Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The heat of the summer is upon us (heck, the heat of the summer has been here a.l.l. s.u.m.m.e.r. l.o.n.g.).  One of the pleasant things about the end of summer is harvesting a crop of basil and stashing next year's pesto!  (This year's heat has resulted in a modest basil crop. [insert grumbles])

Making fresh pesto and stashing it in the freezer for the winter is a snap.  You only need a few supplies.  (If you want a recipe, you can find a simple recipe here.  If you want to buy the book (it is great), please consider visiting a local, independent bookstore before "clicking".)

First, wash and spin dry the basil.

Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet.  When I toast pine nuts, I usually cover the bottom the skillet and put the leftovers in the freezer for pasta and breads.

Gather your supplies and ingredients.  I add fresh lemon juice to my pesto to help retain color.  I squeeze it through a fine mesh strain directly into the food processor.

If you need lemon zest for something else, harvest it before juicing the lemon.  I have found that lemons stored in the refrigerator produce a higher juice yield.

After the ingredients have been added to the food processor (basil, toasted pine nuts, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon juice), add about 1/2 of the recommended olive oil.  Process, taking time to scrape down the sides and add more olive oil until you have the proper consistency.

I prefer pesto for freezing to be slightly thicker in viscosity than if I were planning on using it immediately.  The consistency will change when it is thawed.  I add oil after thawing to achieve the desired viscosity for my application.

I freeze pesto in ice cube trays.  It is important to note:  DO NOT ADD CHEESE to the pesto before freezing.  Cheese is added to the pesto after thawing.  The cheese will not freeze well.

Once frozen, pop out of trays and store in a zip top freezer bag.

Frozen pesto cubes are also great to throw into red sauce.

So simple!  (and wonderful - all year round)

Recently off the needles:

Back in June, I shared a recent handspun.  It has now turned into -
A Rain Drop stole.  (US 9 needles)

Before blocking.

On the pins.  (Sorry for the craptastic lighting.  The cat REALLY wanted back on the bed, so I was hurrying.  Hey, she's 20 yrs old.  She has earned the right to be pushy at times.)  This is stretched on a queen size bed.

Friday, August 12, 2011

My future's so bright, I've gotta wear shades

I'm always asked, "Don't you want a daughter?"  Honestly, I am thrilled to be blessed with a child.  I had no preference for either gender.  I truly just wanted a healthy child.  There are many people who assume that I must have a burning desire for a daughter since I cook, knit, sew, etc.  While I do enjoy sharing these pursuits with children, I don't necessarily have to produce my own daughter, I can "rent" one of just about any age from my dear friends (who don't have any sons - see, the whole thing really balances out).

This summer, "the girls" and I undertook a yarn-related project.  The two older girls (older is relative) had requested knitted purses.  I had read an article about dying yarn with Kool Aid.  How can you pass up a perfect storm such as this?

I ordered several skeins of Knit Picks Bare (varying weights and fiber content).  I downloaded the Knit Picks Kool Aid Dyeing Tutorial.  We were ready to roll!  The girls begged asked their mothers to take them shopping for Kool Aid.  I bought quart wide-mouth canning jars.  I was smarter than the average bear - I dyed my own sock yarn before starting the endeavor with young, highly excited children.

I knotted the yarn randomly throughout (and across) the skein to have areas of white and color.

Lemon-lime Kool Aid is bright.  (I was expecting it.)  For the whole skein of sock yarn (Stroll, fingering weight, superwash wool/nylon), I used a two quart glass pitcher for dyeing.

The yarn definitely has the fruity smell when it comes out of the dyeing solution.

I was quite pleased with the final results.

Currently on the needles.  (I will totally wear these with a business suit to a meeting.)

I split the skeins of worsted weight wool in half for the girls' purses.  The Kool Aid flavors (front to back):  strawberry-watermelon, berry blue, strawberry lemonade, berry blue, strawberry-watermelon over dyed with another bright pink flavor that escapes me (skein of sport weight superwash wool/nylon for another purpose).

Finished skeins (in the same order).

I made drawstring bags.  I began by casting on and knitting a 6" square.  I evenly picked up stitches along all edges. (US 9 needle)  Both purses have beads knitted in.  I knitted a ruffled edge above the eyelets.  I made an I-cord drawstring of each color.

 After felting, I shaped the bags on overturned quart canning jars.  I installed 3/8" grommets in the eyelets.

This is the strawberry-watermelon/berry blue purse with silver beads.

This is the strawberry lemonade/berry blue purse with purple beads.

Since there was a little sister also involved, she was surprised with a purse (random wool in the stash and Eros).  Another improvised design.  (Felted measurement: approximate 6" wide)

Recently off the needles:
Skew in Koigu pppm (colorway 145).  This is my second pair of Skew.  I love the concept of the pattern, but the easement through the ankle leaves a bit to be desired when putting them on.  Once they are on, they fit like a glove.

Alas, these are destined for other feet (as soon as they have a bath - the socks that is).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

That time of year again

Summer completely blew by us.  (I'm sure you could tell from the lack of activity on this blog.)  It has been hot.  Incredibly hot.  The offspring has attended day camp (taking tons of field trips - we didn't have that many fun things going on in day camp when I was a kid), Music and Arts Week, vacation Bible school, Tae Kwon Do camp, and his absolute favorite - Camp Grandparent.  (Camp Grandparent = a week with each set of Grands and the 24/7 motto: What would you like now?  There are benefits to being the only grandchild for both families.)

Now, (thankfully) it is time to get back into the school routine!  The offspring really couldn't wait for school to start.  He misses it.  Heck, he LOVES school.  (The genes are strong in this family.)  He has plowed through a veritable ton of books during the summer in the mist of all his activities.

I thought I would share a few favorite back-to-school items.  All of these items have stood the test of time in our household.

This backpack has been going strong for 2+ yrs and doesn't show signs of stopping.  The only small problem we have experienced happened when the school stuck a sticker on the back and the adhesive pulled some of the reflective strip off.

The offspring carries his lunch to school every single day.  We have completely random food allergies in our household.  While I could go on and on about the nutritional state of school lunches offered in the US, moral of the story - the one vegetable the offspring is absolutely allergic to is on heavy rotation in the school lunch menu plan.  Epi-pens are maintained at school and the offspring takes his lunch.  His lunch box is in GREAT shape.  He uses it everyday of school and off and on throughout the summer.  It is literally showing NO signs of wear.  I used a Sharpie to label it with his name and address on the inside.  The labeling is still highly legible after years of cleaning.

My husband and I have become champs at packing a lunch box.  The offspring makes his selections each evening during dinner and we take care of corralling it all as we clean the kitchen.  We have a little shelf on the refrigerator door only used for lunch box staging.  For 2+ years, we have used the same containers, water bottles (place it in a ziplock bag for those times with the kiddos doesn't get it closed **quite** enough), and ice packs (place in a ziplock bag in case it springs a leak).

The offspring insists on yogurt and cheese everyday.  We freeze yogurt tubes and they are thawed by lunch.  We also figured out to include a pair of safety scissors in the outside pocket of the lunch box for days when the pull tab doesn't work as expected on the yogurt tube.  (This was particularly important when all the front teeth were missing.)  Our favorite brands of yogurt tubes (lower sugar content) are Trader Joe's Squishers, Squeezers, Tuberz, and Simply Gogurt.  Some of the most requested snacks are:  Z bars, fruit twists (which are apparently now called "Z Fruit Ropes" - both Zbars and Z Fruit Ropes can be purchased at Sams Club in the nutritional supplement section at a much cheaper price than mainstream stores), and freeze dried fruit.

Each day, the offspring gets a small dessert with lunch.  I try to keep a variety of brownies or other bar cookies on hand.  I bake a 9x13 dish and after it has cooled, cut them into small squares, place in a gallon ziplock freezer bag and freeze.  We will pull one out the night before, package it, and place in on the lunch box shelf in the refrigerator.  The offspring loves having a variety of homemade treats as a surprise each day.  It is the small things that can make a huge impact on a person's life.  Don't forget it.

(The Blond Brownie recipe from here has been a HUGE hit.  I blended bittersweet and milk chocolate chips.)

There has been a lot going on in the kitchen and on the needles.  I promise to update soon.