Only a crazy person would make this scarf

So I started this scarf back in January, I think, with the intention to finish it by Valentine’s Day. I wanted a red/pink combination and I wanted to try making a crocheted, rather than knitted scarf. But needing to do things the hard way I decided to go with horizontal stripes, meaning that I would have to do very frequent color changes and ultimately weave in about a thousand ends.

So, six months later I finally finished it. Truth be told, it only took me less than a week to do the bulk of the work once I got determined to finish what I started. But it was as labor intensive as it looks. If anyone has a suggestion for making something with lots of color changes less painful, I’d love to hear it.

To save some finishing time I crocheted over the end strand of each new color so that I would only have to weave in the end of the old color. Does that make any sense?

Now I think I’ll make a hat to go with it. I found a pattern that I should be able to convert. When I get it finished I’ll put both patterns on the blog so you (should you decide to lose your mind) could make this, too.

An exceptional use of a nectarine

I spotted this beautiful nectarine tart at Smitten Kitchen the other day, so when I found nectarines on sale at the grocery store I bought some and decided to give it a try.

It’s a fantastic recipe — super easy, but it looks like it must have been hard — and the combination of gingersnaps, butter and soft cheese is sort of like a less rich cheesecake. With fresh fruit on top it seems just a little less guilt-inducing.

This time I followed the recipe to the letter, leaving out the chrystallized ginger as she did, and using slightly larger nectarines (so I only needed one). I don’t have a cute tart pan with scalloped edges, either, but our springform pan worked just fine.

The mascarpone cheese I bought at Gateway Market was divine. It was definitely authentic — all the writing on the container was in Italian.

I also got some fancier than usual gingersnaps and some homemade peach jam from the farmers market.

Mmmm, this has not lasted long in our fridge.

Rediscovering: yarn!

I blame Brianne for the fact that I almost peed my pants at work today thinking of how exciting it would be to get back to knitting/crochet projects. Am I an 80-year-old woman in a 27-year-old’s body? I think so.

But seriously. I pretty much tossed my knitting bag into hiding as soon as the temperature hit 50 and haven’t thought about it until she talked about knitting a cable scarf today. I kind of go nuts when I’m working on things that involve yarn, resulting in burnout by the end of the hat/scarf wearing season. Just ask Mike — it is yet another example of my obsessive-compulsiveness.

But even though it’s July and (supposed to be) hot as hell, I’m ready to pick up where I left off. I started clicking through the Lion yard Web site at all their mostly free patterns and I just couldn’t stop. I got so excited. I don’t know what it is about knitting and crochet (especially since I end up not liking and getting rid of half the things I make) but I just love watching those projects come together and thinking how cool it is that I made something myself. I guess I live for that project that turns out even better than you imagined and attracts a lot of you made that? type comments. It’s crafting crack and I can’t get enough.

Soooo, when I get done with my photo framing project and my super top secret craft-to-sell idea I’m cooking up you better believe I’ll be at Michael’s stuffing yarn balls into a basket and squealing like a ‘tween.

Neighborliness lives

When I got home from work today I found this plate of cookies on my doorstep.

It came with a note inviting us to the annual neighborhood picnic. Did I just emerge from a ’50s TV show? I’m only kidding. I think it’s so sweet that our neighbors want to get to know us and feel like a gesture of kindness is the best way to get started. It’s actually the second time a neighbor has left us baked goods. I’m telling you, just when you think you want to leave a place it slaps you in the face and begs you not to go.

First tomatoes of the year

Our tomato plants just took a major beating from one of the windiest storms I’ve seen in a while. Once of our neighbors (who has an absolutely gorgeous house) woke up to find a massive tree toppled onto their roof and through the windows of a side room. If that could happen, our poor little tomatoes hung on pretty impressively.

Anyway, the first to turn were these yellow pears.

They’re bigger than I imagined they would be, but quite tasty just split in half with a little salt sprinkled on. I’m dying for the others to finally turn from green to purple, orange and red. The ones at the farmers market are good, but they’re still not as good as home grown.

Angelina Jolie: How does she do it?

This is pretty old, but I just came across it today. It’s from Rebecca Walker’s blog on the Root, and it’s five questions for Angelina Jolie about motherhood, including how does she always manage to carry her kids (kids are heavy!) and don’t your kids get jetlagged with all that world traveling? Given that she’s just had two more, I think she’s gonna need more arms. Or another Brad.

Bargain spotted at the craft store

I was cruising through my usual hangout (that would be the Michael’s store in West Des Moines) when I spotted a rack full of bracelets on clearance for $2 each. Some were plastic like this black one and others were wooden.

I think you were supposed to paint them or decorate them with other pieces of flare, but in my opinion they look great plain. Actually I loooove chunky plastic bracelets right now. I cannot get enough of them. And this is the second one I’ve now scored for $2. I highly recommend you peruse your local Michael’s for similar deals.

P.S. If you look close enough you can see the way cool photographer in bracelet’s reflection.

Beau-ti-ful basil

I noticed the basil plant on our front porch overfloweth with fragrant leaves and we’ve only snipped off a few so far. So I gave the plant a good trim and got a bowlful of leaves I can use to make pesto genovese. Even just sitting in a bowl they look lovely.

I almost feel bad grinding them up, but since I’m grinding them up with garlic, cheese and olive oil, I don’t feel that bad.

Cold noodles and gooseberry tart

Sound like a weird combo? Well, we didn’t plan to have that for dinner, but it just kinda happened. I saw this recipe last weekend and wanted to try it, and then of course we ended up with a whole lotta gooseberries at the farmers market. I made the noodles, Mike made a streusel tart with the berries.

They were both quite yummy, and I can definitely recommend them.

For the noodles I changed quite a bit. I added carrots, which I tossed in with the pasta for the last two minutes of boiling, and substituted fried tofu for the chicken (sauteeing sliced tofu in oil, then cutting it into thin strips). I also have a great fear of burned garlic, so I didn’t cook that. And I’m not a ginger fan so I left that out, although I imagine most would call that a crime. I didn’t have any sesame seeds, so that also got left out. At the end it tasted a tad bland so I added a sprinkling of salt and a little more soy sauce. But after it marinated in the fridge for about a half hour it was divine. Really flavorful. (The final photo didn’t turn out well, so here is an earlier one.)

The pie recipe came from a book called “Easy as Apple Pie” by Caroline Barty. I can’t find a link so I’ll give you the recipe here:

Blueberry Streusel Tart
(obviously works for gooseberries, too)

2/3 cup butter, softened
3 T. sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light cream (We couldn’t figure this out so went with half and half)
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 T. ground almonds
2 T. soft white bread crumbs (toast bread, grind up in food processor)

1 lb. 9 oz. blueberries
1/2 c. sugar
5 T. soft white bread crumbs
3 T. sliced almonds
2 T. light brown sugar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1. To make the pastry, beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg with a little of the flour. Stir in the remaining flour alternately with the cream and vanilla extract, mixing to make a smooth, soft dough.

2. Spoon the dough into a greased 10-1/2 inch tart pan (he used a small rectangular glass dish), then use your fingers to gently ease it evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Mix the ground almonds and bread crumbs together and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pie shell.

3. To make the filling, mix the berries with the sugar and half the bread crumbs. Spoon the mixture into the pie shell.

4. Mix the remaining bread crumbs with the sliced almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Scatter the mixture evenly over the berries.

5. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven until the pastry is cooked and the streusel topping is golden, 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold (it says with creme fraiche, but come on! vanilla ice cream).

Reasons to live together: pancakes

In case you were wondering what happened to those farmers market blueberries, they went into Mike’s buttermilk pancakes this morning. I would call them purpleberries at that point, and they were like little molten balls that exploded in your mouth. Yum.

I also ate a bunch of them plain after I ran this morning (woo hoo, I ran!).

Mike also helped me find my iPod after I went frantically searching through the house for it. It was, of course, smashed up against the side of the box where I always keep it and had searched through several times already.