Sunday, 5 January 2014

Cakes o'plenty!


Someone received a ball-winder as an excellent gift this season!  Thanks J. you're the best!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Strathcona hiking



After many years of planning, E. and friends are on a multi-day hike to the Forbidden Plateau area of Strathcona Park.  For my eastern family & friends, this is no regular walk in the park.  They are hiking in pristine alpine wilderness terrain, far away from roads, dwellings, and cell connections.

The group departed from Paradise Meadows at Mount Washington on Friday around lunchtime.  Their first day was a 5hr, mostly uphill-hike to the base camp Circlet Lake.  After a cold night in a tent, yesterday they hiked to Mount Jutland then back to base camp for dinner & sleeping.  Other day hikes from Circlet Lake might include Mount Albert Edward or Mount Castlecrag.

On Friday, J. & I drove the group up and proceeded on our own alpine day-hike in Strathcona Park.  We started from the Paradise Meadows parking lot and took the western trail to Kwai Lake, then looped back by Croteau & Battleship Lakes.  


Unfortunately, our hike was overcast and wet so we were unable to see the mountain views.  If we return one day, we might be surprised with views of snow-covered alpine peaks.  Ours was a wet 5hr, 15km alpine hike (read:  muddy up & down).  We had planned on picnicking but decided to just keep going because it was so wet.  Despite the rain we were still greeted with amazing alpine beauty.  Here are some pics of what we saw:
Ruffed Grouse?
J. by the ranger station near Kwai Lake
Alpine Meadow
Nothing beats fresh alpine air & meadows.  Rain or shine, I look forward to my summertime alpine hikes every year!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Westcoast Spring


Fresh air
     blue ocean
          unpredictable weather
                no cell or internet, it could only mean ... a day trip to the West Coast of Vancouver Island!



Aah, the beach ... 



 Interesting finds
                                                       
                                                     New gumboots

And above all, the promise of Spring to come!

Monday, 11 February 2013

On My Needles - a sweater ... finally!

Socks & gloves are practically all I've knitted in the past few years.  Funny, because I used to think that they were so complicated.  As a teenager I knit many sweaters and even a long jacket.  Some were colour work, others cables.  I probably stopped knitting sweaters because wool is expensive and you need a lot of it to make a sweater, sweaters are difficult to fit, and take a long time to make.

Despite these major drawbacks, after a multi-year sweater-knitting hiatus, I started a new sweater project right after Christmas.  The pattern is called I heart Aran by Tanis Lavallée.  I'm also using Tanis' Green Label in Chris Grey , purchased on Etsy before Christmas.  At purchase time this shade was a One-Of-A-Kind colour, but has since been added to the regular colourways.  I love this colour because it's so shiny.


Unlike earlier sweater creations which followed patterns to the letter, I have changed a few sizings in this one to hopefully make it fit perfectly.  So far the front, back, and most of one arm are done.  Although the cable pattern looks complex, it was easy to remember. Ploughing through cables again was very satisfying.

Confession time - I have never blocked a sweater.  I will have to research whether to block it prior to piecing it together, or afterwards.

Here's the sweater so far:

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Bread recipes


This month marks the one-year anniversary of taking a breakmaking class.  In the past year I have made over 100 loaves of many different shapes & sizes.  While there have been 1 or 2 bread-fails, the rest have been tasty, if not spectacular!
bread fail
The failures were oddly exciting because I learned from experimentation what to do & not do again.  A big part of the successes have been using a journal .  

Having the right tools also helps: 
- 2 cast iron dutch ovens with lids  (iron gets nice & hot)
- digital scale (the key to a successful breadmaking experience)
- "Red Star" dry yeast
- coarse sea salt
- homeground whole wheat kernels (ground in Vita-Mix)
- Levain (starter)
Here are the 2 bread recipes I learned, reprinted with permission from chef Brad Williams (flour ratios my own).  Each recipe makes 2 loaves:

No-Knead Bread
350g white flour
150g whole grain flour (or whole wheat)
5g yeast
10g salt
350g water

1.  In a large bowl mix all ingredients together until no lumps remain.  
2.  Cover with a tea towel & let rest for 12 hours on the counter, or 24 hours in the fridge.  
3.  Heat oven to 475 degrees F, warming the Dutch oven inside the oven.  
4.  Knead dough lifting right edge onto left edge & rotating bowl a quarter turn.  Repeat 3 times.  
5.  Remove dough from bowl and place on floured surface while oven warms (at least 30 min).  
6.  In a 2nd bowl with clear water, rinse off bits of wet dough stuck to your hands.  You don't want this dough to go down the drain.  In the bowl of water the dough will sink to the bottom so it's easy then to put in the garbage.
7.  When oven is at 475, remove the empty Dutch oven & coat bottom lightly with flour.  
8.  Drop dough inside the Dutch oven, replace lid & bake in oven for 40 minutes.   Lower temperature to 450 after a few minutes.
9.  The bread is ready when e the kitchen smells like fresh bread and you can knock on the bread top.  Remove bread from Dutch oven & cool on countertop.  Resist the temptation to cut the bread while warm.  It is still cooking at this point & will sag without reaching its full bread-awesomeness potential.

Levain Bread
Same ingredients as above, add 250g of Levain.  Get some from a friend, store, bakery.  There are also some recipes on the Internet on how to start some.

This bread is more work but more moist so well worth the effort.  
1.  In a large bowl mix all ingredients together until no lumps remain.  
2.  For the next 2 hrs, roughly every 15 minutes, knead dough lifting right edge onto left edge & rotating bowl a quarter turn.  Repeat 3 times.  After every kneading, in a 2nd bowl with clear water, rinse off bits of wet dough stuck to your hands.  
3.  Then let dough rise for an hour.  A few times I've forgotten about it then went for a hike and it still worked out fabulously.  It's only bread so it's very forgiving.  
4.  After the hour, heat oven to 475 degrees F, warming the empty Dutch oven inside oven. 
5.  Remove dough from bowl and place on floured surface while oven warms (at least 30 min).  
6.  When oven is at 475, remove Dutch oven & coat bottom lightly with flour. 
7.  Drop dough inside the Dutch oven, replace lid & bake in oven for 40 minutes.   Lower temperature to 450 after a few minutes.
8.  Remove bread from oven & Dutch oven, & let cool on countertop.
9.  The bread is ready when e the kitchen smells like fresh bread and you can knock on the bread top.  Remove bread from Dutch oven & cool on countertop.  Resist the temptation to cut the bread while warm.  It is still cooking at this point & will sag without reaching its full bread-awesomeness potential.

Lessons learned:
- Remove bread from the oven after cook time.  Like a failed soufflé, the steaming-hot bread will collapse if left in the container when cooling.
- Wait until the oven is at the correct temperature before putting the bread in.  If the Dutch oven is not hot enough the dough will really stick to the bottom.  The bread itself will not cook properly either.

I hope these instructions make sense.  

Saturday, 13 October 2012

FO - Green - Line Break Shawl


2012 was the summer of green & blue.  The often fickle West Coast weather was amazing when J. & I went on a roadtrip around Washington's Olympic Peninsula, land of giant green trees & blue ocean.  

La Push, Washington

Two years ago, I bought wool with this shawl in mind.  For some reason I didn't get around to making it right away and more or less forgot about the colour combo until I saw Veera Valimaki's "Line Break Shawl" pattern.  As soon as I saw it, the blue/green colours screamed back at me.   


I couldn't wait to start this project.  With row upon row of garter stitch, it was the perfect travelling project.  No need to count rows or read a chart, but just watch the scenery in my summer roadtrip adventure as it unfolded before me!  


Knitting short rows made the project seem quick.  I had intended on making a lacey border with the light green, but decided on the modern look of the border as written.  This is my 3rd asymetrical shawl (Stripe StudyColor Affection).  I have yet to knit a triangular one, and perhaps never will!  

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Journals

When I was 12 years-old I was homebound for 2 weeks with a nasty bout of Chicken Pox.  During these 2 uncomfortable weeks I read "The Diary of Anne Frank" from cover to cover.  Anne's writing inspired me to start my own Journal in which I wrote for the following 10 years.  Now that I'm all grown-up, journaling is no longer to record feelings but rather to keep track of various activities.

These days my Bread Journal gets the most use.  In this I keep 2 basic slow-rise recipes.  I also record every batch and loaf made.  My bread instructor (Brad Williams) suggested keeping a journal to keep track of successes & failures.  It comes in handy to remember how much water to use with certain flours.  Brad also suggests to record weather because this can affect the dough.  Keeping a bread journal has helped me to try again after failures by varying the amounts of certain ingredients.

My Knitting Journal is where I used to detail projects yarn, pattern, needle sizes, etc., however, since discovering Ravelry, project details are now online.  This paper journal is mainly a place where I glue yarn labels & samples.  I also glued a paper ruler (inches & cm) on the inside cover to measure swatches when travelling.  There's always a printed glove pattern in the back pouch for when the Internet is not accessible.

My newest journal is a Soap Journal where I record soapmaking adventures.  I keep track of the scents, colours, and bits which were used in the soaps.  I only need this one 2x/year so it's usually difficult to find.

I really enjoy the tactile feeling of writing on paper and looking back at past entries but sometimes it's just more practical to use a digital version.  I wonder whether paper journals will soon become a thing of the past.  Luckily, bookstores still sell beautiful notebooks.  My favorites are Moleskine Grid Journals.  Project journals, whether high or low-tech,  are excellent auxiliary memory devices.  Their real purpose is to write notes to my future self to improve on what I just did.