Thursday, July 24, 2008


After having a look at the IK fall '08 preview the reason they rejected my proposal for the winter '08 edition is clear...

excerpt taken from my proposal "...a knitted version of the classic double breasted wool pea coat...The coat will have a tapered waist accentuated by the half belt in the back...and a wide collar..."

I guess great minds think alike...

I still like my herringbone version better and plan on knitting it this fall.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

pretty tasty (if I do say so myself)

I am happy to report the jelly jelled and it is so good. It is beautiful and clear and just what I was aiming for as far as the set goes- not to firm, not too runny. If that half eaten jar of jelly is any indication, my kids are are pleased with it as well. I wonder if I can convince my Grandparents to let me have some more plums?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Adventures in jelly making

The Boy Wonder's birthday party Saturday was a smashing success! The kiddos had a great time just running around being kids. My son took the time to read each card before opening the gift it accompanied, then went and hugged and thanked the person it was from before moving to the next present. I was so proud of him. After all his guests left he came to me and thanked me for his party and the presents we gave him. Later my husband even thanked me for all the preparation, planning and cleaning I did before the party. I must say being thanked totally made all my work worth it.

When my grandmother and grandfather arrived, they not only brought a gift for the birthday boy, they brought me four or five pounds of wild plums from their plum tree. They were not the big plums like you find at the grocery store, but itty-bitty plums about the size of a half dollar. They are tart and perfect for jelly. I asked my grandmother to teach me how to make jelly this summer, envisioning standing side by side while the jelly bubbled on the stove. Her reply, "It is easy, just go buy yourself a box of Sure-Jell and follow the directions." I guess when you are almost 76 jelly making has lost a bit of the magic and just seems like work. It did make me laugh though. She did tell me that instead of pitting and chopping the tiny plums she just puts them in a pan, covers them with water and simmers them until the skins burst. I was very glad to hear this shortcut because I was not looking forward to pitting all those little plums.

So Sunday, armed with my pressure cooker, some half pint jelly jars, a couple boxes of Sure-Jell, a big bag of sugar and my wild plums I set out to make my first batch of real jelly. I could have made freezer jelly but I really did not want my freezer full of jelly- besides I think the jewel toned jars of jelly make such pretty gifts. I cooked the plums for about 10 minutes, then drained the cooked fruit in a strainer set over a big bowl. I then poured the juice and pulp in the beer making muslin bag that my husband uses for boiling hops and grain. I was aiming for just the juice so the jelly would be clear. I hung the bag from the cabinet handle and placed a bowl underneath to catch the juice. When The Boy Wonder saw this he said, "Wouldn't it be funny if I poked a hole in the side of the bag and jelly went shooting across the kitchen?!" My reply, "NO! KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY JELLY, BOY!" Silly child. While the juice drained I put the jars in the dishwasher to wash and sterilize, had a beer and spun a bit.

After the juice was finished draining I followed the instructions on the box for plum jelly. After adding the sugar I was sure that the jelly was going to boil over the top of the pot, spilling its sticky sweetness all over and into the stove while permanently disfiguring me with a horrible jelly burn. (melodramatic much? yes, perhaps a little bit.) I used a eight quart pot and have made a mental note to buy a bigger pot before trying this again. The cooking time was up just before it boiled over thankfully.

I filled the cutsy jars and put them in the pressure cooker to seal. Every time I use my pressure cooker I am afraid it is going to explode. This time was no exception. The directions on the Sure-jell read 'Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches.' So after having a few beers, I interpreted 'cover' as meaning '1 to 2 inches over the top of the jars'. After the pressure was up on the cooker I noticed that quite a bit of water was sputtering out of the pressure release valve. As I hid in the living room (and reread the pressure cooker instructions), the pot sputtered and steamed and threatened to blow up on the stove. I then realized that I was only supposed to put 1 and a half quarts of water in the canner. I had put at least twice that much in there. This is when I thought to myself, 'Shit, I am really going to blow it up this time. Glass shards in jelly is going to be a bitch to clean up.'

After consulting my friend Google and finding nothing to help the situation, I decided it might be best to take the pot off the stove, pour off the water and reprocess the jars. I quickly removed the pot from the burner and let the pressure go down. When I started to remove the jars I started hearing a familiar sound, 'plink, plink...plink,plink...plink,plink,plink,plink.' My jars all sealed! Woo-hoo! I did not process them again, so I hope no one gets botulism from my jelly. I know back in the day my Grandmother just filled the clean jars with hot jelly and let them seal without processing and she never poisoned anyone, so I think I am probably safe. I covered the jars with a towel and a big sign on top warning my kids not to touch them, since you are not supposed to move them for 24 hours while the jelly sets.

Jelly making is one of those things that I feel I should learn in order to call myself a Proper Southern Housewife. I have already mastered biscuits, pickles and canning fresh veggies from the garden, so jelly was next on my list. It was quite a lot of work for 9 half pints of jelly, but I am happy that I can finally say I have made homemade jelly. I still have enough juice for another batch and I think it will be a bit easier and less stressful the next time. I can't wait for toast and jelly for breakfast tomorrow if my jelly sets or waffles and plum syrup if it does not!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

unable to remain monogamous

to projects, that is... (hi, Sweetie! Still being faithful to you!) After working only on the Heirloom Shawl and adding over 11 unstretched inches of progress since I last blogged about it my fingers started itching for something else to do. My brain started begging me for an easier project. The charts for the shawl are broken up into many small charts, with sections of certain charts needing to be repeated. IMHO this is a pretty shitty pattern- the shawl will totally be worth it, but it is a bitch to try to figure it out. The written directions contain errors. The charts contain errors. I am in a KAL on Ravelry for this pattern, but I am the farthest along in the pattern, so I am on my own for now. I got a little break making the bookmark for my Great Aunt, but I needed something totally mindless...
and quick and easy crochet came to my rescue once again. This is the same yarn that I used to start a kitchen rug with the stitch pattern from My So Called Scarf last November. Although I really liked the stitch pattern, knitting with it killed my wrists after just a few rows so into the frog pond it went. After a quick Ravelry search, I found the perfect project for my state of mind- it was quick, easy, mindless, and served a purpose. Behold, after just three days, my almost finished 9-sided Kitchen Mat. The red yarn marks the beginning of round spot, and I have white yarn marking the line of increases, so there is no thinking or counting-only the very satisfying monotony of half-double crochet, around and around and around. The funky colorway is perfect for the stuck-in-the-70's harvest gold stove with matching linoleum. Ahhhhhh, that is just what I needed. I have that one ball of yarn left and it will be finished- at the rate I am going I should have that finished off by tonight or tomorrow.Then the lace bug cast-on-itis bit me on Tuesday and I started another Swallowtail Shawl. As is my tradition in knitting this shawl, this one is also a gift. It is for my Grandmother for her birthday in early August. I managed 6 pattern repeats before putting it down for the night. I am using yarn left over from Savannah, I am thinking there should be plenty left for this. I love the idea of having a shawl made out of the same yarn as my Grandmother. She really isn't a 'shawl person' so to speak, but I am sure she will appreciate it and perhaps wear it to church a time or two! Poor unblocked lace is so unimpressive. You just wait until you are blocked and you will be a beauty for sure!

I hope each and every one of you (my USA readers) have a wonderful and relaxing 4th of July! Don't forget to remind your kiddos about the true reason behind this celebration, and say a prayer (or send out some good vibes) for all the Men and Women in the Armed Services that sacrifice so much to ensure our continuing freedom. As for me, I will be busy as a bee. My baby boy celebrates his 7th birthday on Saturday so I have lots of cleaning, cooking, and decorating to do before the party.