pandora's box.

My second point is a post in itself. I started the white rice flour dough (it's not always spelt) in the bread maker on a dough setting so that I could take it out halfway and make it into rolls. To make the long story short, they're not rolls, they're flats.

So here we are at the crossroads of the two breads, or methods rather. I'm pretty sure I can perfect my bread machine output with some refinements. I've heard the yeast needs more time to react, so start it first then add it to the machine. Add 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum for each cup of flour to account for the missing gluten. We'll give those tweaks a shot the next time I pull out the bread machine. It's the other method that is silently begging me to conquer it. Making bread from scratch. I only ever witnessed my mom baking bread on a few occasions long ago. It's a more authentic method that appeals to my from-scratch desire: making my own whipped cream, pancake mix, never using instant rice, ... Eventually I'd like to add pasta to the list, use dried beans instead of canned, etc. I'm still working on this but you get the picture. The book Like Water For Chocolate comes to mind when I consider the time and energy put into cooking for the family. The love comes through in the finished product and nourishes the soul. I suppose it's obvious I'm rooting for the from scratch method. 

It is a far, far better [bread] that I [make], than I have ever done..

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Del Mar Fair

Our first trip to the fair started late in the day, after my workday had ended and evening traffic began. Just on the east side of the 5 from the fair grounds is an Albertson's selling discount admission. Yay! A whole $5 off each ticket. I love getting a deal when I'm prepared to pay full price. (No crazy couponing here.)

It's been a number of years since I've been to the fair; same for Gianni. Only on Food Network had I heard of the latest and greatest Fried Fill-in-the-Blank but here at the fair it's right there in flesh and blood glutenous coating and oil. What I really wanted to see was the Fried Butter. Yes, a cube of butter that has gained social ranking by disguising itself with a bread crumb jacket, bathing in hot oil then shape-shifting into a fluid mess once you take a bite. How can that not be a shameful disappointment? Chocolate covered bacon on the other hand has many more fine and redeeming qualities (but I'm too cheap to buy a handful for $6.50 so I'll make some myself. Maybe.)

On our way to find the animal barns we walked through the fine arts pavilion. Inspiring water colors, delicate pen and ink, intricate mixed media, all sorts but needlework was nowhere to be found :( I suppose the cool stuff is reserved for exhibition at the STATE fair. Humph. No 4H decorated cat cages, no award winning preserves, no record approaching veggies, no cavies even. Absurd! None of the cool stuff.

Jack! Oh yes, the reason we made a point to even GO to the fair. As soon as G unfolded the stroller he jumped in and stayed in without fuss. Through the midway he snacked on my sweet potato fries. He gawked in awe at all the rides and lights. Both the roller coaster and log ride were "trains" which we of course watched intently. When we got to the animals though, he begged to get out for a closer look ... then got back in, no problem. G and I thought we were doing pretty well keeping the germs, dirt, grit, and ick just out of arm's reach. We're casually walking though a sawdust/mostly dirt blanketed outdoor booth area when I look under the stroller. I don't know why I looked but both his feet were extended under the stroller and parting the dirt like Moses. He was happy as a clam. I should have known. 

G informed me that the slippers don't quite fit well enough to comfortably stay on his feet. Bummer. Just a bit more than a tad too big so I'm going to try REAL hard to get them in the wash this weekend.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chocolate Glass Coffee Knit

What a wonderful weekend! When I go out Friday night it just seems to make the weekend longer. So on Friday night we went out to dinner at Leucadia Pizzeria where Jack and I shared a gluten-free pizza. Love that place AND they deliver. We were invited to a BBQ on Saturday to watch the MotoGP race. Fun to meet new people and just hang out on a Summer afternoon. American, Ben Spies, won his first MotoGP race. Woohoo! Jack didn't really let me watch the race; we were upstairs watching Kung Fu Panda. Cute movie but there was racing on TV!

Sunday I started the day with two iced coffees from Java Hut. Pretty good but I've been itching to make my toddy ever since Pioneer Woman posted a recipe for iced coffee. On that caffeine high I scrubbed the house top to bottom and finished the laundry. Rather quickly I might add. When G left for a business meeting, Jack and I went over to Grocery Outlet and dinked around for a while. $97 later and we were out the door. A little surprised by that but we found some goodies: Dagoba drinking chocolate, Oikos greek yogurt, Pamela's mini cookie bites (gluten-free), Cascadian Farms granola, lots of other stuff and a bag of coffee. All they had was S&W store brand but that's fine for toddy. I am just in time with my iced coffee brew because yesterday it read 81 in front of the house. Dang that's hot for the beach! There should be a lot of good iced toddy weather coming up. Yum!

Knitting? Yes there was a smattering of knitting this weekend! I casted off the slippers (clogs, whatever) and knit a few rows on my Seattle Socks but the biggest accomplishment was felting the clogs. Sometimes the felting stage takes forever. Not the actual felting, but the finding time to put it in the wash and monitor it. I found the time last night after all the laundry was done but I always forget to monitor it! We were sitting at the table one second then the next I shot out of a cannon aimed for the laundry room. Thankfully they hadn't started spinning and weren't too small already.  So they're drying now and they fit! With every stitch I doubted they'd fit, mostly because of the cuff but also there were some wrap and turns written in. I followed them on the first go round but it didn't look right so I ripped it out and started again. On the second try they looked fine as I was going but you never know. As for when they'll be a wearable object, I cannot be sure. This morning they are still HEAVY with water and being that there's so much moisture in the air, it could be a week before G can wear them. Ah, the waiting game...

Tuesday our plan is to go to the San Diego State Fair. Feels a bit early in the year for the fair but then Washington schedules all their state fairs for the end of Summer to optimize the sunny days. I hope G doesn't mind stopping by the sewing, cooking, needlework, etc. barns :)

(My husband came up with the title to this post. Not sure he's all there this morning :) )

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Out of the Desert

Hmm. Quite a bit has happened since my last post but the best item on the list is moving to My Love's hometown :)

The temperature change has thankfully summoned my knitting needles. I'm almost done with the last project i started in Phoenix - felted slippers for My Love. I had started them as a Christmas gift but locked them up in February when the desert summer reminded me it was just around the corner. Blech. Who wants slippers in the desert anyway? Now, a year and a half later, some wonderful husband wants slippers again. Here they come! ...hopefully. I'm using a pattern from my mom and the cuff instructions are missing. Oops. I didn't realize that until I was at the cuff of the first slipper. Par for course. So, we'll see in the next couple weeks when I finish and get around to felting. (I didn't say I had a lot of extra time. I still have my job and a now almost three year old!)

Oh! I have two, yes TWO yarn stores within WALKING distance!!! Both are incredible. One I've frequented on past trips to Encinitas, Common Threads. But the other I kind of dismissed in the past - Black Sheep. I mistakenly judged a book by its cover. Tsk tsk. The sign was (gulp) boring and it said "beads." I just assumed it would be more of a mixed media type store and I'm not really into much else but yarn right now. As you can tell, big mistake. The store is gorgeous! Two amazing yarn stores within a couple blocks on Coast Hwy. Who knew!? I thought their Noro section was nice until she pointed out I was only looking at the new stuff. More? A whole darn corner of the store! Ahhh heaven :)

Bicycling with little g, learning to surf, cooking on a gas stove (I never knew that was so awesome for lack of a better word), traveling to race tracks with my family .... plenty of fun stuff to come :)