Why I Bake

Granola – before

Obviously, baking yields something delicious at the end but I don’t just bake for the result. It’s about the process, too.

My grandmother, my mom’s mom, always had something that she’d just baked on her pantry shelf. Always. She never failed. (The pantry also had a metal three-drawer cabinet that housed her “candy drawer” at the bottom where we could always go for a chocolate treat.) Chocolate frosted, only on the top and in the middle, yellow cake. The same yellow cake in cupcake form with chocolate frosting. Cream puffs, chocolate chip cookies … often the same but never boring.

My gram would take the time to bake with me and I think that’s why I love to bake. I so enjoyed being with her while we baked together and if we didn’t have time to bake together I always knew the love that went into it. Precious moments. Gram didn’t have a lot of money to buy stuff but she gave me the gift of time.

As I bake, my gram is with me. I can feel her in my heart and it makes me so happy. As I’m writing this my eyes are filling with tears which is a message that my words and feelings around this are true. (Bristol Ivy said I had “ocular incontinence” and she’s not wrong!) Baking centers and grounds me. It is something I shared with my children and with with my grandchildren; the ones of the heart and the blood ones if we are so blessed.

Granola – after

Meanwhile, it settles my heart in a bizarre year. I always know that baking something fills my belly and my heart.

Knitting does something similar but it doesn’t have the heart connection to my family like baking does. I love knitting, don’t get me wrong. I can sit and knit for hours and be “in the zone” where time is lost and my mind is focused. It’s good for my soul. I’ve been knitting a lot through the pandemic and have been experiencing a little soreness in my left arm – I don’t stop and stretch often enough. I’ve also been sitting too long and have worked over the past year to get up and stretch more to help my hips and back. Both passions have helped me to pass the lockdown time in a state of (mostly) contentedness and peace and they’ve been such a blessing. My husband enjoys the fruits of my labor on both fronts.

This week I’m rushing to finish his birthday socks. I’ve got one done and one to go.

Classic Socks for the Family by Yankee Knitter Designs in Manos Alegria

Gone knitting.

A Traumatic Day

Yesterday was a rough day. I’m not gonna lie. I haven’t slept well for a couple of nights and that usually means that there’s a full moon or that something is bubbling up inside me that needs to be gone from me … my life … my belief system … whatever it is. I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, angry, tearful (like the ugly cry kind) and, by the end of the day, traumatized. I know I’ll work through it and the personal stuff in detail isn’t something that really belongs here. I know I can work through it and if I can’t, I can reach out to my (former not old) therapist who will guide me in the right direction. In the meantime, today I’m going to burn some sage in the house to cleanse the energy in it and I’ll take time to be quiet and see what my mind/body/soul reveals.

Oddly enough, in addition to having a traumatic, emotional day, I heard a phone ringing in the house. It was neither mine nor my husband’s. It was distant but seemed to be coming from inside out house. This morning I heard it again when I was standing in the kitchen. There isn’t another phone in the house. Yeah, I know. This is an odd one. Anywhoo …

Signs of hope in the garden this morning

When I went outside this morning to take my morning shot of the lake (it will be a video) I made a discovery. Crocus! I had completely forgotten that we planted a couple of bunches of crocus bulbs last fall. What a pleasant and welcome surprise. Some critter is munching on the lakeside spot and he or she will pay for that if I have anything to say about it but I was so pleased to see a couple of flowering buds and more coming. It makes me feel hopeful again.

Lots has happened around the lake since I last posted. The husband and I have both received and recovered from our second Moderna doses. We had what I would call very, very mild symptoms of what may have been fever (I had chills one afternoon) and fatigue. My arm hurt a little bit as did his. Overall, however, we are so grateful to be closer to living without the fear of this virus being ever-present in our minds. The vaccine feels like a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders. I can’t wait to hug my kids and my friends!

We had ice out on our lake!

What a difference a day makes! And with the ice going out, the loons and water birds are coming back. In fact, as soon as there was open water, the birds were returning. Pairs of mergansers, at least one loon (we saw it and heard it, too), mallards, Canada geese and others are here again. It’s quite a wonderful change of pace after the winter months. Our bird feeders are full of bright yellow goldfinch, and my hubby said he’s seen purple finch. They’re eating us out our house and home!

I’ve been knitting madly away on a few projects that are on my needles.

On Easter Sunday I knitted one of the eggs from Arne and Carlos’ new collection of Twelve Easter Eggs. I’m using tiny balls of Sirdar Happy cotton yarn and they’re fun and relatively quick to knit. I’ve begun a second but I’ve put it aside to finish a project for a customer … or at least get it started.

I”m to the bottom colorwork band on my Daytripper cardigan so the mindless rounds of stockinette stitch are done and I’ll have to concentrate again (and count). I love the colors that I chose and this will be a great addition to my sweater collection.

I’ve cast on the Evolve Cowl by Hunter Hammersen which is the second project in the Confident Knitting program from Arnall-Culliford Knitwear. The yarn is Dusty Dimples DK, this is a hand-dyed yarn from the UK and it’s really delightful to knit with. The yarn was purchased as a kit to go with the book (for now virtual) that includes a lot of technique tutorials. This is the third such program that I’ve purchased and I have yet to be sorry that I did. I have not finished all of the projects from the first two books; Some I probably won’t ever make and some I know that I will. When the time is right. The technique this month is blocking a cowl in the round so that it doesn’t have the horrible creases. Good to know.

The Flux Handwarmers were the first project from Confident Knitting and they’re finished. I don’t love them to be completely honest because they’re a bit too short for my liking. I like fingerless mitts that at least keep my fingers protected from the cold steering wheel. These don’t. But the Zauberball (the yarn, Muffin) is pretty and I like the weight of the mitts. They’ll be a good gift for someone one day.

March socks are pretty rudimentary average everyday boot socks. They’re made out of Raggi yarn which I love. I made it just under the wire finishing these socks in March with a day to go. I’m not sure what socks will be happening in April … and I may skip a month. How do you like that? Ha! Ha! I do have some green buffalo wool sock yarn that is begging to be Christmas tree socks … time will tell.

Opus. What can I say about Opus? I love him/her so much. What a joy to knit and I love seeing it on my guest room bed every time I walk by. It seems a bit silly to enjoy something so apparently random but I do. I wrote about him/her here before I got to the tentacles. What a creative project.

My Fine Sand cardigan is slow progressing. I have it down in the living room now, next to my chair so that I can knit a few rows when I’m sitting down there. It’s endless rows of stockinette stitching now with every sixth row having some shaping increases and decreases. If I’m lucky, this will be done before the end of the summer … and since it’s a summery cotton/linen blend yarn, it’d be nice to be able to wear it this year. But it’s definitely going to be awhile.

So, there you have it. My life and knitting in a nutshell. I haven’t been baking much but I have the intention of making apple dumplings today … whole apples, cored and wrapped in pastry dough and baked. I have such fond memories of these at the Ohio State Fair with my singing kiddos! I’ve been eating my granola like crazy in the mornings or sometimes for lunch after work. Overall, I’m so grateful to be where I am and with who I’m with … life is good.

Gone knitting.

Maybe the Best Scones Ever

One of the things that I got for Christmas this year is a New York Times Food subscription. I am wanting to make cooking (and you all know I love baking) more fun and maybe attempt to get out of our cooking “rut”.

I was reading something online and saw a photograph of these scones. They looked really yummy and the idea of Cinnamon Roll Scones … well, suffice it to say, the hubby and I were delighted with the idea! So, since I had all of the ingredients (I had half and half not cream) in the house, I jumped in!

Oh. My. Goodness!!! They were divine. So much so that we considered not sharing with our neighbor who loves baked goods but doesn’t have a spouse that bakes. (We did share in the end.)

The end of a beautiful day!

Making Monday

Sunrise this morning over Sidney, Maine

It’s a new week and a new opportunity to make things! When I started this blog, it was meant to be about all of the things I made with a focus on knitting. So, here we are at another Monday and I am starting a whole new week of making.

I finished something yesterday! Woo! Hoo! I love to knit and I love to finish projects and send them on their merry way. This is a baby blanket that my sister-in-love asked me to make for her niece. I love this pattern because it’s a classic style that pleases everyone. I knit this with Berroco Vintage Chunky, an acrylic and wool blend that is machine washable and dryable, both very important for a new mom. The pattern is called Three Cable Baby Blanket and it’s a pattern that we hand out for free at the yarn shop where I work. This blanket took four hanks of yarn The chunky yarn makes it take a lot less time than a finer yarn and it’ll be nice and warm for the baby!

Banana Nut Muffins with Blueberries

Because I live in Maine, I like to add blueberries to almost everything I bake. They’re also good for us, right? My sweet husband loves to have something sweet in the morning with his coffee. When I bake for him, he’s a happy camper. You know the saying, “sometimes you feel like a nut”? He always likes nuts and these have a full cup of chopped walnuts in them. The recipe is one that I was given forever ago from a friend. It says it’s the recipe from the West Milton Inn. You can find the recipe here! This is the best banana bread recipe that I have ever had. I freeze the bananas when they’re getting old and when I defrost them, I add all the liquid and the bananas. Try making them plain, as written, and then play with adding different things: 1 cup of chocolate chips or a cup of blueberries or a cup of nuts (walnuts or pecans are great!)

I made granola!

I usually add dried cranberries in place of the raisins and I add 1/4 cup of maple syrup, too. I’ve been known to add chopped pecans or walnuts (remember that my husband likes nuts!) I now like to add pepitas (pumpkin seeds), too. I love this with a bit of almond milk or even with greek yogurt for breakfast or a mid-afternoon snack when I forgot lunch and don’t want to ruin my dinner.

So, there you go! I’ve started my week making … baking!

Well, Hello There!

From our bedroom window this morning

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? I can’t believe that I haven’t written for such a long time … but I’m here today. It’s a questionably nice summer day today. We woke to rain, heavy rain, which is very welcome since Maine has been very dry. Parts of the state are talking about drought conditions. Not good this early.

I’ve been knitting along on the same projects. They seem to be taking forever to finish and that says that I’m not knitting as much as I think I am. With all sorts of time, it’s astounding to me that I get less and less done. Regardless …

Humulus Sweater in Ella Rae Classis Wool

My Humulus sweater is coming along. I’ve finished one sleeve and started the second one. If I really sat myself down and got off social media, I could probably finish it today. I am pretty pleased with the fit of this sweater and I really like the colors I chose. Ella Rae Classic wool is a good workhorse yarn. I would love to make another one of these sweaters (or one like it) in Malabrigo Rios or some other more luxurious yarn … some day. I have a list of sweaters and have already purchased the yarn for several that I have to knit first.

Next up, my Bristol Ivy shawl … The Shape of A Bay, I bought this pattern and yarn at Medomak Fiber Arts Camp not last summer but the summer before. It was my splurge. I started it immediately and then realized that it wasn’t a pattern to work on when you’re trying to converse with other people so I put it away until after camp. Time rolls on and then all of a sudden two years have passed and I hadn’t touched it since.

The Shape of a Bay in Cashmere People Yarns

I love the yarn so much. It feels wonderful as it passes through my hands. I also am loving the intricate stitch patterns in this shawl. It’s brilliant. Way more brilliant than I can ever imagine designing myself … and that’s one of the reasons that I adore Bristol Ivy so much. She’s a knitting geek. Her designs are different, thoughtful, and wicked smaht! I am continually amazed at her creativity. I’m thoroughly enjoying knitting this shawl and I can hardly wait to see it in all its glory after it’s blocked!!!

Simple Slippers in Brown Sheep’s Lambs Pride Bulky

I started a new project when I saw the newest Making magazine. There is so much in these little books that I want to make! I love these simple crochet slippers by Cal Patch (and I love Cal, too) so much and I eagerly finished both slipper bottoms in one porch-sitting day. I haven’t pulled them out again since. I am not as proficient at crochet as I am at knitting but I find it’s good for my hands and arms to change the movements up now and again. So, I change to crochet. This project, while simple for some, takes quite a bit of concentration for me but it is fun to succeed. And they’ll be warm and cozy when they’re finished and felted.

Crochet squares for my Battenberg Blanket in fingering weight scraps

This is my other crochet project. The Battenberg blanket will be something I’ll be working on for(maybe)ever. These tiny little squares will be crocheted together eventually and I’d like to have it be big enough to cuddle an adult up in … it may be a baby blanket, however. Time will tell. I have several dozen of them finished in random sock yarns that I’ve used over the years. I have to find a solid or two to use to unify all the oddball patches. But I can make these in my sleep now. It’s a good end of the day project.

Maple-Blueberry Scones

Both my husband and my college roommate showed me this recipe … that’s a strong hint. And they’re delicious. I spent a good part of the day one day this week making these and some peanut butter oatmeal cookies with nuts and chocolate chips added (because what’s a cookie without adding some extra good stuff?). I will not be shedding pounds this week, that’s for sure. This recipe can be found on the NY Times Cooking website. Let me know if you try them!

Last but not least, I finally cast on my July socks. I’ve blogged before about our 2020 Sock Challenge and I have a few friends of QBK on Facebook who are knitting socks with me this year. It’s been fun … but this month I almost forgot to start a pair! I had initially thought I’d make a pair that I saw online somewhere that was made with two yarns in contrasting colors, knit two stitches with color one and knit two stitches with color two and then after two rounds, switch the colors and so forth. But when I got started, I didn’t like the two colors together – not enough contrast – so I am knitting a simple pair of socks using my favorite Yankee Knitter sock pattern. The yarn is On the Round yarn in the Rebel colorway.

Yankee Knitter Socks for the Family in On The Round Signature Sock

I’ve been working at weeding our gardens. So far the weeds are winning but we’ve had some wonderful floral successes this year. Have a look at my bee balm! The hummingbirds are so happy with these flowers!

Gone knittng!

All of my projects are on my Ravelry project page. You can find them there! My Rav name is Lindar. Find me on Facebook at Queen Bee Knits by Linda Warner and Instagram @QueenBeeKnits.

I Made a Thing

Yesterday I FINALLY made something that I’ve been thinking about (and telling my sweet hubby about) for several days … or weeks? I made cinnamon rolls (with pecans because sometimes you feel like a nut.

I followed the KIng Arthur Flour pattern recipe for Cinna-Buns from their website. You can Google it! It’s a pretty simple recipe. The only “problem” I had was patience … and waiting for the dough to rise. It didn’t rise like bread dough. I’m not sure it was supposed to … but it didn’t. I forged ahead anyway because, well, why not? And they are beautiful! And yummy!

Next time, I’ll hold back on the frosting because then I can freeze them (and frost them when they’re defrosted and reheated because they’re best warm!) A dozen is a big batch and the two of us can’t eat all of them before they’re stale. And I can’t really share them with anybody right now, can I? So, I’ll wrap them up and freeze a few. We’ll see how that goes!

Gone knitting!

Quarantine Update – How are YOU doing?

The ice has gone from our part of the lake. This was the first (almost) sunset last night … gorgeous!

Y’all, this is difficult, isn’t it? I’m a very social person and I love working in a yarn shop, helping people, talking to people, laughing. So, this staying home thing is difficult. And I love my home!

So, here I am wondering how you are doing? I know that there are a few of you who actually read my blog, and I am appreciative of you (all three of you!!!)

I’m doing my best to make every day as positive as I can. I have made some masks and will be making more. My local farmer has asked for masks for her family so that they can go to the farmers’ markets and bring food to their customers’ cars from their farm stand. I also want to make some for my family. I’m not a competent sewist but I’m doing my best. I currently have eight masks that I am happy to donate to anyone who needs them. If you know someone, let me know. They’d be very appropriate for someone working with children.

What else am I doing to stay sane? Baking. Baking is always something that I love doing but when life is in full throttle busy I tend to let the baking slide … giving priority to other things that may not be as pleasurable. When this is all over, I will continue to make baking a priority in my life. My husband, in particular, enjoys the sweets and I do, too. I like to do things that he enjoys and baking reminds me of my grandmother.

I’m also doing some knitting. Not a lot, oddly. I’ve finished my socks (see the previous post) for my neighbor and that felt so good. I’ve been crocheting tiny squares out of my scraps of left-over sock yarn to make a blanket. I’m making progress but this project is going to require lots and lots of these little squares. I will have to buy a solid color to crochet them all together at the end. Here are the squares I made yesterday. They’re small so they’re also very satisfying.

I’ve also been continuing the blocks for the Arne and Carlos Quarantine KAL and I’ve been continuing to be behind! It’s all good. I’m happy with my progress and I like the blocks that I have made. I believe that I’m four blocks behind right now so I am grateful for the weekend when I can catch up a little bit. I believe they’re going to have one more week. I’ll be happy to have something finished that will remind us of this time in our life when life was anything but normal!

And wonder of wonders, I’ve finished the “star” section of my test knit shawl! I’m so happy to have that section behind me. I ended up having a few extra stitches but because I could read my knitting, I made the necessary adjustments and kept on … after the two times that I knew it wasn’t right and frogged back to the previous section. So now I can knit on to the next sections and maybe I’ll finish it before we’re out of “social distancing”!

I have been trying to get up and get showered and dressed every day. Today I’m not only showered and dressed but I’ve vacuumed my studio. It’s actually just over 50 degrees today so I cracked my studio window for some fresh air. Life is good. I hope you’re staying home and staying well.

Gone knitting!

Baking … in the kitchen and out!

We seldom have hot weather here at the lake. Only once do I remember seriously considering an air conditioner. Today … well, for the last couple of days … I’d love to have one! It’s been hot and humid – and maybe it’s the humid that makes it less bearable?

Regardless, we have family arriving tomorrow and I wanted to get my baking done. Or at least most (some) of it. Today I made a couple of desserts that I found on Pinterest – first I made an ice cream sandwich cake. It was a really quick dessert to make and since the three boys really like ice cream, I thought this would go over big! I used the small individually wrapped Reese’s candies … and intend to chop up more to go on the top when I get it out of the freezer. (Unfortunately, there were no left-over ice cream sandwiches for me to snack on. Recipe used exactly 24!)

Next, I made two peanut butter pies. N said that he’d love it … and since he’s had a rough week, I decided that I could do that for him. Also a really quick dump-dump-stir-stir dessert to make with a cookie crumb crust (bought in the store). The only change we made was that N whipped real cream rather than using the “whipped topping” that you can find in your grocer’s freezer! (You know what I’m talking about!) I bought one chocolate cookie crust and a graham cracker cookie crust … will let you know which is better! I have to buy more cream  to decorate the pies with before serving … and probably will chop up more of those Reese’s candies that are left over!

Last thing I made today was some cinnamon pull-apart bread. I’ve made this recipe once before – and it was delicious! It’s also rather simple for a yeast bread recipe. I even mixed it by hand and it came out beautifully. This time, I added chopped pecans and a drizzle of honey before I stacked up the squares of dough. It’s in the oven as we speak … and it smells so good when it’s baking! I can hardly wait to try it (again!)

N was making his home-made baked beans today, too. It’s his comfort food – and the recipe, while it changes almost every time, is getting better. He’ll eat them for breakfast … me, not so much! Maybe dinner.

Tomorrow I have to make up some muffins and since I have bananas in the freezer, I thought that I’d do banana blueberry … stay tuned! Also found a recipe for vegan pumpkin oatmeal cookies that I HAVE to try! Pumpkin and oatmeal together sound pretty wonderful.

So, that’s it – not really knitting today but the baking has been fun … the baking heat both from the oven and from the weather … well, suffice it to say, I’d rather be cool! Thank goodness we have a lake in the front yard!

Gone knitting!

Frustration Strikes!

Yes, it did strike today … and on more than one level. Kind of like the s#%t that hit the fan a couple of days/posts ago. Many little annoyances … placed carefully in one day so that I’ll appreciate the easier days, perhaps?

I had gotten pretty close to done with the back of my Dropps tunic. Only to realize today that I was making the XXL size rather than the XL. I’m simply not an XXL. So … without further ado, I had to frog it. Had to. There was no way to finagle it to be right without a battle. I’ve pulled my beautiful green Signature needles out again and have cast on the proper number of stitches for the XL tunic and will get back to where I need to be!

I did finish the fingerless mitts that have been languishing in my project bag for ages. I think they were started way back before Christmas when I was making oodles of fingerless mitts for an order. These were made with Lana Bamboo by Cascade and they’re really pretty – will go well with denim as they’re a lovely mottled blue color way. I am pleased with the pattern even though I didn’t care for the needles that I used (at least for the second one). Nor did I mark the pattern well when I knitted up the first mitt so that I made a couple of matching errors on mitt number two. No matter, I frogged a few rows and started again so they were “right” and they matched each other.

The “throne” at our Maine house has been malfunctioning this summer. It’s been “out of service” for several days. Today I was told it was finished and ready to be used again. Discovered that it’s not really and will have to wait until Thursday … in the meantime, I guess I’m grateful for the upstairs bathroom!

Company arrives Thursday and we still haven’t gotten a new vacuum – well, we did but it didn’t suck. Literally. It’s been returned but the house needs vacuuming NOW! 🙂 Maybe we can get a new vacuum with suction included tomorrow. I don’t think our blankets will be back from the dry cleaner in time for their beds. Sure hope the weekend is warmer than it’s been so they don’t miss them. Antique wool blankets are wonderful but they do have to be cleaned once every decade or so. LOL!

Please don’t notice the dirty/old stove! Thanks!

I did make a successful breakfast food – pull-apart cinnamon bread. It looks pretty good and I hope it tastes equally good. I was in the way in the kitchen but dinner was also on the table at a decent hour. With construction and dogs and all that has been happening in this house over the last few days, it’s a miracle that I can get anything accomplished.

If I could see in the dark, I’d be going for a bit of a walk tonight to walk off the frustration. For now, I’m not knitting. I’m just done. Maybe it’s time for bed.

 

Today’s Completed Projects

I wrapped up a couple of projects today and it feels good to get things finished. No pressure, for sure, but good to finish none the less. Here’s my story about one – or at least it’s a partial story!

I’ve made a twelve inch square for a group gift that my group will be assembling for a special member. I’ll explain more after it’s been presented but here is my square …

"The Candle Tree"

I didn’t want to do just a plain square. Tried a couple of stitches that I was unfamiliar with and then found this one in one of my stitch books – Barbara G. Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns (if you want to buy a book of stitches, this is one of the ones to buy. Clear concise directions and a ton of different patterns. The only “problem” is that there are more than one treasury … so start your library!)

The pattern (on p. 290) is called “The Candle Tree” and it’s a panel of 35 stitches. I liked the idea of the candles as a memorial – I’ve explained my love of the Jewish tradition of Yarzeit candles before in my blog and that’s part of why I love the pattern. The tree is a symbol of family (think “family tree”) and strength (think “mighty oak”) and perhaps also a bit of the natural circle of life. and the tree as a symbol of family and strength. When I can tell you more about the gift that we’re giving, you’ll understand why this patch or square is significant!

I didn’t get the tree perfectly centered but it’s now blocked and ready to go to the assembly team (of one?) I am excited to see the end result – and if I do say so myself, it’s a really thoughtful gift – and see how its recipient likes it. I think she’ll be very touched.

I also did some baking today. Needed to attach my feet to the ground. I love this recipe which I found on the Internet … Levain Bakery’s Oatmeal Scones. I have been making this recipe for quite some time and my brother once said they were the best scones he’d ever eaten. I use a gluten-free flour and craisins in lieu of all-purpose flour and raisins. Today I even threw a few currants in because I didn’t have quite enough craisins. They are so delicious. You really should try them! And it’s easy to make scones – I mixed all the ingredients together and then added the diced butter and mix it all together with my hands until crumbly and then add the milk/cream/buttermilk and quickly mix it together with my mixer. Rather than mess up my counter, I use an ice cream scoop and have perfectly shaped, similarly sized scones that freeze really well … and we can warm up one or two each morning! I love Turbinado Sugar as a sweet and crunchy sprinkle on top! You could also make a little “frosting” with confectioners sugar and milk or orange juice and drizzle on top. Try it out!

Gone knitting (well, walking first and then knitting!)