Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Week of the Fair!

My pie and reticule did extremely well for my first exhibition in the fair! First, the reticule...

Second premium! This was entered in the Needlework category of the Junior Division and won 2nd place out of all the crocheted, knitted, quilted, and miscellaneous embroidery!

Then, the pie...

Here is what it looked like (the theme of the fair was "Let's Get Together")

My pie looked like this and I was kind of confused why all the photos and knitted etc got ribbons and the food only got a sticker, but it turns out that you have to pick up the ribbon after the fair:

Yes, the prized First Premium Blue Ribbon! I can officially say I am an award winning pie baker and knitter! :) I am so thrilled! 

Here is my check for $15 dollars; prize money for the two premium winners! Not bad for a first timer!

The Top 10 2012 County Fair Fun List:

1. Seeing all the entries in the Home Ec building that people have worked so hard on (and my ribbons!)          There are always some extremely beautiful works. My favorite was a beautiful knitted afghan with sheep that won !

2. Looking at all the cute animals, especially the dairy cows and sheep (my favorites!) Someday I would like to have a few pet sheep and process their wool!

3. Visiting all the sponsor tables. I mean you get all kinds of free stickers and booklets, my favorite local radio station was giving out window stickers, and all the free candy!

4. Wool Shearing/ Wool Spinning. Every year Esther's Place Fibers (my local/favorite fiber shop) has a booth with a sheep shearer and they demonstrate shearing, spinning, and felting and this year I helped demonstrate spinning!

5. Vintage farm equipment. I love seeing all the old tractors and plows and threshers. Some of the old machines from the 1890's were lent to the fair by the living history farm I volunteer at!

6. Little side shows. This year, I saw a flea circus, magic show, neat old school country band, an extreme bubble show, and toured a log home that was build in the trunk of an old California Redwood tree! It was skinny, but suprisingly livable! 

7. The food, of course! When it is fair week, it is time to forget any sort of healthy eating, and just go try stuff! Unfortunately, the exotic fried food truck didn't come this year so no deep fried snickers bars, but of course we got the classic corn dog, tried a red velvet funnel cake (delicious), and they had potato chips that were a single potato cut in a long spiral strand and put on a stick... cool!

8. Famous singers: This year at the fair, the country artist Kip Moore, singer of "Somethin' 'bout a Truck" was the biggest act! Although I didn't buy tickets to see the concert, I was able to hear several of his songs walking around near the Grandstand... 

9. The local farmers' booths. Walking around the "Ag-ventureland" we met dairy farmers, bee keepers, sheep farmers, maple syrup makers, and other interesting farmers who are extremely friendly and completely willing to teach you all about their trades.

10. All the workers and volunteers in the fair. They are all so friendly to everyone, from dropping off entries to picking them up, and they really do their best to make sure demonstrators have enough water and everyone knows what is happening in different parts of the fair! So if any volunteers from the fair read this, Thank you!!! :)

The county fair really is a big highlight of summer and I am already planning some more knitting projects for next year! What is your favorite fair memory? Have you entered any articles into a fair before, and how did you fare (pun intended this time)? Comment below!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Skeins and Scones

I have at last finished spinning the eight ounces of pastel fiber that came in the braids! I finished plying the last bit this morning and have a total of five skeins. This also means that all my fiber has been spun... have to take the trip out to the fiber store!

So much yarn! I have around 514 yards of it and it is around DK weight! 

Here is a close-up; the lighting isn't the best here, but the thickness of the yarn is slightly varied and it is two ply!

I have always wanted to make something nice I can wear out in public and my first attempt at a sweater was very nice, but it was too warm to wear anywhere! So now I have my sights set on this Wave Shawl on Ravelry! I think that the yarn should be the right weight for it and I have plenty, so I am excited to start it! Just have to wait until the yarn is done drying after I washed it.

In the meantime, my sister and I decided to make some scones and have a little mid-morning tea and breakfast! We found this Simple Scone Recipe and decided to half the recipe to try it out. It turned out very well (we substituted dried cranberries in place of the raisins) and went along well with our tea! (They were a little thin since we halfed the recipe, so they might have been a little crispier and thinner than the regular recipe, but still tasty!)

Scones ready to bake!

Scones ready to eat! (They puffed up nicely, didn't they?)

No tea party is complete without English toppings for the scones! (Lemon curd is my favorite!)

The tea party! We have the scones (the breakfast side of brunch), grapes, tea, and some little cucumber sandwiches (the lunch side of brunch)!

So today was a pretty good day! Later I will be dropping off the pie and the reticule into the fair office and will be going to the fair tomorrow afternoon to see what other entries have been submitted and who won! Until then, happy spinning and baking!

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Let's Get Together"

Tomorrow is the day that all entries have to be tagged and dropped off at the county fair home economics building, and so today I have made the pie that I will be entering! I baked a blueberry pie for the category "Any other fruit pie" (cherry and apple have their own category).

To make one pie, I used 2 and a half cartons of fresh blueberries... mmmmm!

Now I always have this problem with the berry pies running over the edge no matter how much extra cornstarch I mix in. This time, I doubled the amount of cornstarch to put in and proceeded with the rest of the filling and the crust thinking that would at last work. The top crust went on beautifully, as well as the words "Let's Get Together" which is the fairs theme this year. It looked beautiful and I put it in the oven thinking it would be absolutely perfect! A half hour later, I came back into the kitchen to check on the pies progress and was greeted by smoke billowing and swirling out of the oven!! The pie dripped worse than any other pie and the filling was burning to the bottom of the oven. (But the pie was just fine!! Thank goodness...)

Big burned patches of blueberry filling burned to a crisp on the bottom of the oven... 

All the windows were opened despite it being a 90+ degree day and several fans and vents turned on to keep the smoke alarm going off and eventually the smoke cleared. When I took the pie out cautiously, a ton of the filling bubbled through the vents I slit into the top of the pie and made colored stains on a lot of the crust and the plate was a terrific mess. 

No purple stains on my pretty golden brown crust please!!

2 hours, lots of damp paper towels, and tons of patience later, I had continued to drain the pie of dangerously high juices, cleaned the edges of the pie pan, as well as scraped the dark parts of the crust off to make it cleaner. The final product cleaned up well and looks pretty darn good!

I definitely won't be ashamed to enter this into the fair tomorrow, especially considering that it is my first fair ever! 

I also going to enter the reticule I mentioned earlier into the small knitted item category in the Junior Division! 
In case you haven't see the last post, here is the reticule!

So we shall see how I fare (no pun intended) by Wednesday afternoon! Hoping for a blue ribbon!

And on the spinning front; I have been spinning and spinning and spinning the 8 ounces of the pastel roving and I have a TON! I have just a wee bit left to spin and ply, but I PROMISE I will finish it and post some pictures tomorrow! Until then, happy baking and spinning! 

Have you had any crazy baking stories where you had to impress someone and all hope seemed lost? Share below in the comments! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Cat in the Hat

It's getting to be that point in the summer break when you start to go a little crazy looking for more things to occupy your time. Well, this morning was no different. My dear cat, Biscuit, walked by and I thought, "Wouldn't he look good in a blue beret?" I didn't have a pattern, I just measured his head (12 inches!!) and crocheted in the round and estimated when to increase and decrease. An hour later, Biscuit added a new crocheted hat and scarf to his wardrobe (which is surprisingly lacking at this point in time; limited to the fez previously posted)

He looks quite dashing, don't you think? 

Can anyone say "miaou?"

And while Biscuit may not have been particularly excited about his new chapeau, I was extremely excited about the new Jane Austen Knits magazine that came out earlier this summer! After hearing plenty of other knitters discussing their favorite patterns, I finally got to see them!

 I was instantly drawn to the new reticule in this issue:

This pattern is the Entrelac Reticule with Bobble Trim (pg 86) and is absolutely adorable! I am definitely going to be trying this pattern out because I have not yet tried entrelac. The reason I like the reticules is because the Regency era is my favorite era, and I am always looking for new accessories to add to my regency wardrobe. Last year, I did a diamond pattern reticule which turned out very nicely:

I used it on several occasions with my Regency dress and will be entering it into the county fair this year! 

As soon as I get my hands on some different colors of yarn to make the reticule, I will be casting on! Have you fell in love with any patterns lately? What projects are you excited to cast on or hook on (?) soon? Comment below to let me know! Happy crafting! 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Doing It Right The 20th Time Around

This morning seemed like a good morning to bake a pie and I had plenty of cartons of raspberries in the fridge so, why not? And here it is, a break down of what I think of pies, crusts, and other miscellaneous.

The first step, of course, is the crust! Now every pie recipe in the history of mankind will tell you to use ice cold water. I tried once or twice and it was harder to roll out and have, since then, used lukewarm water. I knew that centuries of pie masters could not be wrong so I checked out a book from the library about the art of pies (Pie it Forward by Gesine Bullock-Prado) and decided to try her recipe down to the "t" and use the ice cold water (as well as chilled butter and chilled flour). I also used the food processor to mix the ingredients rather than the 2 knife method. And let me tell you what a difference it made!  The dough rolled out so smoothly and transferred to the pie dish without a single crack!

I use butter because it makes a flaky and smooth crust even though it can make the edges of the pie shrink up. I think it tastes much cleaner than shortening which leaves a distasteful film in your mouth afterwards even though shortening makes a more picturesque crust. I was going for flavor today! (I have never used lard because we never buy it...)

Me rolling the pie dough out in the apron I sewed a few years ago from a retro inspired pattern!

Beeeeeautiful! (Crust recipe below)

The recipe I used was found randomly on the PBS website (link below) and worked out pretty well! My only complaint is that the pie is still a little juicy so maybe more cornstarch could have been used! I must also disagree with the egg wash on top. In my opinion, the egg wash does make the crust browner, but it is so inconsistently brown that I would rather do without it. Now my pie looks like this:

Instead of:

(A cherry pie I baked last summer)

But oh well, the fact is, it will taste delicious and no one but my immediate family will see it, so no one will turn their nose up at its looks! But I am so excited to try more experimenting with this new pie dough, I can make all sorts of decorative crusts now! 

With the extra dough, I rolled it out and cut little squares so I could put some canned date nut filling we happened to have on it and make little pastry pockets! I folded them and put them in the oven for about 20 minutes or so at 360 degrees and they turned out pretty good for blind baking!

Over all a pretty good baking morning! I just wish we had a nice pie crimping tool so the edges of the top could be nicely crinkled and a pie server so the pieces would come out smoother! (Some more presents to add to the birthday list!) ;)

Have you baked anything recently? Anything you tried differently that made all the difference? Comment below, and happy baking! 


Crust recipe ingredients:

"2 cups cold flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
1 cup unsalted chilled butter
1/2 cup ice water
1 tsp lemon juice"

Bullock-Prado, Gesine. Pie it Forward: Pies, Tarts, Tortes, Galettes & Other Pastries Reinvented: New York: Abrams books, 2012. Print.

Filling recipe:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Spinning and Drafting

Remember this wool from so long ago?

Well, I have finally unwound the braids on the two wheels and began to spin it up! A large chunk of time in taking the wool from the braid to the spun yarn is drafting. For those not familiar with the official term, drafting is the pulling of the wool so that it is easier to spin. This step is important as it helps to maintain consistency in the thickness of the spun yarn! Here is a picture that may help illustrate drafting: 

The strand on the left is the thickness of the roving straight off the braid and the strand on the left is the drafted roving.

Here is a pile of the drafted roving; it is so fluffy like fuzzy clouds! It looks a lot lighter than the original roving, but once it is spun tightly, it will retain it's darker color. (Although my roving was on the pastel side to begin with...)

And so I have been spinning and spinning this roving away, and have finished an entire spool with plenty left over! I am going to have quite a bit of this yarn; enough to make some kind of garment I hope! One interesting little tip I learned in my spinning class (which you may or may not already know): If you take a strand of your spinning and let it fold back on itself, this will give you a fairly accurate idea of how thick your yarn will be after you have plied it on itself! 

This is perhaps a little thicker than what I had planned, but it is pretty no less!

Here is a picture of the first spool I spun! I am expecting to have 3 spools after both braids have been spun:

(I always leave a little extra on a spool because sometimes the plied yarn takes a little extra space and I like to keep it neat)

What projects have you been working on lately? Have you got any tips to pass along that you have learned or discovered on your own? Comment below! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Chocolate Pie for the 4th of July!

(^ Did you catch that rhyme?!) Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Americans! In our family we go all out by going to see the local parade, watching the firework show by our village, having a cookout, and camping out in our backyard with our neighbors. Besides knitting and spinning, I am also very into baking pies! This year I have entered a blueberry pie into our county fair (more on that once it's fair time!) and I made a chocolate cream pie to cut into on our favorite summer holiday!

It was my first attempt at a chocolate cream pie and I think it turned out pretty well! I made the crust myself (I always do!) using flour, salt, and butter flavored shortening. I have experimented with lard and butter in the past, but the shortening always does it for me! Lard isn't really purchased in my house and butter works, but the dough doesn't turn out as flaky in my experience. The day I made the pie, it was kind of chilly and the crust wasn't rolling out very well and on a whim I decided to press the crust into the pan and it worked quite nicely! (Much less hassle than trying to roll it and transfer the whole sheet into the pie pan). The chocolate cream filling was essentially a pudding that was boiled on the stove top and poured into the pre-baked crust and chilled for several hours. Then I whipped some fresh cream to put on top and sprinkled some chocolate shavings on top! Although the edges of the crust are a bit uneven, I think the pie looks quite picturesque if I do say so myself! All of the neighbors enjoyed eating the pie which is really what it is all about! :)

Another Happy Independence Day to all and to all a good night! I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday and gave thanks for the freedom and national pride that we are able to have here! (More knitting and spinning to come!)

What kind of Independence Day traditions do you have? Any special desserts you enjoy making for the summer? Let me know, below!