Holiday Knitting Roundup

Many, many projects are on the needles, which I fully intended to have done by Solstice.  Ha!  It just wasn't going to happen.  That's what iou's are for, right?  

Luke's vest was finished long before the big day and he even let me take a few photos.  I love his style.  Handmade camo mittens {from the thrift store}, dress shirt from an old halloween costume, clip on tie, and a giant furry hat he bought for fifty cents with his own money and a rainbow.  Always rainbows.   

I'm also working on a sweater vest for Cole.  He and I dyed several skeins of superwash merino to just the right color this fall. It's a gorgeous shade of purple with some orange and green undertones. Turns out my math was way off {probably because I refuse to believe he's thirteen now and as big as me} and I'm going to be about a whole skein short.  I've color matched before, but I really don't want to attempt a huge dye project in the winter time.  The light's never quite right and anyway, he just didn't care if it became a vest.  So there.  I'm using the same pattern format as Luke's vest, but since it only goes up to Size 8, I'm kind of making it up as I go along.  It seems to be a good fit so far.  The edging will have to wait, though.  I sat on my Size 5 circular needle I was going to use and broke it right in half.  

While I'm waiting until I can get to town, {it's forty miles to any sizable town} I'm finishing the crown of Mike's 1898 Hat.  I've followed the pattern exactly, except I'm decreasing at four points using psso instead of k2tog.  I like the straight lines of the decrease to compliment the earflap construction.  

How about you?  Any holiday iou's still hanging out in your basket?

p.s.  Joining Ginny for Yarn Along

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Winter Solstice

A hike in the woods.

Fresh cut pine.

A few of our most cherished ornaments and decorations.  And a tiny strand of twinkle lights for the darkest night.

Wishing you and yours a happy winter solstice.

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Bread Baking: Week 2

This week was all about getting the right amount of moisture in the bread dough.  Each day, I successively decreased the amount of flour, a quarter cup at a time.  Just shy of two and a half cups seems to be the magic number for a nice soft loaf.  The boys have enjoyed the daily bread making, too, and once in a while I have help kneading dough.

The good:  I added a spoonful of honey to the yeast water, and it made all the difference in flavor. Mike brushed melted butter to the finished loaf on Friday, and sprinkled sea salt on top before it dried.  The best yet!

The bad:  The loaf is small and disappears in about fifteen minutes.  I'm realizing that if I want to make enough bread for us to replace store bought bread, I'm going to need to either make one larger loaf or two smaller loaves per day.  

The ugly: I forgot about Tuesday's loaf and it fell.  It didn't look pretty, but it tasted good.

Next week's goals....  Larger loaf.  Adding herbs.

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Knitting Jack Pines

Knitting:  A small forest of Jack Pine Trees
Yarn:  Madelinetosh Vintage in Jade

What's on your needles right now?

{p.s.  Joining Ginny for Yarn Along.}

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Baking Bread

For as long as I can remember {or at least as long as I've had babies}, I wanted to have baking bread become a part of my daily routine.  I have to admit, I'm not very good at it, and I get easily discouraged.  So it became easier to just not do it.  Not any more.  I'm on a mission to make bread baking a part of my morning.  Each day, I'm going to bake a loaf and learn from my mistakes.  I'm going to post about it here each Thrusday, but you can follow along for daily updates over on Instagram.  Join me won't you?  Maybe we can learn to bake together.

I'm going to use a basic bread recipe and make adjustments from there. {Thanks, Tonya, for sharing!}

Here's the recipe for one loaf of Basic White Bread:
1 cup warm water {think temp of baby bath water}
2 1/2 t. yeast
Wisk them together and let stand for 5 minutes
Add 2 1/2 - 3 cups flour {for me, 3 made the best loaf}
Add 1t salt
Add 1T olive oil

Mix everything together with a wooden spoon.

Knead for 10 minutes

Shape loaf and put in oiled pan {I'm using a stoneware pan}

Let rise until double {I was confused about this part.  Only let it rise once?  Would it work?  I was always told it HAD to rise twice.  Nope.  I'm sure it has better flavor and structure with a double rise, but it's beyond my attention span at this point.}

Bake @ 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you knock on the top of loaf.

What I did wrong...  My biggest mistake with the white loaf was that it wouldn't rise.  It turned out that my water was too hot and it killed the yeast.   Once I got that right, it was the best loaf of bread I've ever made.  Nice rise, crust and texture.  Unfortunately, it was gone before I could get a picture of it.

The photo above is made with wheat bread.  I'd like to stay away from white flour and only use natural flours instead.  This has been a challenge for me.  I used the same basic recipe, but with 100% wheat flour from Wheat Montana instead.

What I did wrong...  Dough was too dry.  I since read that wheat flour needs more liquid so I'm going to increase the water and see what happens.  The finished bread turned out tasty, but a bit on the gummy side. It couldn't have been too bad, though, it was gone in about ten minutes.  Maybe a longer rise?  Cook in the oven longer? Let it rest longer when it comes out of the oven?

I'm going to work on getting the basic wheat bread right this week, so until Thursday...

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Splitting Fire Wood

I have infinite respect for those who can wield an axe and split wood by hand.  I am not one of them. Honestly, it scares the crap out of me.  I've had nightmares about over swinging and chopping off my leg.  My oldest, he loves to split wood, but not ten or more cords of it at a time.  We need this wood chopped now, to keep us warm in the months ahead and with orders to fill for the holiday season, we just didn't have time to attempt hand splitting.  Hence, the hydraulic splitter.  Borrowed from my little brother, this beast can split ten cords in one weekend, and you can even wear your pajamas while doing it!
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Wood Shed

The wood shed is almost finished.  It's 8' wide x 24' long and holds nine cords of wood when filled to the roof.  As always, we built this almost completely out of recycled materials.  Most of the lumber came from a new neighbor down the road. He and his wife moved in this fall and when we got to talking, told us about a giant {about fifteen feet tall} pile of rubbish they were going to burn.  If we wanted any of it, we were welcome to it.  Posts, pallets {for the floor}, and decking were salvaged along with a giant pile of first cuts from an old saw mill that was on the property.  We're going to cut those up for fire wood.  The roofing was also salvaged from a company that builds airplane hangers. The plastic panels are used for hanger garage doors and while they have a few scratches and dents, they're perfect for keeping the snow off and letting in the sunlight, speeding up the drying process. I'd like to say that this shed will hold all of our fire wood, but it's not going to even come close.  We have one more section of roofing to finish, but I think we're going to have to add on next year.  It sure is nice to have dry firewood this year and also an accurate measure for how much we're using.

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