Monthly Archives: July 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Lotus Seed Bao

I wanted to share one of my culinary obsessions.  My Mom is Chinese-American and I grew up eating Dim Sum items.  One of my favorite things is bao (really just a sweet bun).  I don’t eat meat, so I love the bean paste filled bao.  These are steamed sweet buns that are fluffy and light.

I haven’t made my own in years, but they are very easy to do.  Here’s one site I found with a recipe, but I haven’t used it.  A lot of Asian grocery stores will also sell a bag of dry mix that you just add a little bit of milk too.  It is sold near all the rice flour and miscellaneous clear bags of flour and starch.  It is usually called something like Steamed Bun Mix.  My rice cooker is super tiny and I haven’t had a bamboo steamer in a long time.  That’s the real deterrent for me.  At a Chinese bakery, you can often get these with any type of filling.  They are differentiated by different colored dots on the top of the bao.  The egg cream bun has a kind of egg-y pudding/custard in it.

The red bean bao (Dou sha bao) is the most readily available kind of sweet bun available at most restaurants and bakeries.  The red bean paste filling can be purchased in cans, or made from scratch.  This filling is also in mochi items, moon cakes and other Chinese treats.  A similar filling is made from Lotus Seed (I always called it Lotus Bean growing up though…).  I pronounce it as Ling Yung, but I don’t know how to properly spell that one out.  It is more pale than the red bean, and sometimes I imagine it having a smoky, light coffee flavor, though staying very similar to the red bean paste.  Here’s the inside of my bao:

Why don’t I make them anymore, besides laziness?  There is a deli in Los Angeles Chinatown that makes the best bao!  It is Lucky Deli on Broadway.  It has a distinctive red and white awning out front.  It is a little grungy inside, and I can guarantee that they won’t have an A cleanliness rating.  They sell hot dim sum items and bakery stuff.  In a refrigerated case at the end of the counter, they have bags of 6 bao.  Only $4.50 a bag, and the bao are giant!  I usually get one bag red bean and one bag lotus.  Then I eat one every morning for breakfast for the next 12 days!  I won’t lie, usually while driving to work.  I don’t really have a favorite, so it is nice to alternate them.  They are cold, so I steam them up before eating.  Instead of boiling water, I just do them in the microwave.  I put mine in a small container (use a glass one if you’re worried about plastic).  I just splash a tiny bit of water on them, partially cover the container and nuke for 40-50 seconds.  Then I either put the lid on the container and throw it in my purse or just eat it right then.

Give them a try the next time you are at dim sum!  Pictures of my haircut on Friday, and a loot posting before then.

 

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FO: Kasha

A few months ago I received the  Stitch In Time: Volume 2 book.  I had pre-ordered it and was eagerly awaiting it.  I love love loved the Volume 1 book.  Realistically, there are probably more patterns that are my style in the first book, but the second book is amazing too!  It is filled with 80 updated vintage knitting patterns.  At Vogue Live in Los Angeles, I bought a bag of fingering weight yarn that I earmarked for a project from the book.  I finally got around to doing it!

Pattern: Kasha from A Stitch in Time: Vintage Knitting Patterns, 1930-1959 volume 2

Yarn: Sanli Pure Knitting Wool 216 in color 306, 6.5 balls

Needles: 3.00mm, US2 1/2

Start Date: June 15, 2012

Finish Date: July 26, 2012

Ravelry Page: here

I was loving this sweater the whole time I worked on it.  The color of the yarn is really vibrant, and I really dug the stitch pattern.  I started it while I was on vacation with my parents in the Grand Canyon.  I did the swatch as called for in the pattern.  At first I tried to just do the first half of the swatch (18 rows instead of 36) because I am lazy.  I couldn’t figure out how my gauge could be so far off!  Mine was like 4 inches wide instead of 3.  Then I decided to go ahead and finish the swatch because there was no way I could be that much off.  And it turns out, those last 18 rows are really essential.  They  pull the diamond back in at the top.  And my gauge was right on.

The lace pattern is fairly intuitive and I eventually memorized it.  I would occasionally realize that I had missed a Make 5 out of 1 stitch, and have to tink back.  You can’t really drop down and fix those kind of things because they take up so much more yarn than a knit stitch.  At first I thought it was unnecessary the way the rows are written out for the armhole and neck decreases.  But it was quite handy, not having to think about how to decrease in pattern and instead just follow the line-by-line instructions.  I was so stoked on this sweater while I was knitting it.  I blocked out the pieces before assembling them.  I blocked them to the 2nd measurements, which should fit my bust size.  I sewed everything together and hmmm.  It was pretty big.  I immediately re-blocked the finished sweater.  This time I squished it together, so it still had some of the 3-dimensionality of the pre-blocked piece.  After reblocking, it is pretty much zero ease, but it looks bigger than that.  I am so used to super fitted sweaters that I had trouble getting used to this looser fit.  I was pretty bummed out.  I took it to my knitting group hoping that everyone would say, “You’re so crazy, it looks great!”  but they were like, “Maybe wear it unbuttoned?  Can you make smaller sleeves?  That’s a shame after all that work…”

I didn’t think it looked all that different from the pattern picture, but I wasn’t really used to seeing a ’40s style sweater on me.  I felt like I was wearing an older woman sweater.  I buckled down and got into saving mode.  I made a few changes that I think salvaged it.  First, I threaded elastic thread through the ribbing at the bottom.  I did three lines of elastic though the purl stitches.  I maybe went a little too far, based on how it looks unbuttoned.  This little nip in, really helped accentuate the style of the sweater instead of trying to fight it.  Now it has that little blouson shape at the bottom, instead of loose ribbing that made the sweater look frumpy.

I also decided to make the sleeve (shoulder) pads that the pattern calls for.  I had previously thought, “Shoulder pads?  No way!”  But I do think they add some definition to the piece.  Again, playing up the vintage style.  I used the half-moon sleeve pad from the book, though if I had to do it again, I might make the triangle shaped ones instead.  I got conflicting opinions about the sleeve pads.  Instead of sewing them in, I sewed on snaps to each pad and into the sweater.  This way I can wear them in or out.

(I wouldn’t wear Converse with this outfit.  I didn’t think they would be in any photos.  And I am too lazy to edit them out!)

Here’s how it looks without the pads in:

I think it looks fine, but I think it makes my shoulders look a little slouchy and sloped.  Maybe I would modify the pattern to decrease more stitches in the shoulders.  Or perhaps, tried to make the armhole shallower.  Without the shoulder pads, the shoulders tend to slip down into a bit of a drop sleeve style.

So do I love it?  Not totally.  I am finally happy with it.  I am not sure if this style of sweater will get much use in my closet.  Also, the color does not go with very many of my dresses.  My Mom could get a surprise gift out of it!  The pattern is very well written.  I will make more items from these two books again, but I’ll have to think about what shapes really flatter me first.

Have a great weekend everyone!  I still need to show you my Convergence purchases.  And I have a haircut scheduled for Sunday, so should have some crazy before and after photos!

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Tasty Tuesday: St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

I’m trying out something a little new today.  The idea is that every Tuesday, I’ll do a food post.  Sometimes a recipe, sometimes a restaurant review.  We’ll see how it goes.  Though the blog will stay primarily knitting.  Also, yes, I will sometime update the info and blogroll.  Once I remember the administrator password…

A couple years ago I saw a Smitten Kitchen post about St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake.  I was instantly intrigued.  I made it soon after for an Easter dinner that I went to.  The cake was delicious.  Not as indulgent as I thought it might be, but well received.  I don’t often make yeast cakes, so it was more steps than some of my other desserts.  It consists of a cake base/crust topped with a buttery “gooey” layer on top.  You should follow the link to Deb’s version, drool over the beautiful photos and come back here.  After making this cake the first time though, I virtually forgot about it.

A year ago, when Lucas and I were first dating he asked me if I’d ever heard of the Gooey Butter Cake (or GBC as we’ve been calling it.)  His family is from St. Louis.  Was he ever surprised when I said I had made one before!  He found a website that had some historical information (more like urban legends) about the GBC.  It has a recipe attached that uses a cake mix base instead of making the cake from scratch.  I love baking elaborate desserts.  My favorite cookbook is the Cook’s Illustrated Best Recipe books that make you do a zillion steps just to make a cobbler.  But for a west coast girl, I have a fair amount of Mid-West in me.  I love me a casserole and 1950s foods.  This recipe uses a mix of powdered sugar and cream cheese for the topping.  A bit different from the Smitten Kitchen version that uses butter and corn syrup.

I would recommend both versions.  But if you’re looking for a simple recipe that tastes like cotton candy and heaven, I would go with the What’s Cooking America version.  I bake mine in a 9×13 glass pan.  It doesn’t get very tall, but makes about 30 little bars.  It calls for 4 cups of powdered sugar.  I’ve cut mine back to 3 or 3 1/2 cups and it hasn’t hurt the sweetness.

I end up making this recipe all the time.  I recently had to bring refreshments for the knitting guild meeting and brought these.  They are slightly chewy and have a bit of a sugar crust on the top.  I meant to take a picture of the entire  pan, but I ate them instead.  Here’s the last lone piece.  So you can see the side view:

I have even made it with a chocolate cake layer.  Instead of the yellow cake mix, I used chocolate cake mix.  Still pretty good, but I like the vanilla and cream cheese flavors to shine through instead.  The only thing I don’t like about using this recipe is that when people ask me about it, I’m ashamed to have cheated with cake mix.  But cheater baking is still baking, I suppose.  I’ll have to try the SK version again to do a proper comparison.  Try out a GBC this weekend!

I’ll be back soon to show off my loot from Convergence.  Today, I’m doing something I never thought I would do: knitting shoulder pads.  Stay tuned for my latest finished (if not totally sucessful) project.

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Stitch ‘n’ Pitch

Hi all,
A week ago, the Dodgers had their Stitch ‘n’ Pitch game.  I went with Lisa and her friends Sarah and Katie.  I had a great time!  Practically the only time I go to a baseball game is when it is related to knitting.  The Dodgers were playing the San Diego Padres.  And they won!  Sure, there was no awesome swag bag from Wildfiber this year, but that’s okay.  A few lucky people got the lesbian knitter bobblehead from ’10.  (You gotta see this thing.  So weird.  I’ll bring in a picture sometime.)  I got so excited for a picnic opportunity, that I went a little overboard.  I was packing more for the Hollywood Bowl than Dodger Stadium.  You know, with brie and crackers and fruit.  Sadly, no wine.  They always put us up in the cheap seats:

(We did move back a tiny bit to get some more room.  Man, are those seats tight!)

Here’s Lisa celebrating after the win. 😉

She got the memo about wearing Dodger blue.  After the game they did big fireworks.  I was expecting a few little bursts of fireworks off the score board or something.  Instead it was like Fourth of July fireworks!  Maybe 10 minutes of heavy duty fireworks.  They let people down onto the field too.  Maybe if we had known ahead of time we would have gone down there.  But the view was probably better from the top of the stadium.

I guess it’s only fair to post a giant picture of my head, since I just subjected Lisa to it:

Tons more people went down to the field after that.  That sweater you can barely see is my Boe.

Fireworks!

Not bad for an iPhone picture of fireworks.  Lucas loves to tilt-shift things, so here’s that same picture again, with the Lucas treatment:

Tomorrow I’m going down to Long Beach with Michele to check out Convergence, the Handweaver’s Guild of America’s annual conference.  We’re just going for the marketplace.  I hope I don’t buy a loom!  (Or maybe I secretly hope I do…)  See you there?

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Questionable color choices

I have recently been working on some multiple color projects that are on the edge of good taste.  There’s something about them that I like, but I have no idea if other people were going to think they were disgusting or not.  I rely a lot on my Culver City Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group to give me feedback.  I don’t feel like I can be trusted on my own!  Which leads me to my latest finished project:

My Ravelry Page

Pattern: Astrid by Joji Locatelli

Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted in American Beauty (pink) and Frank Ochre (yellow)

Needles: US8

Start Date: July 5, 2012

Finish Date: July 15, 2012

I am happy with how it turned out.  I ended up liking the color combination.  It felt a little Mexican to me.  Slightly garish, but hopefully not too much so.  I used the leftovers from Lucas’s Pennant Scarf.  I would approximate that I used 3/4 of a skein of each of the colors.  Probably a little more yellow than pink.  Yes, the scarf curls like crazy.  I suppose I knew that it would, going in to it.

I did most of the bobbles in a couple days.  During this time I watched a bunch of episodes of Girls on HBO Go and Cocoon.  I had never seen the original Cocoon.  Here’s something that is pretty trippy: Wilford Brimley was only 50 years old when he was in that movie!  What?!  For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about aging a lot lately.  And this is one of those facts that can really scare the bejeezus out of you.  Or maybe it should be encouraging that he’s looked the same for the last 30 years.

Baaack to the scarf.  The pattern has you knit all the bobbles first.  Then you pick up the stitches along the edge and work short rows to get a crescent shape.  I had a little bit of confusion at first about picking up the stitches.  I am used to picking up stitches in the garter ridges when picking up off a garter piece.  For this guy, in order to pick up the right amount of stitches, you need to either modify that, or pick up stitches as if it was off of a stockinette fabric.  Because you need to pick up 3 out of every 4 rows.  I picked up the stitches in the ladder between the edge stitch and the one next to it.  I guess like I would normally, but without letting the purl stitches confuse things.

The only modification I made, was to add an extra bobble on either end of the picot bind-off, so that there was one on each point.

 

I have also been swatching for my Ravellenic Games project.  I am going to knitting the Sparkle! Dress.  I have wanted to make it for a long time, and I bought some Knit Picks Telemark a couple years ago for it.  I have swatched and am ready.  Unless everyone thinks its a gross color combination.  Here’s my swatch:

Okay, so I don’t think it’s gross.  But it does maybe seem a little blah.  I kept describing it as “mealy” though I am not sure what I meant by that.  Like the “fjord heather” is the blue equivalent to mauve.  It is potentially nicer looking in the picture than in real life.  It would just be a shame to make a whole dress in a bland color combination.  But…  I did already buy the yarn just for it, which makes me want to continue using this yarn.

I joined the Knit Picks fan group for the Games.  It was kind of last minute, but it works out well because I’m using KP yarn.  I hope I’ll be able to get it done in time!  I’m clearing my knitting slate of projects so that I’ll be able to focus on it.  Are you knitting anything for the Ravellenic Games?

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Finishing up an ancient WIP

I started the Braided Cable Belt  from Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits, um, in January of 2009.  I just wanted a little quick something to make.  I used TLC Cotton Plus in Navy.  I decided to break up knitting a densely cabled cotton sweater with… knitting a densely cabled cotton belt.  Well.  It took a fair amount of time, but I finished all 27″ of it.  And then I knit all the closure pieces that were going to be appliqued on to the belt.  This took longer than I planned, but only about four months.  Easy peasy, I’ll just go out and get buckles for the belt.  This turned out to be much more difficult than I thought.  I checked out Mood Fabrics (“Thanks, Mood”) and F&S with no results.  Apparently it is hard to find buckles that are of the proper width and also have two different slots.  Since I need to sew the strap down through the buckle, no other style would work unless I completely rethought the closures.

Fast forward to three years later.  I had a Groupon to use at Mood, so I just loaded up on random buttons.  This time, they actually had little buckles.  I wasn’t sure if they were the right size, but I went for it.  And… they fit!  Well, mostly.  It was a bit of a squeeze.  I finally got them sewn on.  And here it is:

It kind of looks like two big sausage fingers there.  It also turns out, that I don’t have a huge need in my wardrobe for a high waisted (by necessity because of length) wide knit belt.  But I won’t say never.  It makes me feel good to get this out of the WIP basket and into my closet.  I even wore it on my 4th of July outfit:

Not the most sparkling photo.  I guess I should have gotten in there and lightened it up.  But the yarn is very dark and is probably most accurate in the second picture. Here’s its shared Rav page.

I don’t have a ton of older WIPs lying around.  A few things to frog.  And one I’m saving to post on the Your Ugliest FO thread on Ravelry.  Stayed tuned for that soon.

I’m working on a few plans for this blog.  Maybe some baking.  Maybe some more of the same.

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Two years!

Hi all,

I’ve been really wanting to get back to blogging.  I thought about starting a new blog, since Jill P. is kind of off the grid, and Jill&Jill isn’t really fitting anymore.  But, I thought maybe I’d make sure I can get this guy going again, before I start a whole other blog.  I won’t do a recap of the last two years, because lordy that would be a lot of stuff.  It’s fun looking back to see where I was at a few years ago.  I’ve been knitting non-stop and spinning a bit too.  I became a Jazzercise instructor last fall, and am teaching a couple times a week.  (If anyone is looking to try out a class in the Culver City/LA area, let me know!)  It’s still a little stressful for me, but I’m having a lot of fun.  I wish I could say that I was getting in better shape because of it, but as long as it’s not getting any worse, I won’t worry about it too much!

I have been dating someone for a little over a year.  We’re not quite to the point where I make him a sweater, but maybe soon.  And that’s not to imply that there’s almost a ring on my finger.  I’ve recently made a few items for him.  Last winter he told me that he wanted a scarf.  He came up with several frames of color ideas.  They were pretty elaborate.   Here’s one:

Those are four different color schemes.  And that is the third page of those he sent me!  I made him one scarf and hat based on a color pattern in one of the other pages.  I found a nice BFL roving from Capistrano Fiber Arts .  I had four 2oz braids, and I spun them together.  I wanted really long color repeats.  I then navajo plied them to get a 3-ply retaining the color sequence.  Here is the chunky yarn that I got:

I knit it up in the Yarn Harlot‘s One Row Handspun Scarf pattern.  The scarf turned out really nicely, and I had enough yarn to make a matching hat.

Shared Ravelry page for the scarf

So fast forward to last month.  I still had it in my head that I wanted to make him a Malabrigo scarf.  Before I spun that yarn, I bought a bunch of Malabrigo Worsted in one of his color schemes.  It is the second one from the top, of the ones above.  I used a simple pennant stitch pattern with seed stitch on the borders.  The colors are a little crazy:

The colors are in straight blocks, the angles of the rippling scarf make them look a little crooked.  He took some ones of him wearing them, but I need to get them off of my phone.  I got the scarf done just in time for the summer!  It was my anniversary gift to him.  Shared Rav page here.

He also helped watch my cats while I was out of town a couple weeks ago.  I made him a knit gun as a thank you.  It is a pattern that I’ve had for a while, and finally got around to making.  It’s Luvgun by Anna Hrachovec.

I used Knit Picks Palette in Brindle Heather, Pumice Heather, and red (can’t remember which).  I knit the pieces while I was in the Grand Canyon with my parents.  Then I hand-felted them a bit.  And sewed them together.  The mattress stitch was a bit annoying since the pieces were slightly felted!  The hearts I ended up whipstitching together instead of mattress stitch.  They looked better that way.  He laughed quite a bit when I gave it to him.  I thought he would like it, since he’s a KISS fan and somewhat fascinated by guns. He said it was the most ridiculous thing that he’d ever seen.

I’m not sure what will be next in store for him.  He was pretty into some vintage sweater patterns in a Spinnerin book from the 60’s.

Lucas is an animator and story board artist working in TV.  He’s currently working on a really awesome prospective campaign video for Obama.  If anyone knows someone that could help with financing or animation interns for it, let me know.  I can’t wait to share it with you when he gets farther along on it!  This is the video he made in 2008 for the last election.

I’m excited to get back to blogging.  I’ve got lots to talk about!  Be on the lookout for more!

Jill B.

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