More Fair Isle Knitting

It’s cold and time to knit!  I have been playing around more with Fair Isle knitting and think it could take a lifetime to explore all the interesting colors and patterns that can be used.

small hat

From sheep to hat!

Another pattern

Another pattern

Two contrasting colors work well.

Two contrasting colors work well.

This is one of my favorite color combos.

This is one of my favorite color combos.


Nisqually 12-15-3

Using grey, white and a touch of red looks good.


Color gradations can look good.

Mittens are great!

Mittens are great!

A round up!

A round up!


Fingerless Gloves

Each year the knitting compulsion starts to build as the days get shorter and colder; by the holidays it’s in full swing and my main desire in life is to sit by the fire, listen to a really good audiobook and knit like crazy.

Here are some of the different color combinations to try!

This year I have been making fingerless gloves for holiday gifts.  My initial response to these was that my fingers and thumbs were going to be cold but surprisingly they stay pretty warm and it’s great to be able to use your hands for things.

These gloves are easy to make and you can go wild in the creativity department.  It’s also really satisfying to complete your project pretty quickly.

First cast on about 48 stitches; add more if your hands are really big or a bit less if they are small.  I use circular needles as the yarn stays on them, it’s easy to carry your projects around and it makes for a smoother finished product.

Make the wrist first.

Next knit two, pearl two to create a ribbing for the wrist.  You can make the cuffs whatever length you like and can dress them up by using differently colored yarns.  To make really warm gloves knit a long cuff then fold it back on itself to double it.

Once your cuff is of the desired length straight knit a few rows.  At this point you want to put in stitch markers and start adding in a stitch on each row to make the thumb.  Here is where you can get creative with changing the yarn colors or doing cable stitches.

When you have about 17 new stitches added in try the glove on to see if the thumb area is long enough; if not then keep knitting but don’t add in any more stitches.  Once it’s long enough then put the addes stitches on a piece of yarn and knit the circle closed.  Keep going until your glove is almost as long as you’d like it to be.  To finish it do a circle of straight knitting then do the ribbing of knit two, pearl two as you did in the beginning.  Once you have a half inch or so cast off and finish off the thumb.

To finish the thumb pick up the 17 stitches from the piece of yarn and pick up some of the stitches from the body of the glove .  Knit until the thumb is the desired length then cast off.  Trim loose pieces of yarn and then you’re all set!

The season of wondering what in the world to give people for the holidays is upon us.  I really enjoy making people things but it can be a challenge to figure out something that people will actually like.  This has not always been something I have been particularly good at; I remember the year everyone got neon potholders then there were the health bars filled with lots and lots of wheat germ and bran.  Here are some suggestions of things you can make that have had much better receptions!

Stone necklaces are pretty simple and low cost to make and you can put together a range from demure, made with tiny rocks, to large showy pieces with rocks studded with mica.

These stone necklaces are quite easy to make and are popular gifts.

If you like to take pictures then note cards can be fun to make also.  You can get card making supplies at stores like Paper Source.

Cards and a stone necklace!

Cards and a stone necklace!

Goats milk soap makes great gifts; it is easy to ship and can be made in all different colors and shapes to suit even picky people on your list.

You can leave these a natural ivory color or use vegetable dyes to add variety.

People usually love getting homemade herb blends.

Herb blend picture from Kalyn's Kitchen.

Herb blend picture from Kalyn’s Kitchen.

If you are looking for an attractive way to package your homemade gifts putting them in baskets can be quite attractive.  If those baskets are ones you made then all the better!

Baskets can hold other gifts or be a present just by themselves.

A different style of basket.

A different style of basket.

Here’s how to make fingerless gloves in a snap!  Here’s how to do easy hats.

Hat and fingerless gloves are quick and easy to make.

Hat and fingerless gloves are quick and easy to make.

Probably the most popular gift I give is raspberry jam.  This could be a bit challenging to make this time of year but it can be done with frozen berries.







Candied Orange Peel

This time of year I love making candied citrus peels.  Sometimes we use the sweet sharp peels in cookie and fudge recipes and sometimes we just eat them straight.  You can also dip them in chocolate for a lovely blend of flavors.

  • 3 thick-skinned organic navel oranges
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar, plus extra for rolling
  • 3/4 cups water


Take a sharp knife and cut off the top and bottom of each orange.  Score them and peel off the skin into quarters.


Peel oranges.

Peel oranges.

Use the fruit of the orange in other recipes.  Cut the peel into strips 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide.  Put in a saucepan and cover with water.

Cook peels

Cook peels

Bring to a boil then pour off the water.  Repeat this process a couple of times.  Remove the white pith from the orange peel.

Slice into thin strips and remove white pith.

Slice into thin strips and remove white pith.

Combine the sugar with the water and put the softened peels and the sugar syrup into a crockpot on high heat.

In crockpot

In crockpot

Cook until the peels are translucent.  Drain the peels.  When they are still moist roll them in sugar.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

You can use the orange flavored syrup in other recipes.




Oktoberfest at the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum in Frederick, MD is great fun!


Utensils in a German kitchen from the 1800s

Main room painted in Palatine Pink

Black walnuts

Sugar cone

Dried bread and rasper to make crumbs

Slicing cabbage for kraut

Tool for tightening the bed.

Grating nutmeg

Making sauerkraut


My family loves pesto; we eat it on noodles, pizza and even toast.  This weekend the basil looked ready so we moved into action.  In year’s past I’ve always used the traditional pine nuts but one look at the tiny little bag selling for fifteen dollars made me decide that maybe walnuts would be just as tasty.

Freshly picked basil.

The food processor recipe I used called for:

  • 2 cups of packed basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 2 and a 1/2 cups of finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 and a 1/2 cups of parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons of salt, (optional)

    These walnuts tasted great and were much less costly than the pine nuts.

I didn’t have quite enough cheese or walnuts and had huge mounds of basil so quickly decided to just mess around until it tasted right.

Green gold

Last year I froze it in ice-cube trays then put these in freezer bags but this go around I put it in canning jars.  To prevent browning I topped it up with more olive oil then put the half filled jars in the freezer.  It’s important to freeze pesto and NOT to can it.  There is a risk of botulism with canned pesto.

Yup, pesto on toast


Shelled acorns. Most are good but some have bad spots that need to be cut out.

The acorns are ripe! They look a bit smaller than usual to me this year. Maybe the dry, hot weather? Check them over carefully to get good ones.

So how do you get the good ones?  You are looking for nuts that aren’t super bitter, don’t have a lot of worm holes in them and are a light color without cracks.  You can also float them in water and the good ones should sink.  Do be absolutely sure that the tree has not been sprayed with any pesticides.  Oaks can be sprayed with long acting chemicals to reduce aphids; when in doubt ask!

What makes acorns bitter is tannic acid and some varieties have more than others.  If you want to use the acorns as a mordant for wool or for dying then the really bitter ones are perfect.  If you are looking to eat them then taste test until you find a milder variety.  In the white oak family, the Live Oak’s, (Quercus virginiana), acorns are among the mildest one can collect.

Pick the acorns when they are brown.

Some linguistic fun:   The English word “oak” is some 1,260 years old. In German it was “eih” ending up “eiche” The Dutch extended it to “eychen” or ” eychenboom.”

Acorns are quite nutritious. The nutritional breakdown of acorns is 50.4% carbohydrates, 34.7% water, 4.7% fat, 4.4.% protein, 4.2% fiber, 1.6% ash. A pound of shelled acorns provide 1,265 calories, a 100 grams (3.5 ounces) has 500 calories and 30 grams of oil.

The first part of processing is shelling. Wear gloves to avoid staining your hands. It can be a bit of a task to get the shells off but letting them dry a bit or freezing them first can help to loosen the covering.

To rid the acorns of tannic acid Native Americans would put them in baskets in streams.  My version is to put them in a pillow case in the top part of the toilet tank.  It sounds gross but the water in the tank is clean. It can stain the bowl a bit but hey, it’s the only running water I have.  After a week in the tank you can put them in a 350 degree oven and roast them for an hour.  Once they are dried out I grind them to flour in a food processor then ziplock them and put them in the freezer to be added to foods later.

Roasted, leached acorns

Here are some recipes:

Apache acorn cakes:

  • 1 cup acorn meal, ground fine
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup honey
  • pinch of salt

Mix together and fry on a greased griddle until done.

Acorn Stew

  • 1 lb stewing beef
  • 1/2 C finely ground acorn meal (tannin removed)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place beef in heavy pan and add water to cover. Cover with lid and simmer until very tender. Return meat to the liquid. Stir in the acorn meal. Heat until thickened and serve.

If you find a good recipe please share!

Let’s Get Hoppy

Almost ripe!

Almost ripe!

What to do with those hop cones ripening on your vine?  Making beer is the first thing that comes to people’s minds as this plant is what gives brews their distinctive bitter flavor but there’s a lot more you can do!

What exactly is hops?

  • Hops are hardy perennials that can grow up to 26 feet in a season.
  • The name hop comes from the Anglo-Saxon hoppan, to climb.
  • Female hops (Humulus lupulus) bear cone shaped flowers, also called strobiles.  When ready to harvest these are yellowish green, papery to the touch and have a strong smell.  Pick the cones and dry them until they snap when bent in half and shatter.  For storage put them into freezer bags and freeze until used.
  • The bittering agent in the cones is called lupulin.
  • Hops grows best at 38 to 51 degrees latitude which is why 75% of the crop is grown in eastern Washington.

Be careful where you situate this plant.  I happily planted my variegated variety to tastefully cover an archway only to discover that contact with the trailing branches makes me itch like crazy. In addition to climbing high, the roots go very deep so make sure that wherever you plant it you want it to stay because eradicating it can be very difficult – from a now wary hops planter.

Drying for pillow making.

Drying for pillow making.

How to Use Hops

  • The most common use today is in brewing beer where the cones impart a bitter flavor and potentially inhibit the growth of undesired yeast during brewing.
  • The young shoots can be eaten like asparagus in the spring.  (This can also be a good way to keep this rambunctious plant under control in a small garden.)
  • The leaves and flowers can be used to make a delicate light brown dye.
  • A pillow made of the dried cones is said to promote sleep.
  • A tincture of the cones is used in herbal medicine to reduce anxiety and promote sleep.  (As dosage can vary depending on growing conditions only take hops internally when prescribed and prepared by someone who is well versed in their use.)

How do you use this versatile plant?  I would love to hear!


Cider Pressing

This year we had a record number of apples. What to do? Make cider of course!

I called City Fruit and rented their great press for a few days. We drank some of the cider then decided to ferment the rest. I’ll let you know how it goes.

First we chopped up the apples and cut out the brown pieces.

First we chopped up the apples and cut out the brown pieces.

Next they went into the chopper.

Next they went into the chopper.

The pulp goes into the bucket to be pressed.

The pulp goes into the bucket to be pressed.

Sweet and tangy cider!

Sweet and tangy cider!

Dill Pickles

My family loves pickles. We like them with bowls of steaming brown rice, on fresh crusty bread and sometime just straight up from the jar. They are easy to make and full of healthful probiotics.


  • 1/4 cup pickling salt
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1.5 pounds pickling cucumbers
  • 1/2 T red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 t dill seed
  • 1/2 t coriander seed
  • 1 t mustard seed
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • Several fresh grape leaves (to promote crispness)


Make the brine solution by combining the salt and water and stirring until the salt is dissolved.

Put the spices and grape leaves in the bottom of a crock or jar.

Rinse the cucumbers and cut off the blossom end, (to prevent soft pickles). Pack the cukes into the container and cover the contents completely with brine solution. Weight the cukes to be sure they are submerged in the liquid. Anything not covered by brine could rot.

Check in a few days and skim off any scum. Begin tasting your pickles; if you like half sours then they need to ferment about 4 days, for full sours one to two weeks is usually needed. The liquid will turn from clear to cloudy and may fizz.

Place in the fridge when done to slow fermentation. Enjoy!!!


Fresh dill, garlic, mustard seed, grape leaves, salt, coriander, dill seed


Wash cucumbers and trim off blossom end.


Put herbs and spices in bottom of jar.

Pack cucumbers in tightly and fill with brine.

Pack cucumbers in tightly and fill with brine.

Add rock or bag filled with brine to weight down contents.

Add rock or bag filled with brine to weight down contents.

Finished pickles!

Finished pickles!