New Pattern: Tarian

I was very happy to have the chance to work with Twist Collective again on my latest sweater design, Tarian. Tarian is a cozy pullover that features several different stitch patterns and one of my favourite sleeve options–thumbholes!

I’ve always felt that the sweaters I knit and design should be really wearable–the sort of thing that would look right at home with the sweaters you’ve bought at stores. My design inspirations these days therefore almost always come from shapes or details that I’ve seen in fashion magazines or on store shelves, so that the shapes and elements are representative of current fashions.

This was exactly how Tarian came about–I saw a multi-textured sweater in a shop that I loved, and I set out to make my own version, using stitch patterns and design elements that represented what I would like to wear in a sweater of that type. After a bit of experimentation in swatching, I came up with the patterns that you see in the images above and below.

One element that I added were the longer sleeves with the thumbholes. I’m the sort of person who is always cold, and I always try to buy or make sweaters with very long sleeves so I can pull them down over my hands for maximum coziness. I have a couple of athletic fleeces that have extra long sleeves with thumbholes in them, so that you can have super long sleeves but still be able to use your fingers. I love them so much that I knew I wanted to incorporate that element into one of my designs asap, and this seemed like the perfect one!

For those of you who aren’t as big a fan of the long sleeves as I am though, the pattern also includes instructions for finishing the sleeves at a normal length without the holes. In addition, although I like my sweaters fitted, I know that not everyone does, so it also includes instructions both with and without waist shaping, so that you can really make the fit and detail of this sweater your own!

The yarn that Twist had me work with was a fuzzy alpaca blend, Valley Yarns Stockbridge, which made the sample sweater extra cozy. This sweater would look great in a number of different yarns though–pure merino for awesome stitch definition, cotton for a warmer climate, or the blend that I plan to use for my own version–a merino silk yarn for a bit of shimmer to those stitches!

Of course with it being the middle of summer here in Australia, I won’t be thinking about warm wool pullovers for a little while, but I’m looking forward to getting one of these babies on the needles this autumn!

For more details and pictures, or to buy a copy of the pattern, please check out the pattern page on the Twist Collective website or Ravelry!

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12 Days of Christmas Cookies – Day 3

Nutella Filled Cookies

Man, Christmas just keeps getting closer and closer! I really should have started preparing sooner! At least by now most of the presents have been bought and I’ve put up a few decorations at home. We decorated the tree with the kids this weekend, and topped it once again with a vinyl Yoda figurine. Stand guard over the presents, he does. But I need to get a move on with the cookies if I’m going to make it to 12!

These cookies have been on my list to make for ages, but the assembly seemed like such a pain that I kept putting them off. I decided that this would be the perfect motivation to force myself to not be lazy and make them! And I had to make sure and bake them on a Friday, before the kids arrived, because they’re both big fans of Nutella, so I figured they’d be all over these.

OMG

Oh my glob, check that bad boy out!

In the end, the assembly of these suckers was a little bit of a pain, as anticipated. But good lord were they delicious! Definitely one of the most epic cookies I have ever made in my life. The nutella stayed nice and gooey in the middle, while the outer cookies crisped up. They are pretty much perfect in every way. The kids and Rob weren’t big fans of the sea salt on top, but I really liked it. And this technique could be used for any number of flavours of cookies! (I’ve already seen recipes for it online using peanut butter cookies, which I’ll have to try as well).

I almost had a bit of a disaster making these when I mentally calculated the conversion from imperial to metric measurements wrong and attempted to make twice as much brown butter as needed. Oops! Luckily I caught the error before making cookie-flavoured butter soup. Other departures from the original recipe–I omitted the greek yogurt because I didn’t have any, and it didn’t seem to matter. I used local pink river salt for the tops. I also used mini chocolate chips because I thought they would work better for flattening the dough. I only just noticed that in the original she calls for 1.75 cups of the chips. I’m pretty sure I only used 0.75 cups and it was more than enough.

I highly encourage you all to try this recipe as well!

Nutella-Stuffed Brown Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2.25 cups plain flour
  • 1.25 tsp baking soda
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1.25 cups packed brown sugar
  • 0.25 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.75 cup mini chocolate chips
  • A jar of nutella, chilled in the refrigerator
  • Sea salt for sprinkling

Instructions:

  1. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter over medium heat, whisking constantly. After a few minutes, the butter will foam and start to turn brown at the bottom. Remove from heat as soon as the butter starts to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer to a bowl and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes or so.
  3. Beat the butter and sugars together until well combined. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla, and continue beating for another minute.
  4. On low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients until just combined, then stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C (350 F) and line a cookie sheet with baking paper or a silicone liner.
  7. With the chilled cookie dough, form a ball about 1.5″ in diameter. Flatten it out in your palm, then place about 1 tsp of chilled nutella in the centre. Carefully wrap the dough around the nutella, then place on the cookie sheet about 2″ apart and flatten just a tiny bit.
  8. Bake for 9-11 minutes or just until the edges start to turn golden brown. Sprinkle with the sea salt, then remove to a wire rack to cool. They are delicious both warm and fully cooled!

Good luck trying not to eat them all immediately! :)

COOKIES

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12 Days of Christmas Cookies – Day 2

World Peace Cookies

The cookie countdown continues this week, with these tasty treats from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, ‘Baking, from My Home to Yours‘. According to her notes, this type of cookie was invented by famous French pastry chef Pierre Herme. One of her neighbours commented that eating these cookies every day would ensure world peace, hence the name. Old-school readers of the blog may recognize that I’ve made these before, when participating in the ‘Tuesdays with Dorie‘ bake-along series.

These rich, crumbly shortbread-ish cookies are packed full of chocolate (both cocoa powder and chips), as well as a prominent salty finish, which is unexpected, but nice (fans of salted caramel things, these would be a good fit for you!). It’s hard to eat just one–in fact, I don’t think Rob or I have managed it yet!

I also enjoy the construction of making this type of cookie–the mixing process is very straight forward (and no messy eggs to deal with!), it’s easy to form the dough into logs (and if you want them very even on the edges, you can use a paper towel roll wrapped and pressed around them), and while chilling the dough takes a little time, afterwards, cutting and placing them on the tray is super easy and quick!

World Peace Cookies

World Peace Cookies

Makes about 36 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 11 tbsps unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fleur de sel or 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
  2. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth, then add both sugars, salt, and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes.
  3. Stop the mixer, and put the flour mixture into the bowl. Drape a tea towel over the bowl to keep the flour in the bowl, then pulse the mixer on low speed about 5 times for 1-2 seconds each time. Mix on low for about 30 seconds more, until the flour is just incorporated.
  4. Add the chocolate pieces and mix just enough to incorporate.
  5. Divide the dough in half, form each half into a log about 1.5″ in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (you can refrigerate it up to 3 days or freeze it up to 2 months. If frozen, simply slice and bake a minute longer).
  6. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F (160 C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  7. With a sharp knife, slice the unwrapped dough into 0.5″ slices and place on the prepared sheets with about 1″ between them. If the dough crumbles a bit, just press it back together.
  8. Bake one sheet at a time for 12 minutes, then allow to cool before serving. They may not look done at first, but they solidify as they cool.
  9. Dorie comments that she prefers them at room temperature, and unlike with many other types of cookies, I agree. The crumbly texture of the cookies contrasts with the firm chocolate chips really nicely.

    World Peace Cookies

    So there’s number 2 down! I’m still having a little trouble getting into the holiday spirit. And freaking out about how little time is left before Christmas (and all the handknit gifts I need to finish!). Perhaps I should choose a really Christmas-y cookie for the next batch, and put on some holiday tunes while I bake!

    Do you have any favourite holiday cookie recipes I should be trying? Let me know!

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12 Days of Christmas Cookies – Day 1

Mmm…butter...

After a lifetime of frosty midwest-U.S. Christmases, celebrating Christmas in Australia can be kind of strange. The sun is shining, and it’s scorchingly hot outside. Barbecues and seafood abound. While I love all of these things, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me yet. My natural association is with cozy sweaters and piping hot cider or cocoa to keep the chill at bay; gathering inside where it’s bright and warm to fend off the dark and cold outside. As a result, I’ve felt like I need to put a little more effort into getting into the Christmas spirit.

I’ve seen a lot of food blogs tackling a “12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies” challenge lately, and I thought that would be a good way for me to exercise my baking mojo and inject a little jolly into my holiday season. But there’s only 4 weeks until Christmas! (Good lord, only 4???) So I’m going to attempt instead a “12 Days” sort of goal, with those days being scattered randomly throughout the next month. Hopefully, this will help me feel more like it’s Christmas season, while providing us with tasty snacks to boot!

I decided to start out simple with plain butter cookies. Not terribly glamorous, but I have tried to spice them up a bit with a few additional touches. Traditionally I’d use Hershey’s Kisses for the chocolate ones, but sadly they don’t have them at our local grocery store (Hershey’s chocolate isn’t that common here). My next thought was Rolos, since they’re a similar round shape. But the only ones I could find were in a bar. So those came out a little weird. I also made divots in the top of some of the cookies and spooned in some blueberry jam. Those turned out great!

BUTTER COOKIES

The original recipe that I modified for these came from here. I made a few modifications though–I added some salt to the batter, and I rolled them in granulated sugar before baking. And obviously I added toppings to some of them while they were just out of the oven. Though simple, these were a great start to my holiday baking! :)

Danish Butter Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 130g icing sugar
  • 310g plain flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar for rolling

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C (160 C fan-forced) and line a cookie tray with baking paper or sil-pat.
  2. Mix together the butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for at least 30 seconds or until smooth
  4. Add the flour and salt to the butter mixture gradually until it is completely incorporated. If the batter seems dry, add the milk to get the proper consistency.
  5. Form dough by tbsps into about 2 dozen balls. Roll the balls in the sugar, then place on the prepared tray and flatten a bit. Push down the middles slightly if planning to add jam after baking.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cookies start to turn golden brown around the edges. If using chocolates, press into the centers immediately.
  7. Move to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Add jam if desired.

As a side note, it’s probably pretty obvious that the website is still a work in progress. I’m still trying to find a WordPress theme that I’m happy with, as well as create a page for my knitting patterns (and clear out some of the old stuff I don’t really use anymore). Bear with me for the time being–it will look better soon!

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Almost there!

I’ve had a change in hosting providers and I’m now struggling to get everything up and running again. Hopefully the site should be good to go soon!

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Baking Down Under

(I’m really going to have to come up with a new theme for these titles, aren’t I?)

A couple of weeks ago, Rob and I went kitchen appliance shopping. I’m still getting used to all the Australian brands that I’ve never heard of before (it’s a very strange experience to go through something like a Mall and not have any brand recognition–not knowing which stores have a better reputation than others–illustrating the importance of trademarks!)

One of the big furniture stores here, Harvey Norman, was having a deal on Breville appliances, which appears to be a very good brand here. We went in intending to buy a stand mixer, but instead, thanks to their package deal, we walked out with the mixer, a 4-slice toaster, electric kettle, food processor, and blender, whoops!

They do sell Kitchen Aid mixers here, which is the brand I’m familiar with from the states, however, they’re ridiculously expensive ($800 for a mixer? No thanks!). The Breville is quite similar in style, but it has a number of added features that are pretty cool–it comes with one of those scraper beaters (in addition to a normal paddle attachment), it has a timer on it, and that cool light up display on the side that you can see in the picture. I’m very happy with our purchase!

So of course once we had the mixer, we had to bake! I started out with some vanilla bean cupcakes with chocolate rum buttercream frosting (and hundreds & thousands for a little crunch!)

Next, Rob took a turn and made a dish I’d never heard of–Impossible Pie. It’s pretty neat–you mix up all the ingredients together, then pour it in the pie dish. During baking, the ingredients separate into 3 layers–a thin, firm base, which takes most of the vanilla bean paste, a custardy center, and a light coconutty topping. Apologies that my picture of it is not the best:

We also made a couple of cake mixes together with the kids, but I don’t have any photos of those.

The baking fever, however, hit me even before we picked up the mixer. First, I saw this recipe for sticky toffee date cookies in the Weight Watchers magazine here, and so I had to try them. Despite being “health” (or relatively so), they were delicious!

We also have a bread maker, and we’ve been using it practically non-stop to keep stocked with delicious fresh bread!

Finally, I made blueberry pie twice in the last couple of months. I have to admit, I cheated a bit and used a frozen crust (though I still had to roll it out, because the wacky Aussies only appear to have square pie dough sheets at the grocery store, what the heck?). The pie came out ok the first time, and then I learned from my mistakes and it came out even better the second! I also did a lattice top for the first time, which I thought was good fun, and not difficult at all (but it looks super fancy!)

On the savory side of things, I got really homesick for some good American food the other night, and so we got some buffalo wings and veggies. Blue Cheese dressing, however, is apparently not a thing here in Australia, so I had to make that from scratch. It turned out great, and I enjoyed our buffalo wing feast!

Hopefully in the near future, you’ll be seeing even nicer pictures of baked goods, as Rob got me a DSLR camera for my birthday. I’m super excited to take high def pics of baked goods and knitting! ;-)

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Knitting Down Under

While taking a break from lawyering, I’m trying to step up the knitting and design business. I’ve got one cowl pattern that’s ready to go, it just needs some pictures, so I’ll be posting about that soon. In the meantime, I’ve been keeping busy working on a number of other projects, such as the giant blanket pictured above, made from a gradient of MadelineTosh colorways in Tosh Vintage.

This vibrant yellow sock is also one of my current projects–it’s a girl’s version of the cabled socks I made for my dad for Christmas last year. Hoping that I can polish those off and get the pattern posted soon! I’m excited about this yarn because it’s from a small Australian dyer, The Quizzical Owl. Hooray for knitting with and promoting local yarn!

I started a nice wool tweed sweater for Rob, however, my gauge turned out to be way off and I’m going to have to start over. Meanwhile, it’s already spring here, so he won’t be needing a sweater for a little while!

My eSpinner arrived here shortly after I did, thanks to my parents, so I’ve spun up a couple of braids of fiber–this first one I absolutely love, it’s merino/silk dyed by Two if by Hand in a gradient called “Beach House”

I also finished a thicker spin from Southern Cross Fibre, in the Wisteria colorway. Sadly, this wool is far too scratchy for me, so I’ll have to find something creative to do with it.

Other than my secret design projects, I’ve only finished one project since I moved down here that I can post about, and that’s a pair of knee socks made from my handspun. The original fiber was merino/cashmere/nylon dyed by Two if by Hand in the “Whizbangs” colorway. I really love these!

In other news, Rob and I got a stand mixer, so I’ve been baking a bit again as well. More on that next time!

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New Pattern: Homewood

Introducing Homewood, a lightweight lace scarf, perfect for warm spring or summer days or evenings. This is the perfect scarf to add just a tiny bit of warmth in a cool breeze or chilly office, while still maintaining that warm weather look.


(look, ducks!)

This scarf comes in two versions–a circular version for effortless style, or a more traditional and slightly wider/longer straight version. The circular version uses about one skein of most fingering weight yarns, while the straight version uses two skeins.


Wrapped twice!

I knit the blue version of this scarf for my grandmother Helen, who just turned 90 this year. Helen has always been a feisty woman, full of attitude, and remains so to this day. She always looks feminine and elegant though, and I knew this style of scarf would fit beautifully into her summer wardrobe.


Showing a bit of that attitude!

The name for this pattern comes from the town where my grandparents lived for most of my teenage/adult life. I have many fond memories of visiting with my extended family for holiday dinners or random gatherings there, and associate it strongly with my grandmother.

For more details, or to purchase this pattern, please visit its page on Ravelry, or click the button below.

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Epic Breakfast

Oh man, I made the greatest breakfast today–bacon wrapped eggs over toast. Delicious! Here’s a step by step guide of how to make your own!

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease the cups of a cupcake pan using oil, butter, or bacon grease.

2. Brown your bacon briefly so that it is lightly cooked, but not crispy. 1.5 slices per egg.

3. Wrap one slice of bacon around the edge of each cupcake cup and then fold half a slice in the bottom:

4. Crack one egg into each cupcake cup:

5. Season the eggs. I used salt, pepper, dill, thyme, and garlic powder:

6. Bake the eggs at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes depending on desired doneness:

7. Serve alone or over toast:

8. Enjoy!

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New Pattern: Leaping Lisa

I recently participated in a knitting swap, and had the pleasure of knitting for my friend Lisa. A frequent shawl and scarf knitter, I knew that Lisa would enjoy receiving something that she didn’t knit as often, so I decided to create a pair of socks for her. The design incorporates lace elements reminiscent of the beautiful shawls she regularly knits, as well as 3-strand cables, representative of her three children.

Lisa, like me, is a fan of gorgeous blues and teals, so it was not difficult to find a yarn in my stash that would suit her. I ended up using Sundara Sock Yarn in an old limited edition colorway, Denim over Teal to make the socks for the swap and these photographs. This pattern looks great in semi-solid colors that don’t compete with the lace and cables.

The name of this pattern came to me based on a trip that Lisa and I both took with a group of our friends. While we were all together, we took group pictures of everyone jumping all at once. As you can probably imagine, it is not easy to coordinate a group jumping shot with a large number of people, so we took a lot of pictures in order to get a good one. In one of the pictures, Lisa made a huge leap, absolutely perfect for the picture…except that it was about a second after everyone else, leading to a picture where we are all on the ground, but she’s getting some serious air. That image stuck in my mind when I thought of how to name the pattern inspired by this awesome lady (and the alliteration didn’t hurt either).

One challenge came when it was time to photograph these socks–I have the great fortune to be friends with an amazing photographer in Tricia Soto, however, Lisa’s feet are so tiny that I needed to find a similarly diminutive model. Enter Terry Epstein who provided her excellent modeling skills for our photo shoot. Thanks so much Tricia and Terry!

If you would like to purchase this pattern to create your own socks for leaping in, you can do so through Ravelry at the link below. Happy knitting!

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