Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ohio for the Holidays

Ohio was quite lovely. I had never visited this state and aside from finding out that where we were staying was referred to locally as 'Cancer Valley' found both the surrounding and the contents quite agreeable. The part of Ohio where we stayed is in the southern-ish eastern corner of the state where the hills roll and so do the buggies of the Amish.

Aside from a day trip here and there and visiting with Nic's family, there was much ado about eating and drinking and being merry. We picked up the latest issue of Saveur at one of the several airports that we visited on our way to our destination and we were inspired by the section describing the Sweedish holiday treats.

And so Nic made Lussekatter (Saffron buns).

We also made Pepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) as well as some Polkagriskola (peppermint caramels). All of these items were nibbled upon throughout the week, except for the Lussekatter which dissapeared within a couple of days.

I fancied a cardamom-pistachio cookie as well- taken from The Wednesday Chef, which falls into the realm of the 'icebox cookie'. They were good looking and tasty. 'Nough said.

To the host of Christmas dinner, I offered my pie-baking services and succeeded in a lovely and delicious apple pie. I am almost to the point where I do not need a recipe for pie... which I think is a pretty great accomplishment. I was also fortunate to be baking at a lower elevation than Bozeman, which might have increased my baking comfort level.

The vacation was also highlighted by a new (to me) hot beverage by the name of Tom & Jerry. I was so enamored with the drink that I supplied the residents of the house with a constant supply of batter.

Tom & Jerry's

2 eggs, separated
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves

In a large bowl, wisk egg whites and cream of tartar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, mix yolks, 2 tsp rum, sugar, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Fold egg whites into yolk mixture. Cover bowl and chill.
To serve, heat milk over medium-low heat. Put 1 heaping tbs batter into a mug and stir in 1-2 tbs each of brandy and rum. Fill mug with 6 tbs milk. Stir until frothy and garnish with nutmeg.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tired fingers

Here are some knits that I've been working on. Below you will find Nic's sweater. It's more of a cardigan, really, and (when complete) will have elbow and shoulder patches, embossed lion buttons and a collar. It will be quite fancy, really. As you can see, I've finished with the back panel and am now working on the left side.
The sweater calls for 9 skeins of yarn- and at 220 yards in each skein, that's... oh... 1980 yards. or 19 football field lengths or 1.12 miles. I haven't calculated the rate at which I knit, but when I do I'll let you know. Let's just say it will take me a bit- though with a couple of long travel days (to Ohio and back) I just might get a lot done.

I think I am becoming a real knitter due to the fact that I finally was able to start (and finish) something else. Just like there are process knitters and project knitters, so too are there knitters who have 18 1/2 finished projects and those who knit just one project at a time. Well, the time has come that I have forayed into the former category. While knitting a sweater is quite relaxing and challenging at the same time, it is a lot of the same- same color, same stitch, same yarn and so there comes a point when you'd like to see faster results and, you know, shake things up a bit.

This is actually a little gift, and as such I have not revealed the true nature of the object. I will say that it took a weekend and was a lot of fun (cables!!!). It also included my first buttonhole!

Save travels to everyone who is venturing out during this second half of December.

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Tis the Season.

Just because there isn't any sign of holiday decor in my apartment, that doesn't mean that I'm not fully taken over by the joys of Christmas. The reality is that I'm about as chock-full of joy and merriment that I'm about to burst.

During this month I've seen Bozeman's performance of The Nutcracker, meandered through downtown's Christmas Stroll drinking a hot, boozy beverage, and decorated a gingerbread house. Yessiree, The Christmas spirit is all around (and we've still got 10 days to go). I'm hurriedly trying to finish typing Christmas cards as well as some homemade goods before we rush off to Ohio for the holiday. If it weren't for this little December detour to the Midwest, I would be a bit more adamant about having my first Christmas tree in 7 years (I guess there's always next year).

I'm trying to cram as much cheer and joy (and productivity) into this week as I can. I've been knitting, baking, cooking and sewing. Due to budgetary restraints, I'm trying my best to make this a handmade holiday, and have succeeded (for the most part). I'll put up some photos once the gifts have been received.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How cold?

Happened a few weeks ago, but it is a visual representation of how cold it is outside right now. Today, when I left work, it was -8 degrees Fahrenheit. I need to re-type that in case you thought there was a typo: Negative. Eight. Degrees. Fahrenheit. It is supposed to get into the -20 somethings before tomorrow.

This is easily the coldest temperatures I have ever personally felt. Aside from my nose hairs freezing and experiencing a whole new sensation regarding breathing with frozen nose hairs and also coughing about 4 times whenever I step foot outside and being very cautious when walking outside (which may be remedied by a recent purchase of some yaktrax!), it's not all bad. I stay inside, and make sure that if the car is going anywhere to warm it up for at least 8 minutes beforehand.

Aside from the snow and wind, it's been dry and sunny and you certainly won't hear me complaining about the rain.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A childhood confession about hats.

I can't really say how long I've been knitting. I remember learning from either my mother or grandmother when I was wee. At that point in time knitting didn't seem as captivating as other things do to a 6 year old. Then I had a knitting spree in college, but it was only to the effect of knitting scarves. I couldn't even bring myself to attempt a hat, which by all accounts is a much faster and therefore more satisfying project. Most recently I have been knitting fairly consistently for 1.5 years, and I have just started knitting hats.

This is my second hat... ever, and it only took me a day. No really, all day. Good thing this weekend was spent house sitting and feeding a pack of rowdy dogs and making sure the sheep were in the proper pen and, well, that was about it. So on Saturday, after some coffee, I sat down and knit a hat. It's officially a beret, which I was somewhat apprehensive about due to a well-intentioned but downright ridiculous hat collection I had growing up. I think at one point I had a Rastafarian beret, which may have been the subconscious reason I have been opposed to them for sometime. Anyway, the hat involved a lot of cabling and necessitated blocking over a dinner plate to give the hat the beret look instead of the gnome look.

What's next you might ask? I received 9 hanks of yarn in the mail today and will begin knitting a sweater for Nic that I've been threatening to knit for some time now. That should keep me busy and out of trouble.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Halloween is a hit-and-miss holiday for me, and it has recently dawned on me that no one is going to make holidays special for you once you're all growed up. You've got to put the effort in to have a rockin' costume.

These costumes almost didn't happen due to family duties of sheep shearing followed by some downright pleasant company. Once all that was over, there was only 5 short days to create a couple of cephalopods out of 8 yards of polyester. So I holed up next to the sewing machine and devoted the following four evenings to the cause. Thankfully they came together surprisingly easy, and no sleep was lost throughout the process.

Not wanting to re-invent the wheel, I did some internet investigating and found a handy tutorial about how to make an octopus costume, which I modeled my work after. I took a cape approach to the critters and velcro was used to fasten below the chin. I also made sure to create a hat of sorts for the large headpieces of both the squid an octopus so that ones' head didn't sink into the heads.

I'm so pleased with how they turned out, I'm thinking about going into the large plush costume-making business. I hope that these critters find another occasion to venture out- they're a real crowd-pleaser if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Shover.

The Shover got its start about 3 years ago, when I was living with 3 other women in SE Portland. The usual thing happened on a weekly basis- that is to say that mail, junk, legit and otherwise, would inevitably find its way to any surface- though most of the time it was the table. The solution to this endless clutter was happened upon quite suddenly and unexpectedly. I was at Goodwill with one of my roommates shopping for who-knows-what, when we stumbled upon what we eventually, fondly, referred to as The Shover.

The Shover was about a foot and one half tall about a foot deep, and made of solid wood and painted a rich royal blue. It had four square compartments stacked directly on top of one another and was topped with a tin roof and a little tin bird adorning the space directly under the roof. We had found the solution to our mail clutter.

The structure was purchased and brought home and the compartments labeled with the names of each housemate. I am unclear on the circumstances around when the term 'The Shover" was coined, but it was obvious that there was no way we could not call it this. The Shover's compartments were also referred to each person's individual Shover.

Not only did The Shover make household organization fun, it was also the source of endless entertainment;

"Has anyone seen the water bill?"
"Yeah, I put it in your Shover."


"Do you want to keep this oil change coupon?"
"Yeah! Just stick it in my Shover."

I have missed the presence of such a simple and effective device in my life since I moved out of this house. I have searched each second hand store for a comparable structure for shoving important (and not so important) documents into, but The Shover is an elusive thing.

And so this is my attempt to recreate The Shover, with fabric instead of wood, and one that hangs on the wall instead of being set upon something.

I call it The Shover 2.0!

If I'm being honest with myself, it's really more of a mail sling. I reinforced the 'sling' part with interfacing to give it a little more umph. I haven't tested the integrity of the slings, but I think it will be able to easily hold 3 magazines, a half dozen letters from friends and family and maybe, every other week, a bill or two. There is a tasteful pocket at the bottom for such things as pens, pencils or loose change.

I made The Shover 2.0 on Columbus Day, and as such, did not receive any mail, but it also makes decent wall-art. I found the thick stick in my backyard, stuck it through the 2.0 and hung it with thin wire.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The making of hard cider, part 1.

Nic and I have made an informal list of things we'd like to accomplish in Montana. The list includes; camping more, making sourdough starter (and keeping it alive) and making home brew. After a long period in which we wondered if Gallatin County had any brewing supply stores, we embarked a short and fruitful trip to Belgrade Liquor where Frank helped us out in purchasing all we needed to get started making hard apple cider. We left with a bucket, a carboy, a fermentation lock and several other brewing accouterments.

Step one, complete.

Step two was to acquire apple cider. We were searching for the authentic thing. We didn't quite want to settle for store-bought cider, we were willing to scavenge, glean and gather all the apples we could. After questioning neighbors and co-workers regarding the whereabouts to the best apple trees (my boss gave me the combination to her garage so that I could access her back yard and her apples). We once again, embarked on a shorter and even more fruitful (literally) trip to Rocky Creek Farms, just outside of Bozeman. They no only had crates of apples, but these crates of apples were located a short distance from a barn which, conveniently, housed an apple press!

The apple press is quite the contraption- it conveys the apples up to an apple crusher that pulverizes the apples and dispenses them onto a conveyor belt, which then conveys the apple mush through a series of squishing and then pours the phase-1 cider into a skive for the first stage of filtering. The second stage of filtering sent the cider upstairs through a secondary filtering device and came out of a tap directly bottled into half-gallon containers.

I should add that the above photo looks a bit messy- sticky would be another word to describe the apple-press room. There was also lots of pulp, foam and chunks. Still, the amount of liquid that you can get out of apples is sort-of impressive. We accidentally ended up with 10 gallons of apple cider- twice as much as were were originally hoping for.

That was okay though. Fresh un-pasteurized cider might be the best tasting thing ever (mulled cider following a close second). Step two was now complete.

Step three was completed last week, as we 'sterilized' the cider with campden tablets to inhibit the growth of wild yeast and certain bacteria. After a few days, we added the yeast, stuck a fermentation lock on the carboy and also a T-shirt (because direct light is not great for yeast).

The carboy now sits in our back room off-gassing and filling our apartment with a nice yeasty scent.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Squirrel Mittens.

It is snowing here today. It also snowed on Wednesday, September 30. As I stood by the window at work, amazed and somewhat concerned, a co-worker told me if I stuck around Montana long enough I might be lucky to see snow in July. It was on Wednesday when I decided I needed to finish my mittens.

The aptly named Squirrel and Oak mittens were a nice foray into my first color work project. I accidentally knit 3 mittens throughout the mitten-knitting process. The first squirrel mitten was knit too tight and no matter how much I tried to stretch it out it wasn't going to do, especially after I knit up the oak mitten- which turned out to be an inch larger the squirrel mitten. I could either have had a mis-matched pair of mittens or knit a third to match the second and scrap the first. So I knit another squirrel mitten.

When I first learned to knit, I learned the English knitting style, where the yarn is held in the right hand. After a long knitting hiatus I re-learned in the Continental knitting style. While I didn't do much research onto the technique for knitting with two threads, I held one yarn in my left hand (Continental) and one in my right (English). It worked out quite well. I feel that otherwise it may have become a tangled mess.

Anyway, enough with technique, I can't quite get over how adorable they are! Bring on the Fall.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Photo update

I have come to the conclusion that this blog is serving dual purposes- keep people updated on the haps' in Montana as well as chronicling my crafty endeavors (have I already said this?). This post will be of the former.

So, since the mountain goat excitement, I have summitted another mountain, this one had an exceptional vista. It was a full-day affair - 15 miles round trip. Hiking up mountains is one of the most satisfying things I have done in a while. I think that it has something to do with tangible results. You set a goal, move toward it, conquer and get some exercise while you're at it. What's not to love?

Speaking of conquering, with the help of a very helpful book entitled Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitudes I have conquered my fear of baking in Montana! This was proven by a loaf of tasty zucchini bread followed by a souffle! I had never made a souffle before, and no, I have not seen Julie and Julia, I instead was reading This blog post and felt empowered and inspired. It was adapted from a plain cheese souffle into a seasonal fresh sweet corn, bacon and gouda souffle. Take that high altitudes! I'm not afraid of you anymore- I've even started running again.

If anyone decides to come and visit me, I'll make you a souffle of your choosing (within reason). I've even used a soft-focus photo to entice you. And now you know that is not an empty promise.

Here's another thing that happens in Montana- sheep drives. It was hot, I was a little fussy and I felt as though we waited around a little too long just to see sheeps run through town, but at least I got this sweet photo out of the deal (No one was injured by a jumping sheep).

Lastly, Dear old dad came out for a visit. John Compton used my relocation as an excuse to go on a fun motorcycle trip with an old high school buddy. It was great to see some family and I think we're going to make the perilous late fall trip to Oregon for Thanksgiving- through icy passes and sub-zero temperatures. This is how much I miss you, friends and family (who are in Oregon).

Anyway, that's all for now. I'll try to get back on the blogging wagon again, you know, when I'm not working, climbing mountains, cooking or crafting.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Charismatic Mega-fauna

Upon summiting Sacajawea peak in the Bridger mountains we were met by a heard of mountain goats.

Mountain goats!!!

I continue to be amazed by Montana and it's plethora of Big Game.


On Sunday, while on a walk, Nic spotted a pronghorn antelope skull on the side of the road, in a free box. The skull is slated to join the deer antlers on the wall of our apartment.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Morning.

I woke up this morning without an alarm and unusually early for a Sunday. I rolled out of bed and went to find some coffee. Bozeman felt even sleepier than I did at 8am as I rolled through town in search of some coffee beans. I came on back home and put the water on and began mixing eggs, milk and vanilla together for french toast.

It had been decided the previous day that french toast is what would be done with the loaf of bread that we had picked up from Mezzo Matto Italian Bakery. When I was a house guest before I had an apartment of my own, I asked my hosts about places and things that locals know about and that can take new residents months to find out on their own. They told me about a family that had relocated (both their family and business) to Bozeman from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. We had stopped by last week but the unassuming store front has a sign on it that said 'Gone Camping, be back Tuesday.' So we came back the following week and were not disappointed with the atmosphere, the propietiers, the blueberry and cream cheese pastries, or the beignets. We also took home a loaf of bread that Nic said would make great french toast. And so it was.

The breakfast came together beautifully. Fresh baked sicilian bread coated with a custard made from farm-fresh eggs and served with homemade maple syrup from Nic's sister's farm in Michigan. This is hands down the best maple syrup I have ever had. I have promised to knit her a hat in exchange for syrup, which is such a deal.

Plans for the day will include letter writing, some knitting and maybe a nap, a pretty ideal Sunday. So far it's off to a good start.

week + end

A few highlights from this past week, and a few from this weekend.

here's one of Montana's many mountains. The Gallatin National Forest is only 15 minutes from town- a proximity that amazes me.

Here's a picnic lunch from yesterday. I was too pleased with myself when I figured out that I could put two sandwiches and two ciders in one convenient 6-pack. I highly recommend it for a picnic on the go.

The Suby is sporting Montana plates now. Montana has about 100 different plates that you can choose from, which seems slightly excessive. I chose the standard plates. I think they are classy.

A tomato, sausage, pesto pizza from earlier this week. Since I'm spoiled and live close enough to go home for lunch every day I mixed up some dough at lunch and it was ready to go by the time I got home.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Here's me taking a break from knitting. This means that I've got a sewing area set up (!!). And That means I can leave my area as-is (messy) and not have to clean up to eat dinner at the dinner table. I think this will also lead to more creativity.

I bought some heat-resistant fabric a while ago for the purpose of making an oven mitt- but the notion of potholders struck me yesterday, and I just had to oblige- that was after I made some curtains for the kitchen and bedroom.

The other great thing about these potholders was that I used mostly scraps from other projects. Potholders are small and functional which makes for a nice combination of utility and creativity. I made a pattern out of a box that was originally used for 6 bottles of hard cider- one square for the main section and one triangle for little hand pockets that you can use to manipulate the potholder as a glove-of-sorts... or a puppet.

I need to go dig around my scrap-bag to see what other treasures I can find.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Montana Fair: It's a Really big deal

The Montana Fair is not the State fair, it is the Billings Fair and, and the official subtitle of Montana Fair really is 'It's a Really Big Deal.' I suppose that makes sense, since Billings is the largest city in Montana. The subtitle was the recurring joke as we all drove through the parking lot as we watched the 4-H kids show their bunnies, as we browsed the craft and exhibition halls, as we walked the midway and as we ate deliciously fried food.

As much as we made fun of it though, I think the far was and is a really big deal. It's where people can drop a lot of money on moderately satisfying rides, they can show their pets and/or their livestock.

The fair is also a place where people can showcase their collections- pen and pencils, medieval garb, Simpsons para-fan-alia, miniature horses and the biggest nutcracker collection you've ever seen. It's a place where people who spend a lot of time and energy on sometimes very specific endeavors have a specific showcase for their hobbies.

It's also a place where I could size up the competition for Table Setting- see image below.

This table setting received a blue ribbon in the age category I will be competing in next year. I give this setting props for setting the table for an afternoon tea, as opposed to a dinner setting. They also sort-of get points for making the tea a 'Russian Tea' and so printing the menu in Russian- which is also unfair, because I can't read Russian, and therefore have no idea if the menu would be at all appetizing. Other than that, I was entirely unimpressed with the white china and too simple centerpiece. Classy? Sure. Was I impressed? No.

As table setting entries are all put on a card table, there was not enough room to showcase all entries in the venue provided. As such, I must make assumptions like: the Russian Tea setting was actually the best in the age category. I am already planning for next year. Without giving too much away, I'm thinking 'hunting lodge' (Montanans love Big Game as much as I do).

In the same venue where I critiqued my competition for table setting, I found my socks that I had entered- adorned with a red ribbon! Second place! and a $3 prize! Second place in the 'Hand knit sock' category! I am so flattered, especially since this is my first (finished) pair of socks. I felt really great about that.

So we celebrated with funnel cakes- batter poured directly into a vat of hot oil and dusted liberally with powdered sugar and cinnamon and more sugar.

I love the fair.