Yarn-stravaganza, Part Le 2ème

I really don’t know what’s with the French kick lately. No idea. Let us resume where we left off in the Tour de Yarn, though, and try not to worry about it. Ah, but before we embark, I should note that my lovely blog readers get 15% off in my ArtFire shop, binky-bird. Just mention Little Birdhouse and I will send you a refund of the 15% via PayPal!

Blue Sky Alpaca in Sapphire

Blue Sky Alpaca in Sapphire

Blue Sky Alpaca Silk in Sapphire. We arrive now at my very favorite of the yarns to cross my threshold in the past, well, ever, probably. This is for a custom pair of mitts, and so is not mine, and so I cannot give in to the desire to rub it all over my face while purring. But knitting with it is (almost) enough. It’s actually quite a bit more teal and saturated than it appears in the photo; I was kind of lazy about white balance and subsequent color correction. This yarn is my introduction to Blue Sky, and I have to say that my yarn wishlist now consists of about 10 of every color of the Alpaca Silk, because it is yummy and buttery and gorgeous and amazing. Did I mention I love this yarn? I love it. It’s a little splitsville when I knit with it but not so bad as to take away from its other glories.

Ella Rae Bamboo Silk in Baby Olivine

Ella Rae Bamboo Silk in Baby Olivine

Ella Rae Bamboo Silk in Baby Olivine. This is destined to become a second pair of mitts for the person who’s getting the Blue Sky pair. This yarn is also delicious and yummy and I am really excited to be working with bamboo. It seems to have an excellent drape and the hand is just so soft. The color is not quite so yellow as this, but it’s definitely a springy spring green. What pattern will I use? It is a mystery. First I should finish one of my eleventy-seven OTHER projects, right?

Gedifra Tiago in Spring Green

Gedifra Tiago in Spring Green

Gedifra Tiago in Spring Green. Which actually to me is less spring green than the Baby Olivine, but I didn’t name it. Destined to become what I hope will be a nice, light, summery Clapotis, for the mitts-person above. It’s got that crunchy airy quality that just screams “warm weather knitting” so I’ll save this for those days when it’s over 80F. What’s that you say? It’s already over 80F? In Michigan? In April? My goodness.

Laines du Nord Royal Cashmere in Spearmint

Laines du Nord Royal Cashmere in Spearmint

Laines du Nord Royal Cashmere in Spearmint. This is just really lovely, really soft yarn in a really lovely, really soft color. I am even willing to forgive the atrocious choice of typeface (ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME LAINES DU NORD? ARE YOU?) because it’s so nice. There isn’t much in the way of yardage; it was gifted to me, by above mitts-person, and I think I’m going to make a nice buttoning “neck-warmer,” which I refer to more as a “very short scarf, with buttons.” Mmm.

Berocco Ultra Fine Alpaca in Pea Soup Mix

Berocco Ultra Fine Alpaca in Pea Soup Mix

Berocco Ultra Fine Alpaca in Pea Soup Mix. More green! I love green. This may be a self-defense mechanism implemented after attending The Ellis School for four years, but I think I liked green even before that. I’ve got four (FOUR!) skeins of this, which is soft and slightly fuzzy, and I think it will make beauteous socks. But since I have so much, perhaps I should make a shawl, instead? Hm. Another gift. I am blessed by yarn.

I feel certain you’ve been wondering about the Acid Absinthe socks I’m making, so please find below a photograph of their current status, which is to say, “They’re on stitch holders right now.”

Acid Absinthe Socks in Handmaiden Casbah, Masala

Acid Absinthe Socks in Handmaiden Casbah, Masala


Menu Plan Monday, Pre-Birthday Edition

A day early, too! I’m not a day late! Or a week late! My birthday is a week from tomorrow (May 4 — please send all gifts to my house, ha ha) and I will be turning 30. Next week’s “menu plan” may consist of every day saying “eat whatever Jennie wants to eat” because I am like that. But this week I’ve tried to make a plan for things that will use up what we already have, not make too much of a mess, and still be tasty. I don’t know why I used French days of the week. I must be feeling pretentious.

Menu de la Semaine


  • Smoked salmon; bagel, cream cheese, capers, onions, horseradish

  • Ann Arbor; Chipotle or Thai?

  • Chili-roasted pork shoulder; tortillas, sauteed onions, cheese, beans


  • Yogurt; blackberries

  • Pulled pork sandwiches; chips, baked beans

  • Shrimp korma; green beans, rice, raita


  • Scrambled eggs; smoked salmon, onion, capers, spelt toast

  • Leftover extravaganza

  • Burgers on the grill; pasta salad; berries and cream.


  • Yogurt; granola, strawberries

  • Leftover pasta salad with salami, olives, etc.

  • Spaghetti and meatballs


  • Smoked salmon; cream cheese, capers, onions, horseradish, toast.

  • Stuffed mushroom caps; salad.

  • Toledo: Jing Chuan for birthday dinner post-tattoo.


  • Cereal; yogurt or milk.

  • Chinese leftovers

  • Chicken strip salad with extra-garlic ranch, croutons, and egg.


  • Omelets; sausage, toast, fruit.

  • Leftover extravaganza

  • Possibly Hathaway House for my birthday dinner; if not, steak, blue cheese cream sauce, waffle fries.

Yarn-stravaganza, Part One

I finally got around to taking photos of a bunch of my most recently acquired yarn. I’ve actually accumulated quite a lot in the past month or so; some of it has been in trade for custom items, some of it is for the custom items, some has been gifted, and I may have bought a little. I still don’t have pictures of most of my KnitPicks stuff, and therefore do not have it entered on my Ravelry account (which I’m trying to use more, because I really do love it and not just as a pattern search engine). It’s not that I don’t like it; more that it’s my utilitarian, workaday yarn and so not nearly as exciting as cashmere and silk. Maybe someday I’ll get off my lazy behind and put it in the lightbox for its own photo op.

Meanwhile, will you settle for a tour of the new yarn? I can’t sleep, and I don’t want to hunt down all my knitting needles to finish entering those in to Ravelry, so this seemed like a good alternative. And counting wool, like counting sheep, has apparently made me sleepy — so count this as part one, with more to come tomorrow or Monday!

Handmaiden Casbah in Amethyst

Handmaiden Casbah in Amethyst

Handmaiden Casbah in Amethyst, the partner in crime to my Casbah in Masala (which you may remember from an incident with a certain Noodle). This was a total and absolute surprise; I opened my mailbox one day and there was a mysterious squishy package. It turned out to be this lovely skein of yarn. I really didn’t think I’d have another skein of Casbah to work with for… well, until Christmas, really. I have grand plans for this yarn, such as another pair of socks. After I finish the first pair. Which, you know, is going slowly, but mostly because my right wrist has been bothering me. That’s the one with the tendinitis, so I try to listen when it says “HEY CUT IT OUT!” Maybe I should have picked a pattern with less cabling — I still can’t bring myself to do the cable-needle-free cables, because it gives me conniptions, so while I make nice cables, I make them slowly. I’m leaning towards either Goneril or Reagan. Probably Reagan.

Araucania Atacama #525

Araucania Atacama #525

Araucania Atacama #525, which I feel ought to have a more exciting color name, is 100% alpaca that’s kettle dyed. I found a stupendous sale on it at Little Knits so I sorta stocked up; I have 10 skeins of this. Some are going to make me another Clapotis, because I love mine more than words can say. I’m hoping enough will be left over to make cute lined mitts for winter (for my ArtFire shop, since I sadly cannot keep everything I make for ME ME ME) and/or Christmas gifts. If you are related to me pretend you didn’t read that last part. It’s soft like butter and I think this is probably my favorite of the yarn photos I took. It looks like a mutedly psychedelic snail, don’t you agree?

Araucania Atacama #510

Araucania Atacama #510

Araucania Atacama #510, similarly purchased at an excellent sale price from Little Knits. I have super seekrit nefarious plans for this, some of which may involve some of my faithful readers, so I’m not going to say much. Move along; nothing to see here; etc. I guess I could mention that I got full bags of 10 skeins of this and the other Atacama for slightly under twenty bucks each, which is a steal for such nice fuzzy soft yarn in such gorgeous colors.

I did have a bit of an issue with dye coming off of this particular batch onto my hand, but I was especially sweaty and holding it for quite a while. Still, I don’t think I’ll make doll clothes from it, and if I’m not being extra-lazy I think I’ll give it a nice rinse before I actually knit with it.

Tea and Perfume

Is that like wine and roses but not? I wonder.

I have been drinking tea like it’s going out of style lately, which is much better than doing the same with Diet Pepsi, say I. I’ve tried lots from various places, and so far I love Zhena’s Gypsy Teas, Teavana, and Adagio the most. Adagio is offering $5 gift certificates, which I can pass along to you; if you use one, I get 10 points in my account, and if ten of you use one, I get a gift certificate for meeee! Fund my plant-based addiction, if you would be so kind? (It’s actually a great deal regardless; I mean, $5 is $5.) They’re the ones who have the ingenuiTEA brewer with which I am so in love.

Here’s the gift certificate code: 9567207228.

Also, you may know of my slight obsession with independently made perfumes, and BPAL is among my favorite labels, as it were. I’m running a decant circle, which is a chance to try lots of limited editions for less than forking over $17.50 a bottle on your own — I get the bottles, I split them using clean transfer pipets, you get a neat labeled glass vial of perfume. I need folks to fill spots for me on the Velvet Paintings series decants, so have a look, eh?

Menu Plan Monday

Another week, another menu. We did really well last week sticking to the plan, although I think my husband was quietly amused when he would say “What’s for dinner?” and I would look on the site here to tell him. Oops. This week I’m printing one of the handy meal plan lists to stick on the fridge so we can avoid that. This week’s got a few planned outings and some hopeful grilling; it’s supposed to rain until Thursday or so but I’m hoping Saturday will be clear. If it is, I’m sitting outside with a lemonade and a book and pretending I have a hammock while I barbeque a pork butt.


  • Breakfast: Smoked salmon and bagel, cream cheese, capers, horseradish
  • Lunch: Salami and mozzarella
  • Dinner: Something in Toledo, maybe Chipotle — we have to take Noodle to the vet


  • Breakfast: Yogurt and blackberries
  • Lunch: Sammiches and chips, pickles, salad
  • Dinner: Chicken strip salad, garlic ranch style


  • Breakfast: Smoked salmon and bagel
  • Lunch: Sammiches.
  • Dinner: Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic toast, salad


  • Breakfast: Yogurt and berries
  • Dinner: Shrimp Korma with rice, salad, raita


  • Breakfast: Salmon bagels
  • Lunch: and more sammiches
  • Dinner: Chili and cornbread


  • Breakfast: Yogurt and berries
  • Lunch: Leftover whatever is around
  • Dinner: Smoked pork butt, corn pudding, baked beans (if it’s not raining)

KYS: Dill, Ranch Dressing, and HAM

Dill; photo by Andy Ciordia

Dill; photo by Andy Ciordia

Ah, dill. Everyone’s heard of it (well, I think they have — dill pickles, right?) but it seems like people of my acquaintance mostly have no idea what it actually tastes like or whether they like it. It is a mystery. Particularly because there’s dill seed and dill weed and just dill, and that can get confusing. So: Dill seed is self-explanatory; dill weed is the dried leaves; just plain dill is the fresh leaves. Usually.

Dill has very fine leaves, and is an umbellifer; as you can see in the picture, it looks kind of like Queen Anne’s Lace, or carrots in blossom. The leaves look a bit like fennel fronds. It’s a slow plant to grow from seed, though if you start it soon after the first frost with your cucumbers, they come up at the same time for — voila — pickle magic. Dill really prefers full sun with no shade, but will still grow in some shade. You just won’t get nearly as much of a harvest.

So what’s it good for besides pickles? Well, to my mind, just about everything; I especially like fresh dill with smoked salmon, onions, and toast. Borscht, of course, or roasted beets with goat cheese and Marcona almonds. Cucumber sandwiches. Etc. But it’s really, REALLY good in ranch dressing. My husband claims not to like dill, but he loves ranch dressing, and I like to point out the relationship between the two.

Now, I am a ranch dressing connoiseur fiend and will occasionally eat it with a spoon if there are no vegetables handy, but like salsa, it is no good when made commercially and then bottled or jarred. Even the best brands have that weird “we put citric acid in here” taste, and to me an overly-tart flavor is contrary to the fresh joy that is ranch dressing. (Or salsa.) I know that buttermilk ranch is traditional, but the tang of buttermilk is not the same as the tang of vinegar, or of citric acid. So honestly, I really only love it when I make it at home. A Hidden Valley packet works just fine (follow the recipe on the back), but it’s trivially easy to make it all from scratch, and far cheaper. How? Well, with some herbs and some sour cream, basically. Oh, and MSG. Ahem. Dried herbs are fine here and probably give a result closer to what you imagine when you think of ranch dressing; fresh are also great but a little more Green Goddess-y.

Ranch Dressing

  • 2T dried parsley flakes
  • 2T dried dill weed
  • 2T dehydrated onion flakes (if you can’t find them, don’t stress it)
  • 2T onion powder
  • 2T garlic powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2t MSG (I guess you can leave it out. Sigh.)

The ingredients above form the flavortacular basis of your dressing. The MSG really makes it taste like the dressing you get in restaurants; though it’s fine without it, you may find yourself missing that nifty umami flavor. Obviously if MSG gives you migraines, just skip it. Mix everything together and then add it to… well, you have a few options, because from here you can turn it into a dip, a dressing, or some bastard hybrid of both, or you could sprinkle it on something else and make it “Ranch-flavored.” For dip, I mix with 3 parts sour cream and 1 part milk or buttermilk. For dressing… well, that is what I use as dressing. You could do 1:1 sour cream and milk, or try 1:1 mayonnaise and milk or buttermilk. Basically, play with amounts and components until it has the degree of flavor and consistency you like best. Once you have that down, you can add other things; pureed chipotles en adobo, extra minced garlic, lots of black pepper, pureed avocado….

I’m sure you know what to do with your dressing, but here’s what I think you should do. It’s mid-April, which normally would mean delicious lettuce, but it’s been weird, cold, and snowy here in Michigan, so we don’t have any yet. That means we have to eat supermarket lettuce, which has essentially no flavor, and so requires a somewhat more robust collection of other salad components. And so, finally, after much ado, I present you with directions for

The !Salad

being decidedly not really actual salad

  • 2c Romaine or other lettuce, torn into fairly fine bits
  • 1/2c shredded Cheddar or Colby cheese
  • 1/2c frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2c pickled beets, julienned
  • 2 hardboiled eggs, also julienned (use an egg slicer, save your sanity)
  • 1/4c ham, julienned
  • 1/2c chopped green or black olives (or a mixture of both. From cans/jars please. This is not “good” food.)
  • 1/4c sunflower seeds
  • Ranch dressing

Put everything in a big bowl and mix it up, then eat. Maybe with a spoon. Proceed to eat at least once a week for dinner and maybe twice for lunches until actual spring produce becomes available; reassure self that it is nutritious because it does say “Salad” in the name.

Menu Plan Monday

As I sit here writing this post, I’m eating delicious !Salad, and watching Nature. Well, originally it was Nova, but I more just stared at the TV and  failed to write at that point. I’m fending off one 6.5-month-old cat who is convinced she wants to eat a pile of lettuce and simultaneously knock everything off of my table. And thinking, what on earth are we going to eat? I think it’s gonna be a boring week up in here. What happened to the part where I was an awesome and interesting cook?

  • Monday: Cheese ravioli (frozen!), tomato sauce (from a jar!), garlic toast, and salad.
  • Tuesday: Chimichangas with beef and beans, Spanish rice, salad, and mangoes.
  • Wednesday: !Salad and maybe Crazy Bread in honor of Lost night; I know, it’s gross, but I love me some Crazy Bread. Maybe I should figure out a way to make it at home and feel less bad. Or worse, depending on what goes into it.
  • Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner! Dutch baby pancake with blackberries. Also, sausage. Mmmm.
  • Friday: Deviled eggs, mushroom sandwiches, and berries with whipped cream — hopefully to be eaten out in the yard, if we don’t end up with snow again.
  • Saturday: Ham and sweet potato hash, which I guess could sort of be viewed as breakfast for dinner again.
  • Sunday: Tater Tot Casserole, because I hear it’s good, and we have some Cream of Doom soup.