Saturday, February 20, 2016

Very Lemony Lemon Layer Cake

Gaby's got the flu :(, and I've been cooking chicken soup and brewing herb tea with lemon all day and to cheer her up I also made a lemon layer cake (though she's still not feeling well enough to eat it).
I followed chiefly this recipe with a few modifications - I replaced the canola oil with sunflower oil, which we prefer, and I made the lemon curd with milk instead of water - so much richer and finer taste. Instead of fresh blueberries I put in blackberry jam. I meant to buy blueberry jam, but when I got home I found out that I had bought the blackberries instead. Never mind, not that much difference there :)))

My "lemon grove", grown from seeds

I prepared the cake, following the recipe, and I baked it in my 24 cm cake form. The cake is delicious but very dry. I soaked it with sugar syrup, and it is still a bit dry, so have that in mind, if you want to follow this recipe.

The lemon curd, prepared with milk, is divine - very smooth and lemony, the best part of this cake.

In the end, I like the recipe, but next time I would prepare at least half a cup of lemon sugar syrup and soak the layers with it before laying the curd.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Boot Cuffs

Gaby wanted a pair of boot cuffs and I planned to make one from the yarn I recently dyed in burnt orange colors. Then I finished the poncho and was left with some 70 g of yarn, so I decided to knit the boot cuffs from that yarn. But the process of planning and designing had already started and it took me a couple of days to see the obvious - no new pattern was required, I had to make the cuffs using the cables from the poncho and make them a set, duh!

Pattern: Boot Cuffs
Yarn: Macas Baby Alpaca, 70 g
Needle: 4 mm rib, 4.5 mm body
Time to knit: 5 days

And a couple of photos of the Valentine cake Gaby made for us, just because I love this pomegranate heart on top - it's like made of jewels :)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

French Poncho Modeled

Ta-da! The poncho in action. Gaby wore it to school yesterday morning and we met at noon to take a few photos of the new knit on her way back home. I am very pleased how this poncho turned out and I hope it'll get lots more wear this winter and spring.

Pattern: Ponchoby Bergère de France 
Yarn: Macas 60% Baby Alpaca, 20% Merino, 20% PA, 430 g
Needle: 4.5 mm body, 4 mm rib and I-cord
Time to knit: 3 weeks

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lazy Cheese Balls

These cheese-balls take only a few minutes to prepare and are a perfect snack or breakfast, especially accompanied with milk or yogurt drink. The technology somewhat reminds me of making meat-balls, so I called them cheese-balls. Various versions of these are popular in different parts of Bulgaria, here's how I made mine today:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup  crumbled cheese 
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Place the cheese in a bowl and crumble it with a fork. Add the egg, the oil and the yogurt, mixed with the baking powder. Stir with the fork. Gradually add the flour and continue stirring the mixture. No kneading is required, the dough is moist and rough, but not runny. Fill a small bowl with water, turn on the oven at 200C, cover the baking tin with paper and start making the balls like you make meatballs - wet your fingers, take a small amount of the dough, roll it into a ball, flatten it a bit and place it on the baking paper. After all of the dough has been made into balls, place a small piece of butter into the center of each ball and put the tin in the oven. Bake until the balls turn golden brown.

I added a good pinch of savory to my dough, as I love the combination of savory and cheese, but you can spice them to your own preference.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Poncho By Bergère de France. Modifications and Details

On Tuesday I blogged about my work in progress - the Poncho by Bergère de France, some of the modifications I had already done and some planned and I said I would take a break from the poncho to knit some legwarmers in the yarn I had dyed that day. But approaching the end of Part 1 of the Poncho my knitting mojo kicked in and with the rows significantly shortening I soon found myself knitting faster and faster to finish it quicker. I also noticed that I'll have some yarn left and I could do the legwarmers in the alpaca and make them a set with the poncho. As I did quite a lot of modifications on Part 2 and I believe they might be of interest to other people planning to knit this beautiful free pattern (one of the best ponchos out there, IMHO), I'll try to sum them up:

Part 1:
1. I cast on 384 sts with provisional cast on, knit 4 rows of St st and with 4 mm circular needle. Changed to 4.5 mm circular needle and began with the pattern - 25 sts for the cable part and 23 sts for the stockinette sections. My first decrease was as per instructions - on the 15th row from the cast on row.
2. For Part I I followed the instructions and made the decreases on every 8th row until I was left with 224 sts - 200 sts for the 8 Cable parts (8 x 25) and 8 x 3 sts in the St. sections. I knit 5 rows on the remaining 224 sts.
3. I also made the decreases to slant to the inside of the stockinette section and not vice versa as in the pattern.

Apart from casting in the round and reducing the stockinette section by two stitches, which led to less width and 8 rows less in length (one less decrease), I pretty much followed the pattern in this section.

(I forgot to take a close-up picture of this part in the day time, thus the different color)

Judging by the work done by other ravelers  on this pattern and my calculations, Part II comes too wide and not at all high necked as in the pattern photo. So I made the following changes to the pattern:

Part II
Do the decreases, meanwhile continuing with the cable pattern.
1. Row 1 - Decrease each 3-st Stockinette section into 1 st: 224 -> 208 sts
2. Row 2 - knit 208
3. Row 3 - Decrease the one knit stitch, that remained in each St section. The two purl st columns are now combined into one 4 stitch column: 208 -> 200 st
4. Row 4 - Knit 200 sts
5. Row 5 - Decrease one purl st in each four purl column. Now you have 16 cable columns, divided by 16 3-st purl columns: 200 -> 192 sts
6. Rows 6 to 12 (a total of 8 rows) - knit 192 sts
7. Row 13 - Decrease one purl st in each 3-st purl column: 192 -> 176 sts
8. Rows 14 to 20 - knit 176 sts
9. Row 21 - Decrease one purl st in each 2-st purl column: 176 -> 160 sts
10. Rows 22 to 28 -  knit 160 sts
11. Row 29 - Decrease the last purl st in each 1-st purl column: 160 -> 144 sts
12. Rows 30 - 34 - knit 144 sts

In this part the purl stitches are done with and the decreases are made within the cables:
13. Row 35 - decrease one stitch in each 9 sts cable: 144 -> 128 sts
14. Rows 36 to 40 - Knit 128 sts
15. Row 41 - decrease one stitch in each 8 sts cable: 128 -> 112 sts
16. Rows 42 to 44 - knit 112 sts
17.  Row 45 - decrease one stitch in each 7 sts cable: 112 -> 96 sts
18. Rows 46 to 48 - knit 96 sts
19. Row 49 - decrease one stitch in each 6 sts cable by knitting two knit stitches as one purl stitch. Now your have sixteen 4-st cables divided by 1 purl stitch each : 96 -> 80 sts
Change to 4 mm circular needles:
20. Rows 50-52 - knit 80 sts
21. Row 53 - Decrease every other purl stitch. Thus you have eight sections of cables, divided by a purl stitch. 80 -> 72 sts.
22. Rows 54 - 69: knit 72 sts, continuing the cables every 8th row
23. Row 70: cast off. I used 2-st attached I-cord.

Part III - The Sleeves

As my cast on stitches were alive, I knitted the sleeves seamlessly attached to the body by picking up the 25 sts of the cable + 3 sts on each side of the cable + 9 sts cast on with provisional cast on = 40 sts total. I knit 33 rows of 2x2 rib, 1 row of 1x1 rib by switching stitches, 1 row of double knit and I cast off using invisible cast off. This is a stretchy, yet very neat method to prevent sleeve rib ends from flaring.

After knitting the two sleeves I cast off all of the provisional cast on stitches of the body and the sleeves in one continuous 2-st I-cord.

The above description is more like a recipe rather than complete instructions. You have to figure out the cables for yourselves and your gauge might be different than mine or may be the same, but on different needle sizes. I got the same gauge as in the pattern: 16 sts x 22 rows in St st for a 10 cm square and one 9-sts cable is 5 cm on 4.5 mm needles.

Modeled photo-session - coming soon, I hope!

And who said adults can't have fun - I wound up my newly hand-dyed yarn on the cone, left from the alpaca, using my daughter's pottery wheel. The result isn't exactly spectacular, but it was fun :)))

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

WIP - Poncho by Bergère de France

This is my current project, that I've been working on very slowly for two weeks now - Poncho by Bergère de France. I'm knitting it with my Baby Alpaca cone yarn on 4.5 mm circular needles. The first rows of 384 stitches, approx. 260 cm long, gathered on 60 cm circular needle were a torturous slog, but it's a breeze now. So far my modifications - as many others on Ravelry, I modified the pattern to knit it in the round. In the original it is knit in two parts, which are then sewn together - completely unnecessary. And knitting in the round makes it possible to purl all the time, which is my preferred method of knitting, as I knit with the yarn held in front. For this purpose I knit it from the wrong side and of course I had to modify the cables, so that they would appear as per pattern on the right side. i also modified the decreases to be slanting toward the stockinette stitch part, and not in the opposite direction, as is in the pattern.

My gauge was spot on - 16 sts and 22 rows on 4.5 mm, but I cast on 16 sts less - 25 sts for the cable section, but 23 instead of 25 sts for the stockinette stitch sections between the cables. My daughter is slim and only 5'4", so I'm trying to make it smaller than the given dimensions for the S/M size.  I'm almost at the end of Part 1 of the poncho, tonight I intend to put the stitches on a longer cord and try it on on Gaby to determine how long should the poncho be and how to proceed with the decreases. The pattern states a length of 76 cm for the S/M size, but I think 65 cm would be enough, so for Part 2 I'll probably make my decreases on every 6th row instead of every 10th row. 

I cast on with provisional cast on, as I haven't decided yet if I want a curling Stockinette stitch end or an I-cord. I'll pick up the stitches and cast them off, meanwhile adding the cuffs seamlessly to the body. The yarn - it's very soft and warm, this will be a very toasty poncho, it's a pity I didn't start it earlier to be ready for the cold January days, but there'll be other winters too :))

And something else - I hadn't dyed yarn for more than a year. This is a skein of white 100% wool, 100 g = 220 m, dyed with yellow, red and brown acid dyes for wool and silk. The color is slightly nuanced burnt orange / brick, which I love so much. I'm planning a pair of cabled legwarmers / boot cuffs for Gaby, they'll be a nice break from the monotonous work on the poncho.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Surva 2016, Pernik

After visiting Krakra fortress we went downtown for the core purpose of our travel to Pernik - Surva 2016: the 25th International Festival of Masquerade Games. The event was well attended, with thousands of people laughing, cheering and taking pictures of the participants in the games, lots of souvenir stands and fast food in the open operations. First we went to the central town square, where the groups of contestants in the masquerade games were presented and performed and then we walked along the main street to see the other participants in the festival, waiting for their turn in the games. According to the organizers' information this year the number of the performing groups was over 120 with more than 6500 participants, the biggest ever Surva. A few pictures, taken above the heads of the crowd to give you an idea of the spirit of the event: