Category Archives: Projects

Gingerbread Jam

Yes, you read it right, gingerbread jam. I love gingerbread and I figured that had to be some way to take the flavors of a nice warm gingerbread cake and make it into a jam. I challenged SB Canning over on Facebook and we both have come up with out own versions.

Today was the perfect day to make this jam since it really feels like autumn outside. It was gray and drizzly and just plain old damp. The kind of weather that makes you happy you are a knitter!

I will preface this with this is not a tested recipe but I based it on one that I trust. If you have not canned before or it has been awhile since you canned, I would suggest you check out the up to date information offered by the National Center for Home Food Preservation has to offer.

And a note about the molasses I used. Unless you use molasses on a regular basis, you may not realize that there are two different types. There is the milder unsulphured mollasses and the blackstrap molasses. The blackstrap molasses has a much stronger flavor. I have always used Grandma’s Original Molasses which is the gold label one. There is a difference in the age of the sugar cane from which the molasses is made which accounts for the difference in the two types. When you are cooking, please stick to the lighter molasses. Blackstrap molasses is really dark and thick like tar. The flavor is really strong and a tiny bit will go quite a long way. With the regular molasses, the flavor is sweeter and lacking the bitter taste of the blackstrap. You will ruin your recipe if you use blackstrap. If the recipe calls for blackstrap molasses (like my mother’s baked bean recipe), you are normally only using a tablespoon or two. So please make sure you are using the regular molasses. And you will find it in the grocery store normally where you will find the syrups. Some people use it on their pancakes and waffles.

Gingerbread Jam

roughly 4 pounds of apples (I used 4 Granhy Smiths, 3 Ginger Golds, & 1 Honey Crisp)

Wash and quarter the apples.Do not peel the apples because you want the natural pectin in the peels! Cut out the cores. Use your food processor and shred the apples in batches. Ad the food proceeder bowl fills, dump the shredded apples into a large Dutch oven.(I use my Le Crueset one.) As you add the shredded apples, toss them with about 1 cup of apple cider and 1/2 cup of bottled lemon juice. And do not worry if it seems like you are over filling the pan. The apple shreds will cook down.

Add 4 to 5 ginger coins at this point and 2 cinnamon sticks. You do not need to peel the ginger. I cut about a 3 inch piece of ginger and than sliced it lengthwise.

You can see that I put the chuck of apple peel that always get stuck in the food processer in as well

Cover the shredded apples and cook over medium heat until they start to cook down. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. I found it took about 30 minutes over medium heat on my stove. The apples will release a lot of juice and you really do want them to start to dissolve and cook down.

After the apples have started to cook down, start adding the sweeteners. I added a total of 1 cup of molasses in 1/2 cup increments. I allowed the mixture to come back to a simmer before the second half cup.

Add the spices –
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (use 1/4 teaspoon if using ground nutmeg)

I combined all of my spices and added them at once.
Between each addition, bring the mixture back up to a simmer.

I adding another 3/4 of a cup of white sugar after the spices. Check your apples for sweetness after adding the molasses. By using the Granny Smiths, I knew my apples would need a bit more sugar. I wanted the jam sweet but with a touch of tartness to it. I would not add more than 1 cup of sugar total.

Cook the apple mixture down until it is jammy. Or you can either use an immersion blender or transfer half of the mixture to a blend and puree it until it kind of looks like applesauce. Make sure you pick out any ginger slices and the cinnamon sticks. Bring the mixture back up to a simmer again. Taste test it to make sure you like the flavor and adjust any spices if needed.

While waiting for the mixture to come back to a simmer, mince about 1/2 cup of crystalized ginger.

This will give you an idea of what the final jam looks like colorwise. It should look like gingerbread

Once the mixture is back to a simmer, pull it off the heat and stir in the minced crystalized ginger. Follow standard canning procedures and fill your jars with the hot mixture. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes and allow to cool. I ended up with 10 8 ounce jars total.

And I have been knitting! I started the toe of a sock September 30 so I would be ready for the beginning of Socktoberfest. I am already past the heel and up on the leg of the sock. I knit this one from the outside of the wound ball. Once I have the leg about 2 inches tall, I plan to start the second sock pulling from the center. This way I will hopefully have a better chance of the stripes being similar!


Filed under knitting, Projects, Recipes, Socks

Tempting Yarns

Here are a few more of my recent hand spun yarns. The first one is a wonderful soft pink called Be Mine. The roving was a blend merino/seawool from Creatively Dyed. This is the yarn I was spinning when I had a little problem with my wheel. Well actually the end of the bobbin popped off for some reason. My local Schacht dealer called Schacht and replaced my bobbin. She not only replaced the bobbin but rewound the singles onto the new bobbin with a loss of less than two yards!!!

Pink handspun fingering weight

Pink handspun fingering weight

The glue that holds the bobbin together didn’t hold for some reason. Schacht said that it should have never made it out the door. It is rare for them to have a problem but it was promptly corrected. And my dealer went above and beyond by making sure my singles were saved. Yes, I could have saved money by buying my wheel from an online place, but I would not have had this customer service.

One of the first things I learned about buying roving to spin is that I like to buy at least 8 ounces or more.I bought 12 ounces of a roving called Candleberry right before Christmas and spun it up. It was my first attempt at trying to aim for fingering weight. The first 4 ounces ended up around a DK weight but I was shooting for a fingering weight. It is living with the wonderful Jess aka Bunnysquirrel now. It keeps whispering to her that it wants to be mittens. I ended up taking the remaining 8 ounces and spun them up and ended up with more of a sport weight. I have lots of this yarn now. The colors are lovely and the yarn has not been whispering to me yet.

A DK weight handspun

A DK weight handspun

I am currently spinning a lovely dark pink merino that I bought from Roxanne of Zen Yarn Garden. This yarn will definitely be fingering weight. I am thinking of trying to find a lighter shade of pink to spin up and use it to make this a three ply yarn. But it will be lovely as a two ply. And the colors as they spin up are reminding me of old roses so it is called Winter Roses. (I still have to spin the second half of this roving. I am still working on the first bobbin. It was a large bump of roving.)

Still spinning this one

Still spinning this one

And in actual knitting, I have finally broken down and started a sweater for myself. I still haven’t finished my nephew’s sweater but I want to start mine. I had bought yarn at Stitches East from Nanny Kennedy of Seacolors for a February Lady Sweater. But instead the yarn is becoming Acer. I will be ordering more of this yarn to make the February Lady Sweater and to have some sweater yarn in my stash soon.

And there may a pair of fingerless mitts on the needles as well. Stash yarn needs to be used up too.


Filed under Projects, spinning

Spin and Knit

It seems that all I have been doing lately is spinning. But I have also been doing some knitting. I actually knit up another Urchin out of my own hand spun. I started it last Thursday and seamed it up Saturday afternoon at my stitch group. It is drying right now and I have to decide if I am going to keep it or give it away. It is really cute though.

Purple Urchin drying

Purple Urchin drying

Spinning seems to lend itself to doing things like laundry and cleaning. You throw a load of laundry into the washer and you have a a decent amount of time to sit and spin. I hate cleaning so I have set up a reward program with myself. If I clean for 30 minutes, I reward myself with 15 minutes of reading, knitting, or spinning. I have to set the kitchen timer so that I don’t forget to return to cleaning. I did not step foot into my sewing/studio room though. For some reason, that is the coldest room in the house. But I am going to have to brave it so I can finish finally cleaning it up..And I need thread to hand sew some bindings on quilts that are almost finished here in the next night or two. The temperatures are going to finally feel like winter. And when it is cold that is when I like to be under a warm quilt sewing the binding on. And in an old house with old windows, quilts are necessary. The storm windows do help but only to a point.

Alpaca/merino blend not as red as it appears

Alpaca/merino blend not as red as it appears

So what did I manage to spin Sunday? Plenty. I spun some bulky weight Finn yarn. I had purchased this roving at MDS&W last year but never realized it was slightly felted. I borrowed some hand carders and carded it. I spun the two colors that I had and plied them together to get a yarn that reminds me of the pale blue and green waters of the Caribbean in the shallows. Of course, I was watching Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. I also spun up a wonderful alpaca/merino roving from Zen Yarn Garden. The color reminded me of a dark chocolate. And I spun it while watching one of my favorite movies Chocolat. I love how DVDs have bonus materials because it gives me more time to spin.

Bulky yarn that looks like ocean water

Bulky yarn that looks like ocean water

I haven’t decided if I am going to keep all of my handspun yet. Some of it may be finding homes around the globe. After all know that I am addicted, I need to spread the disease.

And could some one please tell the snow gods that Maryland needs some snow? I don’t mind the cold so long as there is some snow to go with it. I am off to a new to me local stitch group tonight at the co-op. And Saturday, weather permitting, I am going to a spin-in on the eastern shore. And yet another spin-in next weekend. Now to go and figure out what I can take with me to the new stitch group tonight. Socks or fingerless gloves … or both?


Filed under Projects, spinning

Pink & Purple

I have been forced to step back from my wheel for a few days. I had a little issues with a bobbin that means I can’t ply the yarn I had on it. The problem is being fixed and the yarn hopefully saved by the wheel dealer. Yes, she is that nice. But as a result, I have been forced to return to my knitting needles.

But what I did manage to ply before my bobbin issue turned out lovelier than I had thought it would. I have been striving to work for an even consistent yarn. And since my wheel seems to lend itself to fine yarns, I figured that I would aim for fingering weight. I do like to knit socks after all. I may have reached that making usable sock yarn!!!!

And I am in pink mode. After viewing some roving from Creatively Dyed that Kate had at a spin in last month, I bought some from the Loopy Ewe. I bought two different colorway but decided to try Be Mine First. It is a lovely pink. The seawool gives it some white where it doesn’t take the dyes the same as the wool. And it is resulting in a lovely pink yarn. I can’t wait to get my bobbin back tomorrow so I can finish plying the rest of the singles.

A small skin of lovely pink fingering weight

A small skin of lovely pink fingering weight

And when I went to the Mannings last Friday, I bought some hot pink merino/silk roving to try. Okay they called it fuchsia but it is really hot pink. The roving was packaged up in 2 ounce bags and I bought 3. I figured that I could practice with them 2 ounces at a time. Well, there is almost 6 ounces on one bobbin. I almost bought some black alpaca to ply with this hot pink. But I stopped myself. I remembered that I know some one who raises alpacas right up the road from me.

Tomorrow I am going to my new “crack” dealer. Okay crack really should be alpaca. I am even thinking of buying an alpaca fleece from her from the spring shearing. I haven’t even spun alpaca on it’s own yet and I am thinking of buying a fleece!!! But I can go right up the road and up the hill and visit with the alpacas too.

And I am knitting with my handspun too. I had to go to the dentist yesterday and decided to knit another Urchin hat out of handspun. I knit one for my niece for Christmas and since the colors of the handspun are purples, I am thinking that this one may end up in her hands too. Once you understand this pattern, it goes really fast. I took it with me to fiber guild last night was almost finished it. I just need to graft the live stitches together tonight. I think there may another one of these on the needles again in the near future.

Urchin out my own handspun

Urchin out my own handspun

And I am thinking that it is time to finish up some socks that are on the needles. My feet are getting cold. The one good thing about the new brace is that my left ankle stays nice and warm.


Filed under Projects, spinning

Cold Out

Tiny mushrooms

Tiny mushrooms

I woke up this morning to discover that the temperature at 7 am was 28 degrees F. I do not want to even convert it to celsius since it will be even colder. (Okay -2 isn’t that bad.) There was a heavy frost on the grass but I didn’t pull out the camera to photograph it. I want to be in denial that winter is coming fast. I like fall. The colors by Mother Nature are fantastic and the temperature is generally nice. I like it when the evenings are cool enough that you want to pull a quilt over your lap while you read or watch tv.

I actually have been working on sewing on bindings on quilts this weekend. The one I started Friday evening is almost done. I have one short side left to hand sew and it should be done tonight. I did not pick the small ones that need binding sewn on instead I went for the bigger ones. I want to reduce the pile of larger quilts since they are nice to snuggle under when the weather gets cold. The that I am hoping to finish tonight is a gift for a friend and I would like to get it in the mail before the end of the week since it has a long trip to its new home. I have one other larger one that is also a gift that may be the next one up for finishing but I will decide that when I look at the pile.

I received 3 boxes of yarn on Friday from P but I failed to take photos of them. She has started tackling cleaning out her yarn closet. I took all of the cotton yarns and put them into one rather large box for my SIL. She doesn’t knit or crochet wool. There were a few skeins of wool in the box though. My niece is a yarn snob. I deny any and all knowledge of how she became a yarn snob. But if I feed her stash every once and awhile, she doesn’t ask for yarn out of my stash. A second box ended up at my knit group meeting Saturday afternoon. Everyone loved going through the box. A very small box was filled with yarn that for for me. Mostly hand spuns and some yarn that I have been wanting to try. Two skeins of the new yarn are already used up. Well almost used up. I cast on for another cowl using The Fibre Company’s Terra yarn and the cowl is almost finished. This is a yarn that I have been wanting to try but I can’t find it locally. I like the yarn and may end up with more if it in my stash soon. This cowl will be a gift for a friend. I would send it back to P but she is allergic to alpaca and the yarn has alpaca in it. I have yarn for another cowl lined up already from the small amount that I kept. There will be photos as soon as everything is finished.

The leaves are cascading down the rocks

The leaves are cascading down the rocks


Filed under eye candy, knitting, photography, Projects

Call for Help

Okay, I have been silent this past week and for a good reason. My mother has a history of pneumonia and two weeks ago yesterday she went down to the Naval Hospital at Bethesda because she didn’t feel good. The x-rays showed pneumonia in the early stages but they went ahead and admitted her to get her on IV antibiotics. This is the standard procedure for her because of her history. But the next day, she started having problems with her vision. Now she is still getting used to trifocals but they sent her down to opthalmology clinic to have her eyes tested.

The doctor on duty found nothing out of the norm but wanted to do a brain scan just to rule out any problems with the optic nerves. The scan revealed lesions on my mom’s brain. Lesions on the brain sound worse than they are. Basically a lesion is anything that damages tissue. One thing about military hospitals, and Bethesda in particular, is that they are not afraid to run tests to find out what is wrong.

The National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda is a teaching hospital. The military medical school is located on the campus and NIH is right across the street from the hospital. So there was a team put together for my mom which consisted of medical students, residents, and doctors from both NIH and Bethesda. They decided that there was a spot where they could easily get in and obtain a sample for a biopsy. Last Thursday, she went in for what was supposed to be a simple biopsy operation and turned out to be almost a five hour long operation. Once they cut her skull, the surgeons saw that it was a tumor and they decided to get as much of it out as they could. The pathology reports do indicate that it was cancerous but the team feels that they got most of it out. None of the scans show that the cancer has spread so her team is very optimistic about getting it all cleaned up with chemo and radiation.

While she was in the hospital, I spent some time talking to the corpsmen on the oncology ward. And of course, while I was talking to them, I found out that this ward and the surgical ward never see any hand knitted hats for chemo patients and other patients who might need them. The surgical ward is right next door to the oncology ward and this is where many of the wounded from the war zones come to for care.

When a soldier is wounded in the field and treated at a field hospital prior to being transported to either Walter Reed or Bethesda, they are basically stripped of all clothing and placed into hospital gowns. It can take a bit of time before clothing catches up to the solders. Many of the soldiers who arrive at Bethesda are those in need of neurological care as a result of bomb blasts. Those needing orthopedic care tend to go to Walter Reed.

I said that I would be knit hats and make some small toys such as the Purl frog for the wards. If I can force myself to sit at the sewing machine long enough, I might even get some small lap quilts done. I told Cindy (the corpsman) that I would mention this on my blog and hopefully the knitting community would help. If you want to knit something, the only requirements are that it be soft. Chemo patients get very cold and softness matters.

Many of those who come in with neurology problems end up having surgery so their heads are shaved in the process. A small item placed in a patient’s hand who is unconscious can make a difference. There are signs and banners all over the hospital that have been signed by all sorts of businesses but they are just signs on a wall. A small item that a patient can keep that was made by hand can actually help their psychological healing by showing that some one cares. They may never know your name but they will know that some one cared enough to make a hand made item for them.

I would like to encourage anyone who want to make some thing to let me know. My mother will be going down to the hospital on regular basis for chemo and radiation starting in the next few weeks. Plus she is down there on a regular basis for doctors’ appointments. She said that she would deliver anything that is made. I will probably be going down with her sometimes to give my dad a break with the driving since it is a 40 mile one way trip. Right now I am working on a few more hats for my mother but I will be knitting hats for the ward after hers are done. (She now has 4 hand knit hats and I have 3 more on the needles.) So if you want to knit or make something, please either leave a comment or send me an email and I can send you my mailing address. And please pass the word on to any knitting groups you may belong to as well. My LYS is going to be posting a sign and will be encouraging people to make items for the wards as well. And as to what to make, you could make hats, mittens, scarves, prayer shawls, soft toys or what ever you think would give comfort.

And my mother is feeling fine right now. She got out of the hospital last Saturday and went out to the mall and bought herself an iPod. She has been out shopping for clothes and is right now on her way to oil painting class. There will be bad days ahead but right now she is living life to the fullest she can. And I do have a picture of her new scar but I won’t post it here. But I will post photos of two of the new hats. They are both the same pattern one in alpaca and the other is in a handspun by P of Knit Buddies. The other two hand knit hats she is wearing right now are one that was knit by Jodi of A Caffeinated Yarn and one she just got today from P in today’s mail. My mom was on her way out to lunch with a friend but she had her friend detour so she could pick up the hat which she promptly decided to wear today.



Filed under Misc, Projects

Quilt Wednesday

Today will be about quilting. And the reason is that this coming Friday and Saturday I am taking classes with a British quilter named Barbara Barber. This lady is the queen of starch. If you click over to her website make sure you read about how she likes her fabric starched for classes. Am I starching my fabrics? Let’s just say that I have been one to play by the rules. So my background fabrics will be starched but that is it. I spend yesterday evening spraying starch on a piece of fabric, waiting for it to dry, and ironing it. And repeating the process for a grand total of six times. I knitted while waiting for the starch to dry. I can think of better ways to spend my time but that is just me.

But I have new quilting fabric to show off. Jodi from A Caffeinated Yarn recently last week sent me a wonderful present of some Heather Bailey Fresh Cut fabrics. She was a super nice friend and sent me half-yard cuts of the entire collection!!! I can not find the fabric in my local shops. I waiting to find the perfect design for the fabrics.


I also managed to pick up over the weekend a copy of Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. I had looked for the book at my local quilt shops and even Borders before finally breaking down and calling my local Barnes & Noble. Borders told me the book was even in print yet. And yet Barnes & Noble had it. I really like this book. There are several projects in there that I see myself making.


I really like the little birds on the front cover. I can see myself making a few of them and stuffing them with something extra for some one’s cats to play with. I also love the pincushions in there. They will be great way to use up scraps. I tend to keep even the tiniest scraps. I used to do log cabin quilts using 3/4 inch strips. I really love the washed silk quilt in the book. I can see making that for myself at some point.

And to give my hands a break from my size 0s, I started not one but two Clapotis. I really like this pattern obviously. These are actually Clapotis four and five for me. The first one is being done in Lion & Lamb in the Bittersweet color way. For some reason, I only have three skeins of the yarn so I am making the shawl a bit narrower and will sacrifice a little bit of the length, Clapotis number five will be wider and longer than the pattern calls for. I am doing it in Cherry Tree Hill‘s silk/merino DK weight. The color way is Dusk and I have four skeins of this yarn. And the yardage per skein is 313 yards each so I can make it wider even though it is a totally different gauge.


Now playing: Leahy – The Coulin
via FoxyTunes


Filed under Projects, quilt