Friday, February 15, 2013

Pizza perfection.....

To the average person this might just look like a pizza. Any old pizza. Well, maybe quite a tasty looking pizza but just a pizza none the less. To Neil this is the culmination of years of obsession. Years of scrutinizing, tasting and adjusting. He has been on a quest to produce the perfect pizza for a long time. First it was the flour (it's really gotta be 00), then it was the tomatoes (only san marzano will do), the cheese (buffalo mozzarella is best but fior di latte will be fine) then came a few more details such as the polenta flour sprinkled on the peel to stop the pizza from sticking and to give it just the tiniest touch of fine crumbled texture on the bottom of the crust. Oh yes the crust, it's got to be perfectly puffed with the right crispness to puffiness ratio. The base should be a bit floppy but not too floppy and the edge just ever so slighly air bubbled and charred. The obsession with dough is and I think always will be ongoing. He gets so excited every time he makes a batch and no matter what I'm doing at some point I'm always asked to drop it and "come and touch it"........"Please!" Of course all this has taken him years to fine-tune and perfect and he'll probably be mad that I've just gone and given away so many of his secrets in one fell swoop and he'll probably make me delete this post altogether (except for the photo, I know he'll want you to see that). Anyway, the one thing that has had him puzzled for so long is how to cook the pizzas and get them just "Napoli" right without a proper pizza oven. At one point he even suggested tampering with our new and expensive oven to disable the door lock mechanism and cook pizza's using the self-clean function. What!? err, no. Anyway, sufficed to say he's finally figured it out. Nailed it in fact. Here's how....With your pizza stone on the top shelf of the oven switch it on to grill (or broil if your North American, I can't use the word broil it sounds too weird) at the highest heat. Let the oven and the stone heat up for about 15 minutes, It's got to be stinking hot in there, slide your pizza from your peel onto the stone. Let it cook for just a few minutes, literally just 2 or 3, 4 tops, watching it like a hawk the entire time. Remove from the stone with the peel and voila.

He. Has. Now. Made. The. Perfect. Pizza. (I know because I ate it.)

My biggest knit-complishment.....

I knit these! Should that be knitted these? Probably. Either way it was little old me, who just a few months ago couldn't even knit a small square swatch (I could knit a very wonky triangle with lots of raggedy patches and holes that was supposed to be a small square swatch). I never would've dreamed I could knit something with a thumb! With double pointed needles no less! (This was my first project with DPN's.) I'm quite proud of me even if I do say so myself :)
It took me quite a long time to knit these mitts mainly because I made a few mess ups and had to rip out rows or start from scratch more times than I care to admit. Truth be told my first mitt was the one pictured with my mug cosy a few posts back but it barely resembles the pattern it's so "unique" and believe me, unique is not a good thing when it's one of a pair. I knit that one mitt and then before starting it's matching mitt decided that I wanted to knit a pair for my good friend Sarah's birthday. I went to the yarn shop and chose this beautiful hand dyed Yarn by Sweet Georgia in Vancouver. The colour is Pomegranate and I knew it would be perfect for Sarah's mitts. The fingerless mitt pattern is by Jane Richmond and I absolutely love it along with every single other pattern that comes out of that lovely lady's brain! Jane Richmond is my knitting icon. I know I haven't been around a heck of a lot of knitwear designers but so far I haven't found another designer who gets it all oh so perfectly right as Jane does. To top it all off Jane is from Vancouver Island and this particular pattern is called Rathtrevor. It's named after a stunning provincial park on the east coast of the island. It's a special place for me, the morning of the first day I ever set foot in Tofino, I woke up in Rathtrevor. We'd been travelling all day and after a late ferry decided we wouldn't make it all the way to Tofino that night. We pulled into the campsite in Rathtrevor in pitch black without a clue where we were. We were ratty and exhausted. We parked up and set up camp with only a flashlight lighting up our very immediate surroundings then fell into bed. The next morning, which  happened to be Neil's birthday, as if by magic we woke up in paradise. In a sun dappled glade of tall trees with deer softly wandering by we followed a little path from our campsite through the trees and out onto a huge and empty stretch of beautiful beach. Rathtrevor is lovely and so are these mitts.

I decided to buy Jane's new book Island, partly beacuase I love all the patterns but also because I love Vancouver Island and the book is full of beautiful photos perfectly capturing that calm and soul soothing essence of the Island. The photography is by Jane's talented brother Nicholas Kupiak. I just love the book, it even feels good, the cover is soft like moleskin. It's a work of art and I don't think there's another book of knitting patterns quite like it. 

Anyway, I finished the mitts on a Thursday and it was Sarah's birthday on the Saturday so I literally wore them for 5 minutes while Neil snapped some photos for me then had to wrap them up and send them on their way to their new home. I was a little sad to see them go but on the other hand it's a really lovely feeling to be able to actually make something for someone special. I can't wait to knit myself a pair or at least finish my slightly unique pair I've already started. Then it'll be onto the next pattern from Island.  I'll keep you posted! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sunday strolling

I haven't been very good at taking my camera out with me lately. I blame it all on instagram, it makes it all too easy to leave my real camera at home and just whip my phone out when I want to get a photo.
Well yesterday was a beautiful day, sparkling sunshine and warm enough to go mitt free so I made the effort to lug my lump of a camera out for our afternoon stroll. We decided to walk the loop along the river near the centre of town. It's a lovely short walk that takes you right by the rivers edge and over the old railway bridges. The river is crystal clear and the most beautiful bright turquoise blue. We strolled and chatted and sipped our huge americano's in our newly knit-covered mason jar cups. The kids ran about like maniacs and collected pine cones.  It was a very nice way to spend our sunday afternoon.

Neil was having some kind of northern bush pilot fantasy that day and decided to wear his  aviator shades and his work standard issue beaver fur hat. He's owned this hat for more than six years and I'm pretty sure this was the first time I've ever seen him wear it. Even through all those -40 winters. I'm not quite sure what prompted it but the trend seemed to take hold and Seb insisted on wearing his (non-beaver) version to match.  It's lucky he did because I'm not sure Neil could really pull that look off without Seb notching up the cuteness factor :)

The view from the railway photo trickery I promise.....the water in the Bow River really is that colour.

Oh how I love my mason jar cups with their little knitted cosies. There really isn't a nicer travel mug in the world. 

So there you have it, a few real photos from our sunny sunday. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Baby bibs two ways....

To go along with the wee little baby hats I made for Zoe I decided I'd have a go at making some bibs. I figured bibs don't look complicated......I'm pretty sure I could do that. So, I did :)
I chose a really pretty fabric, I picked this lovely colourful scalloped cotton because I thought it was pretty without being too girly and because it's nice to have things that are gorgeous and stylish and not necessarily covered in cartoonish figures or overly babyish patterns. Make the most of this control while you have it Mum's, once that kid turns three she'll start demanding "Dora the explorer" or "Disney Princesses" to be plastered over everything!
For the backing fabric I used an Ikea tea towel (brand new I assure you). I happened to have a few that I bought a while back with the intention of trying out some more home printing. They're really inexpensive, 100% cotton, soft and absorbent making them perfect bib making fabric! For bib number one, lets call it the classic, I traced the outline of a bib I already owned onto my two layers of fabric, cut around my traced lines and sewed all around the edges (right sides together.) I left about an inch and half gap for turning the bib right sides out then pressed it all flat and topstitched around all the edges again, thus closing my little gap. For the neck closure I decided I wanted snaps, I remember getting quite frustrated with my babies pulling off velcro bibs whenever they felt like it. I sent Neil out to our cute local quilting shop with instructions to buy me snaps and a snap setter and he delivered! Once we'd figured out which bit of the snap fitted where and hammered them all together we had our first completed bib! Not too shabby even if I do say so myself. 

For bib number two I wanted to try and make one of those bandana style bibs. I think they're more for catching dribble than anything and as they don't look quite so... errr...bibby for want of a better word. You can get away with your Bubba wearing it all day, kind of like a stylish little dribble catching accessory. For this one I used my existing bib as a guide for tracing the neck size then just pretty much made up the rest. Looks alright wouldn't you say?

I'm really pleased with my first foray into bib making and am so happy that Zoe's little parcel is finally ready to send. I'm quite sure that she's going to be the most stylish girl on the block!

Saturday, February 02, 2013

To go please!

I love it I love it I love!
My new travel mug or at home mug......heck my all the time mug! It's a canning jar (with which I already have a fascination and a cupboard full of all the different sizes) with the crazily simple addition of a Cuppow lid it magically becomes a take anywhere, spill free, environmentally friendly, cheapo and quite perfectly lovely to-go cup. It's just right for juices and smoothies and cold drinks and also hot as hell drinks too now that I have knitted it's very own little wooly sweater.
Here's a closer look at that Cuppow. It's very duarable, BPA and phthalate free, easily washable and recycleable to boot! Genius I tell you.

And if you're super stylin' like me......... you knit yourself some fingerless mitts to match. Hurrah!


Carnival time......

Yesterday was the first day of the Canmore Winter Carnival. We're in for a couple of weeks worth of cool wintery events including kid and mutt races, log sawing, ice carving, snow sculpting, curling on the pond, I even heard some whisper of maple syrup snow taffy making which sounds like an event I absolutely must attend! 
Well it all kicked off yesterday with the lantern parade. Poor Neil missed out as he was working but the kids and I headed into town to check it out. Now I'm going to apologize for my photos, it was quite a task to get pictures and keep track of my kiddies in the bustling crowd not to mention eat the free pizza, cookies and drink the free hot chocolate. I could hardly say no could I?
 The event kicked off in the civic centre plaza, thats the civic centre in the photo up top. It's quite a lovely building right in the centre of town. Once again there were fire pits dotted about here and there, such a lovely touch for this sort of event, although it was actually a warm evening and I even survived the whole thing without wearing mitts! The crowd were all very jolly and the array of colourful knitted hats was enough to make anyone smile! 

As the crowd started to gather, a really cool drum group started to play. They had a didgeridoo  and a guy shouting and chanting and encouraging the crowd to join in. Then a lady came out dressed in hot pants and a skimpy top and just as I was beginning to wonder what would happen next she set fire to her hula hoop and started to do this amazing firey hula dance to the sound of the drums and chanting. It was quite dramatic and very carnivalesque that's for sure!

The lanterns were lovely. There were big ones and small ones, some were on gnarly old sticks and some were on old ski poles. I saw a beautiful deer head lantern but sadly didn't manage to get pic (must've had my hands full of free nosh). My favourite was this huge totem lantern....

When everyone was suitabley riled up we set off on our parade. Following the lead of one of the volunteers we headed off on a half hour loop around Canmore. First we headed up towards the pond where we stopped just in time to see some big fireworks blast off. We were pretty close to them and Seb was totally mind blown! He loved it!

There must have been a couple of hundred people in the parade and most of them had some sort of lantern. We were led around our loop by the marching band from Banff high school. It seemed to be mostly big drums and made the whole thing very atmospheric and enlivening. Seb and Bel were bopping away for most of the walk :) My favorite part was walking the trail through the trees along the creek. It was so cool to be walking only by the light of our lanterns with the stars twinkling through the tree tops above. We looped through town and eventually arrived back at the civic centre for a bit more fire hula and drumming.

We finished up the evening by snaffling our free cookies by the fire pit before heading home thoroughly satisfied by our evening of community togetherness and carnival fun.

My little fairy is nearly four!

I'm pretty sure I say this every birthday but seriously, this one has snuck up on me! How the heck can this little teeny tiny girl be on the verge of turning four! She still wears a lot of clothes for two year old's and come on, she barely looks three! I wuv her L's that sound wike w's, her squeeky, chipmunk voice. I even want her to keep sucking her thumb because when she does she looks so absolutely adorably cute! I just want to keep her like this for a bit longer my precious widdle bubba with the most special of hearts. 
She is my sunshine.

Hat's for Zoe

A week ago another little Ralston joined the family. Far, far away in Perth, Australia our little niece Zoe was born :) Would you believe that Neil's brother and his lovely wife now have three kiddies under the age of 3! They are going to have their work cut out for them but holy moly there's going to be some fun happenings in that house! Triple the joy that's for sure! Anyhoo, I really wanted to make a little something for Zoe now that I have discovered my crafty thumb. I got this idea in my head that I wanted to sew some sweet little knotted baby hats and at first tried to wing it. If you follow my instagram feed you'll have seen my first two attempts. They weren't complete failures but neither were they really good enough to give as a gift to perfect little newborn. Eventually I went searching for a pattern to follow and ended up finding the exact design I had pictured over at Zaaberry. The pattern was so easy to follow and I whipped up three pretty little hats in no time. For a wee bit of extra fun I carved the end of a carrot (yes, I seem to have a thing about using veggies for printing) and added a few little heart stamps to one of the hat's........Da Daaaaa! A perfect little handmade gift for a perfect little baby......