a little mending, a little blogging

a good sweatshirt (aka college sweater) is one of those garments that just get better looking the longer you have it and the more you wear it in. the fabric gets softer and the worn patches that develop around the seams just make it look even cooler.

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up to a point.

in the case of beloved blue sweater (so known around here as we both wear it and thus it is neither “my sweater” nor “your sweater”*) the cuffs had become so stretched and worn out that this sweater was no longer fit to be seen in public. not pretty.

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but why get rid of a favourite sweatshirt when you can easily replace the cuffs! fabric stores sell sweatshirt cuffs in a few basic colours and it took no more than 15 minutes to rip out the old ones and sew in the new. i think the darker shade of navy looks pretty cool too, and now blue sweater is better than ever. not bad for a 200 crown sweatshirt from  h&m. (even fast fashion can be slow fashion!)

excuse the mirror selfie, my tripod has a stripped screw and is currently unfit to be trusted holding up a camera.

speaking of things to be excused – pardon my month-long absence from blogging. i’ve been working on a few projects but uncooperative technology has made me less eager to blog about it. for one thing my laptop freezes every time i open photo editing software. for another, my bunny (perhaps you remember her from the quilt-biting incident) knocked a couple of keys off my keyboard a while ago. no big deal, except she proceeded to eat the squishy things from under the keys so i couldn’t put them back on. now every a, r, and q must be poked out with an athletic gesture. thus typing has landed on my list of things to do as little as possible of and blogging is less fun – until i get new squishy things!

*actually existing communism!

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when in uppsala…

so i’m really into knitting lately, as you may have gathered. uppsala vantar 1

these are “uppsala mittens,” something of a must-knit if you are a dyed in the wool (heh) uppsalabor or just want to express a little lokalpatriotism. the design shows uppsala cathedral.

the pattern and yarn are both from the local wool shop, yll & tyll.

they look rather enormous, because i knit them for joakim and went up a needle size in order to do so. he also chose the background colour, which i love. petrol blue is one of my favourite colours right now.

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the yarn is, perhaps unsurprisingly, rauma finull, which i’m also really into lately. i used it for my last project and have already cast on another using the same yarn. it makes such a lovely drapey soft fabric and the colours – !

this was my first stranded knitting project and i’m pretty happy with the outcome. it’s not perfect, but a lot of the lumpiness was resolved in blocking, and now i have a better understanding of how loose the floats have to be. (i really thought i was making them loose enough on the first mitt, but alas).

they were fast! two weeks from start to finish.

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here’s a sneak peek at my next project – more tomorrow.

 

socks!

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knitting is so silly. it took a year to finish the first sock* and two days to do the second!

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*because i was watching something and not paying attention when decreasing the gusset and made way too many decrease rounds, resulting in a sock fit for a large baby, and knit almost the whole foot before i noticed and had to rip back and then i was mad and put it away for a year … in the end it only took like half an evening to finish the foot anyway. bah!

project details (on ravelry):

pattern: zora by regina satta
yarn: zwerger garn opal sweet & spicy in 8615 rotkohl (red cabbage!)

 

maroon sweater

weee i finished my jumper! to think it took just 4 1/2 months…

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well honestly it wouldn’t have taken so long but the sleeves slowed me down. i knit both at once (back and forth) on a long circular, which paradoxically made the process both faster (by avoiding the dreaded second-sleeve syndrome) and slower ( i was often loathe to pick up the knitting when the sleeves were at their widest – 2 x 96 stitches in stockinette is nobody’s idea of a good time).

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speaking of the sleeves – you can clearly see from these photos that they are quite … voluminous. i was a tad disapointed when i sewed it up and thought i must have done something wrong, although i followed the pattern and got gauge. a closer inspection of the pattern illustration, however, reveals the sweater is meant to be quite generous in the sleeves. perhaps to make it ‘sportier’? in retrospect, if i’d been aware of this design choice i would have knit up the body somewhat looser as well – or, you know, made the sleeves narrower. as it is i can feel that the two belong to quite different jumpers.

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my face doesn’t normally look so weird, it’s the damn sun!

complaints aside, i’m happy with this sweater. it’s very comfortable and fills two big holes in my wardrobe – it’s both cabled and maroon. i’ve always wanted a jumper this colour.

the cast-on edges are all in 1×1 rib which looks great but is a bit time-consuming to do, and the neck edges are cast off with jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind-off. truly this bind-off is a work of genius! i really don’t see how i would manage to get this narrow collar over my big noggin without it.

i was reminded with this project why people always complain about seaming up sweaters. it’s terrible! i couldn’t be arsed to convert the pattern to the round as i didn’t think seaming was such a big deal. now i’ve been reminded that it’s nothing like normal hand sewing and also terrible. mental note: in future always work in the round. this won’t be an issue with my next project!

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project details: (and here’s the ravelry page if you’re into that kind of thing)

pattern: teen top cable pullover
yarn: rauma finull garn in no. 497, pinot noir – about 8 hanks

christmas 2015

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so much food, so little time.  we ate and ate and ate and listened to music and opened presents and basically hibernated in the best tradition of the holiday.

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we did go to listen to carols and hear the archbishop speak in the cathedral on christmas eve so it wasn’t a totally hedonistic celebration. though you must admit the appeal of the glittering, enormous, echoing cathedral is largely sensuous.

all this eating wasn’t for naught, i’ve come away with some brilliant new recipes and techniques for all year-round. brined chicken, overnight rice pudding, scalded rye bread (recipe coming soon), overnight white bread (truly brilliant and maybe my new default bread – though i’m not totally sold, it has a very grown-up proper structure with chewy crust, which is probably a major selling point but i’m rather partial to a softer, nursery food-ish crumb in my white bread), and the best brussels sprouts i’ve ever made – and i’ve made a lot of brussels sprouts. not to mention the crispiest roast potatoes ever (thank you nigella).

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the mince pies turned out perfectly, if you’ve been wondering about the fate of my experiment.

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leftovers revamped.

on sunday the snow finally came and we walked 12km to the electronics store to buy an alarm clock* only to find they were sold out. i’m not complaining though, after the fruitcake, mince pies, plum pudding, gravy and butter butter butter i was very happy to get a good walk in.

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*not just any alarm clock! joakim’s parents gave us a gift certificate for one of those sunrise-simulator alarms which i desperately need. i’m really not one for gizmos but ugh i cannot drag myself back to consciousness without the help of sunshine – which i’ve heard is totally biologically reasonable, but impossible when the sun rises at 9 am.

merry christmas! i’m still officially on holiday until after new years & swedish christmas technically lasts until mid-january so now begins phase two of christmas: after the eating, comes reading. and playing with new presents!

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god jul!

christmas-eve-201we partook of a little swedish-style supper for the occasion of christmas eve. not present: bread. i baked five loaves and not one of them made it onto the table in time for the photo. typical!

god jul!

christmas baking 2 – swedish gingerbread

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swedish gingerbread cookies, or pepparkakor, are the best. they’re extra-thin, crisp and spicy. you can buy them in big tins this time of year but they’re very easy to make and it’s more fun to cut out your own shapes. although in my case i “cleverly” stored my cookie cutters in some “smart” location and can no longer find them. so it’s round cookies for me this year.

i did, however, make a small gingerbread house! my last gingerbread house was uh… rather large and took several days and two batches of dough to make (each batch makes 300 regular cookies…) so yep. this year i decided to go the minimalist route.

my original plan was to have long eaves that went way down on either side like a little forest cottage, but the unthinkable happened and i actually ran out of dough! don’t let this happen to you – make your house first, before you roll out the rest of the dough for a batch of cookies. or, i don’t know, maybe you’d rather have more cookies to eat right away rather than a month later when they’re a bit dusty and covered in rock hard icing, what do i know. you do you.

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anyway, making a gingerbread house is pretty straightforward. i cut a very simple pattern out of paper – two sides, front and back and the roof – and glued the house together with royal icing (1 egg white, 400 ml icing sugar and a tsp of vinegar). the last two houses i’ve made used melted sugar glue to join the pieces but this time i branched out into icing because a) i happened to have a ton of icing sugar and b) that sugar syrup gives a great result, it’s nearly invisible and it hardens up rock solid but damn it’s scary to work with. have you ever burned yourself with sugar syrup? it’s like boiling hot glue that sticks to your skin and continues to burn you as you desperately try to wash it off. so i went the safe route this year.

my best trick for gingerbread houses is making candy windows. just crush a few hard candies (i use my mortal and pestle because that’s obviously what it’s intended for, right?) and use a little spoon to pile up the candy powder in the windows before baking. really pile it in – if there are any gaps when you take the cookie out of the oven you can spoon on a little more powder and it will melt. i like to use cough drops for their nice golden colour, and because they’re easiest to find here. the swedes seem totally unaware of the wonders of boiled sweets. i have also heard that you can make candy windows by simply placing a whole sweet in the middle of the window, but i’m not sure if that’s a figure of speech. at any rate i like to crush the candy very fine as cookies made from this swedish recipe don’t want very long in the oven at all, and i want to make sure the windows have a chance to melt.

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have i convinced you to make a gingerbread house of your own? no? what if i told you that we haven’t even gotten to the best part yet? namely that it will make your living room, kitchen or wherever you keep it, smelling tantalizingly gingery, cinnamon-y and christmas-y all day long? still no? nevermind, you can make regular swedish gingerbread cookies instead.

this recipe makes lots. the trick is to roll them very thin (although at the point where i get tired of re-rolling and cutting the scraps i like to make one last cooky that’s a bit thicker and eat it warm and soft from the oven).

the swedish way to eat gingerbread cookies is with blue cheese and mulled wine – or if you get tired of blue cheese, with brie. (i know it sounds totally weird to eat cheese on a cooky if you, like me, come from a world where cookies are cookies and crackers are crackers and never the twain shall meet. but just trust me, it’s very good).  another very swedish thing to do, and the very best breakfast or snack or light supper i know of, is to crumble gingerbread cookies in a bowl of filmjölk, that is to say swedish sour milk, somewhere between yoghurt, kefir and buttermilk. runny yoghurt is a good substitute.


 

swedish gingerbread cookies – adapted from vår julkokbok

this recipe makes 300 cookies. i know, i know. that sounds completely unreasonable. but you roll them very, very thinly, so it’s not really that much dough. besides, you store the dough in the refrigerator and make a few at a time. it’s better to make one big batch at the beginning of december; if you wrap the dough tightly you’ll be able to keep rolling out these pepparkakor until christmas day- and trust me, you’ll want to. if it still seems like too much, make a half batch. i’ll confess that i did, and it was enough for about 30 cookies and a small house, but i do wish i’d made a whole recipe.

ingredients:

1 1/4 cup (300 g) softened butter
2 cups (500ml) sugar
1/3 cup (100 ml) golden syrup
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground cloves
2 tsp whole or ground cardamom
1 tbsp baking soda
3/4 cup (200 ml) water
7 cups (1 1/2 l) flour

oven 400f

to do:

cream together the butter, sugar and syrup. stir in the spices (crush the cardamom in a mortal and pestle if you’re using whole cardamom), the baking soda, and the water. lastly, blend in most of the flour. all this stirring takes a lot of elbow grease, this is a good time to have a helper in the kitchen.
work in the rest of the flour on your counter or baking board. cover the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least twenty-four hours. this part is important! don’t get impatient, okay? your dough needs to rest.
when you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400f and break off a small-ish amount of dough. it will be very firm and a bit difficult to work with at first. knead it on your floured counter or baking board until it softens and becomes darker and more pliable. roll it out as thin as you can – but not so thin that you can see the countertop through the dough. aim for somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1/16th of an inch. place on cold oven sheets and bake for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. keep an eye on these! they’re done quickly and burned pepparkakor don’t taste very nice (ask me how i know this). they’ll puff up slightly in the oven and sink back down as they cool. will keep for at least a couple of weeks in an air-tight tin.