Friday, October 29, 2010

"Tips with Tips" class

Mom and I attended a class at "Bake!", Zingerman's Bakery's cooking school, last night. We learned how to do a crumb coat and final coat of frosting on a cake, and how to work with a piping bag using star tip, petal tip, leaf tip, basketweave tip, and round tip. Then we all got to decorate a cake and bring it home. It was grand fun! We did a lot of practicing on parchment paper and then scraping the frosting back into our bags and practicing again, which is something I think I will do in the future before decorating a cake, so as to get my "sea legs" for piping. (This is a photo of the instructor's parchment, not mine! Mine didn't look this good, but in theory I know how to make all of these shapes.)

We were both very proud of the cakes we created:

...kind of hard to see them, since they gave us very pale pink and green frosting to work with.

This is our second Bake! class that we've taken with Zingerman's, the first being a cinnamon roll class that we also enjoyed. We like the structure of the classes: lots of time to get it done (this class was 4 hours) and we noticed that a few things were cut from last night's class because we were a "slower" class and they chose to give us plenty of time to practice. They also only have about 10 or 12 people per class, with three instructors, so you get lots of help. Which is good for $100 for a four-hour class. (Much like their bread and other food, you get a great product and pay top dollar for it.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blocking the owls

My sister-in-law Cara helped me pick out some killer eyes for my owls. Thank goodness I took her: she steered me away from some periwinkle buttons that would have been no good.

Blocking: I went with pin-and-spray, the method suggested by knitty's blocking article for merino. Tried to make some room for my bulging biceps, which are a little tight right now. :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Double-blind carrot cake

I generally take everything Deb over at Smitten Kitchen says as gospel. She's never led me astray, and she seems to test out her recipes pretty thoroughly, so I take any steps she suggests in order to achieve cooking nirvana. However, when The Hubs requested carrot cake for his birthday, a line in her recipe for Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting gave me pause: she instructed me to grate my carrots by hand to give me smaller carrot pieces, yielding a softer cake. Now, I *really* do not like grating things by hand, but if it's gotta be done for perfect cake, I'll do it. BUT, I'm *not* hand-grating my carrots for my carrot cake for the rest of my life unless I really, reeeeeally have to. So, an experiment was in order! (Yay!)

A cake with hand-grated carrots compared to one grated in the food processor, controlling for all other variables:

I weighed out my carrots into two equal piles. (note the baby carrot broken in half to make them perfectly even :) )

Grated everybody up. I will never. EVER. hand-grate a baby carrot again. People, this is serious sacrifice for science! I made the batter and then divided it up evenly before adding the carrot. I opted to withhold the optional nuts and raisins, as that would make it harder to tell the texture of the cake. I toasted up some pecans to put on top instead.

Two identical cakes with the labels folded in so I can't tell which is which. (This sort of got to a point where I figured, Hey, I'm this far, might as well use my 7th-grade knowledge of the scientific process, eh? It was a bit of a slippery slope of OCD-ness.)

Each tester (The Hubs and my parents) got a slice of A and B and were asked to try a bite of cake-only before they dug in to the maple-cream-cheese-pecan goodness and to rate the texture. I considered making ballots but the cake smelled too darn good to wait any longer. Plus, *that* would make this nerdy.

The verdict: we mostly couldn't tell the difference, which is a good thing because it means I get to use my food processor in the future. My mom was the only one that noticed, and she liked the one with the bigger chunks, the machine-grated option, because the other was too homogeneous, or, as she put it, "this one has carrot in it, the other is just bland and pasty." I said "um, wow." and she quickly added, "I just mean in comparison with the other one, of course." Of course.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

WIP: sleeves, plus a Rabbi-inspire ramble

These are my Julia sleeves, making progress. I am going to Omaha on the 1st to get our furniture out of our (sold!) house, and more to see my knitters, and I am feeling some pressure to finish this sweater due to a friendly email from one of my ladies:
So happy to hear that your house sold, Elise! I look forward to seeing you and please bring all the wonderful things you have knitted since we saw you last...

um....bring all the what? The only think I've actually "finished" is the Sweet Pea onesie, and that is no longer mine to bring to Nebraska to show off. Wonder if Joanna would let me borrow it... I left Nebraska three months ago and all I've really done is rip and re-knit the yolk of Owls and finish about 2/3 of Julia, and I have the strange feeling like I'm supposed to have something to show for myself when I show up at sit-n-knit at String of Purls. So, after some very sporadic progress over the last 90 days, I'll be pushing to finish the sleeves and making up of Julia, plus block and de-pit-hole Owls, by Monday night. Hm, this doesn't sound a lot like knitting for love. On the other hand, I heard on Being on my way home from work this morning
a discussion about motivation from this Rabbi Heschel passage from Between God and Man:

Deeds set upon ideal goals, deeds performed not with careless ease and routine but in exertion and submission to their ends are stronger than the surprise and attack of caprice. Serving sacred goals may change mean motives. For such deeds are exacting. Whatever our motive may have been prior to the act, the act itself demands undivided attention. Thus the desire for reward is not the driving force of the poet in his creative moments, and the pursuit of pleasure or profit is not the essence of a religious or moral act.

At the moment in which an artist is absorbed in playing a concerto the thought of applause, fame or remuneration is far from his mind. His complete attention, his whole being is involved in the music. Should any extraneous thought enter his mind, it would arrest his concentration and mar the purity of his playing. The reward may have been on his mind when he negotiated with his agent, but during the performance it is the music that claims his complete concentration.

Man’s situation in carrying out a religious or moral deed is similar. Left alone, the soul is subject to caprice. Yet there is power in the deed that purifies desires. It is the act, life itself, that educates the will. The good motive comes into being while doing the good.”

Even if we do a good deed to make ourselves feel good, or because someone is rewarding us or requiring us, the fact that we are doing good outweighs. To do a thing well, we must put our whole selves into it, which purifies the doing even if we started out with impure motives. Maybe the act of knitting so I can show off a sweater, or knitting because we have resolved to do a certain amount a day, or for any other reason, is fine, because once we are knitting we are in it, and knitting purifies our reasons like the concerto purifies the musician. Knitting has a way of putting me into a creative space that I need to be in right now, no matter my reasons for getting into it.

I love Being: it makes me feel all deep and soulful once a week after a long night at work. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Owl Sweater: aaaaalmost done!

(this is a test post from my phone: hope the pics work!)

This Owl sweater has taken FORever: the gauge on my yarn was quite small, and I had to knit the directions for the biggest size so as not to make a doll's sweater. Then there was the issue of way-long sleeves, and where to put the owls, all of which involved a lot of frogging!

Now I am down to one little issue: pits! The patterns knits the body in the round and the joins the live stitches of the arms, also knit in the round. This left me with gaping holes, that I'm not quite sure how to close. Matress stitch doesn't seem adequate. So I am on hold..again. This poor thing has been on the needles since last winter!

Oh, and there is the small "nipple issue" that my Omaha girls pointed out: a k2g very inconveniently placed. Not just one but each knitter in turn said "whats going on with your nipples?" when I tried this on. That will have to be smoothed out somehow!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Beginning (hopefully)

The Hubs and I had a co-quarter-century-crisis the other night, both of us feeling like we're not really doing what we want to be doing "when we grow up." Life is not quite as glamorous and glitzy as we had pictured it (I blame our generational position, being told that we could be anything and anywhere we want to be. No one said work would still feel like work and bills are still boring). Hubs' solution: sign up for a physics class at Washtenaw Community College. If he likes it? Maybe go back for a (nother) Masters.

My solution? Unknown. Unlike Physics-Head, I don't acctually *know* what my passion is. Write a book? Knit like hell? Becoming a pastry chef? Pop out the babies? (Well, we *know* I want that one... :) ). So the current solution, I think, may be right here: an outlet for creativity/a catalyst for one. Blogging. Doing something a little bit creative, even if no one out there is listening, I hope will help me feel a bit more directional.

So, my first post since...what? Last year? How long ago did we set this blog up? Ah well, my first post since then: knits! I just saw the gorgeously pregnant Joanna and gave her the finished "Sweet Pea" onesie, so now I can post it. I had a fun making this, although the pattern with the leaf lace that all of Ravelry seemed to use to edit their onesie was no longer available, so I had to find another pattern with lace in it, but after that it was pleasant knitting that maybe went on a little too long during the skirt. ("Miles of stockinette" was I think the phrase used by one Ravelry-er.) I'm thrilled with the result and will definitely make again!