Thursday, 8 May 2014

Give me Thin Mints, or Give Me Something Like Thin Mints

I've been in the UK for nearly five years now, (six if you count that eye-wideningly educational year in university), and I'm not sure why the urge for Girl Scout cookies is only hitting me hard now. It might be because that I've found myself wanting things I can't have (Of COURSE I love Tootsie Rolls. I've always loved Tootsie Rolls. I'm going to buy some Tootsie Rolls. Why the hell did I say I liked Tootsie Rolls?).  It might be because Facebook is inundating me with posts about my American friends kidnapping girl scouts for their biscuit haul.* I'm not sure.

But to come down to it, I was feeling jealous, so I thought I'd try to make some of my own.

*Possibly slight exaggeration. 

NOT THIN MINTS
(adapted from King Arthur Flour's Chocolate Peppermint Snaps Recipe)

Oops...forgot to take photos until this was the only one left...



Dough
  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 110g brown sugar
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 180g plain flour
  • 20g cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Chocolate Coating
600g approx 50% Chocolate
40g unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160° for a fan oven). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat butter and sugar. Add egg, beating well to combine. Add vanilla and peppermint and beat in.
Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Sample dough and eat way too much of it before deciding whether or not you want to add any more peppermint extract. I added about another 1/2 teaspoon.
Drop cookie dough by generous teaspoonful onto baking sheet, allowing 1-2" between cookies. Bake for 12-13 minutes and transfer to rack to cool. Cookies should be crisp when done.
When cookies are cool, melt chocolate and butter in microwave and stir to combine. Use a spoon to coat the bottom of each cookie and place on parchment paper. Use spoon to coat each top and allow to harden at room temperature.
Store in fridge in airtight container.

...except this one that managed to mysteriously escape my plate and lodge itself to the kickboard beneath the kitchen sink. So I promise that the chocolate will set!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Amish bread rolls

I'm posting this here because I am obsessed with this recipe and having to re-calculate into grams every time is driving me crazy. My family loves these things. Four of us sat down and easily ate one entire batch in one go. I could have made two and we'd still have made a sizable dent. Probably not great for your waistline, but a very good way to make friends.

Amish Bread Rolls (slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
510g Strong White Flour
71g sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
85g butter
About 200g potato, mashed (about one medium-large potato)
170ml water (leftover from boiling potatoes, if possible)

Combine ingredients in bowl of bread machine and set to dough cycle, checking after 10 minutes to adjust consistency for a soft, smooth ball. Complete cycle and let rest for approx 30 minutes, or until doubled.

Divide dough into 15 equal pieces and place in greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Cover and let rise for 2 hours, pre-heating the oven to 180*C/160-ish fan toward the end of rising time.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, take out of oven and brush with butter, if desired (I don't think they need it).


Sunday, 26 January 2014

Welcome, Fyberspates Blog Tourists!

Hello there, and welcome to the next stop on the Fyberspates Blog Tour. How's your trip been so far? Good? Good.


My name is Ashley, and, well, I do the numbers*. Right now, I'm trying to think of a way I can "sex up" my days spent on Excel and Word, typing in stitch counts and measurements and formulae and watching my cat groom herself, but I'm failing. Just be assured that I'm the one there poking the designers, prodding the words, and making sure every pattern in our collection is as clear and error free as possible (and our wonderful designers make this a pretty easy task!).

Behind the scenes. My spreadsheet anecdotes can go on for days.

Right. So, that done, how about I talk about Lyme Regis instead?


Jeni rocking the Rock Lea Scarf. Photograph (C) 2014 Jesse Wild
How beautiful is Lyme Regis? Jeni (Queen of Fyberspates) and I are both lucky to live in a stunning little part of England where photo opportunities abound, but when Jen AC mentioned that we were going to be heading down to the south coast (a place I'd never been - and, to my American, west-coast-east-coast-oriented mind, still sounded impossible. Never mind, you know, the Gulf Coast) to photograph the collection, I may have gotten a little excited.**

Lerryn Mittens (Photograph (C) 2014 Jesse Wild)
After spending a very cozy night at the kind AC house with Jen's cat as a neck-scarf, Nic (our fearless layout magician) bundled me, our photographer, one lovely model, the samples, and a lot of photographic equipment in her van. Hours later, having successfully staved off car-sickness on the windy Dorset roads, we finally made it...to the sea.

It was my first proper English seaside trip, so I got to do all of the things that the usual English seaside visitor gets to do in February: buy and eat too many chips from the only open chippy on the beach. Try to not get attacked by seagulls.Huddle in a beach hut or do star jumps and try to keep myself warm.


Kenwyn Hat and Cowl (Photograph (C) 2014 Jesse Wild)
But I'm usually on the technical side of things, so getting to see the photoshoot take place, keep our photographer's special photography umbrella-y thing from flying away in the seaside gales, and watch our lovely models work their magic was quite a treat. I also got to spend a lot of quality time with our samples, and wishing I was wearing all of them at once.

Larigan was starting to look pret-ty cozy. (Photograph (C) 2014 Jesse Wild)

Now if you'll pardon me, I'll go back to my word processor and Excel document and point you in the direction of the next stops on our Blog Tour. Take care!

*I'm the technical editor for the Fyberspates Collection Book 3!
** Estatic that I was getting the opportunity to work outside the house. Also a little terrified of having the opportunity to work outside the house.


Fyberspates Collection 3 is now available.

Price:   (print and digital) £12.00, $26

Distributors:

Fyberspates ltd

Ravelry download

Retailers: The Scrumptious yarn and pattern range is widely available from shops and online retailers around the world. For an up-to-date list of where to find our products, please click through to: www.tinyurl.com/fyberspatesretailers


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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Chicken Dreams

I live in an odd place, a sort of honey-colored dreamworld that I'm not always keen on leaving. If you asked me ten years ago if I thought I would end up in the Cotswolds, I would have said "What's the Cotswolds?" and then carried on worrying about where I was going to go for college.

2013 was a good year in the Wonk household. My husband landed his dream teaching job and is well on his way to becoming the Best Teacher Ever (if  his Christmas gifts from students are to be believed). I wrote a new book and landed my dream agent (hi, Molly!), and am so excited to see where my career is going to take me. I went to New Zealand. I became a UK citizen. We got chickens, sort of.

They're actually my landlords', but Dora's destroyed my flowerbeds, so I think I get some claim..
Where will 2014 lead? Who knows! Hopefully wonderful places. Hopefully to more chickens, and more books, and a garden that doesn't get overrun in cabbage worm (RIP cauliflower). It's had an excellent foundation.

Bye, 2013. It's been real.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Free Pattern! On Rice Mitts

For my birthday, I'm giving you a gift.




On Rice.

Please pass it on and consider donating what you would pay to support Typhoon Haiyan disaster relief, instead. Thank you!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Becoming British


Celebratory Bunting

Tomorrow afternoon I will become a British citizen.

It's been a long road here, full of lots of fretting, stress, worry, and throwing money at the UKBA, hoping it would stick. But I'm here now, and after tomorrow, I am so, so thankful I will (fingers crossed) never have to worry about visas ever again.

So...the council website says they welcome traditional dress of the applicant's home country. But for some reason, I think faded jeans with an American flag sweatshirt sporting pizza grease stains might be frowned upon. Ideas?


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Changes

There comes a special time a girl's life where she must exercise her high-school-grade, out-of-date web-editing powers and make a few changes to her website.

So I'm cleaning things up a bit: clearing out the knitwear categories (you will now find my patterns link goes straight to my portfolio on Ravelry - everything is there! Plus more patterns will be coming soon); adding some more information about myself in case you haven't fulfilled your daily recommended intake of narcissism,  and trying to update this thing more frequently, because my life is suddenly going in a very exciting direction and I want to have my website ready to go with it.

Anyway, there you go. I'll be adding some new content to the pages (up there) in the next few days once I'm not relying on an internet connection that has to travel through several feet-thick stone walls. You have my promise!

Now for some pretty pictures because I'm saving up my brain power for some more book revisions and another full week of technical editing starting on Monday.

How did I spend my summer?

Wondering how appealing the Devil's Bath Tub would be to actually bathe in. (Sulferic pool, Rotarua, New Zealand)

Wondering how the Moa ever actually existed, and only 600 freaking years ago. (Also pictured: my lovely in-laws, for size comparison).

And coveting border designs in the Wintergarden, Auckland.
Not pictured: playing with kittens; obsessively checking my e-mail; squatting in my garden to see if my vegetables have grown at all since earlier that morning.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

For the Love of the Ampersand

Designers!

Do you use Excel to grade your patterns? Do you love the ease with which you can drag formulas across columns and convert inches to centimeters in a snap?

But do you also struggle with the dark side - do you hate having to type out the results from each cell into one tidy line that most publications require for print? You know the ones - they vary, but they're usually of the same theme. Parentheses and commas, brackets and colons, spaces, no spaces, two spaces. Your fingers flub on the keys and you command knitters to work 1x1 rib across thousands of stitches, or you end up missing out instructions for some sizes entirely and leave a tech editor puzzling to fill in the blanks. Most of all, it just eats into your time.

But don't worry - I have you covered! And it's easy. It just takes some getting used to.

I know not everyone wants to marry Excel and have its babies like I do, so I've broken it into teeny tiny steps. If you're impatient and want to get the formula already, just skip down to the bottom.

So...

First: Open your spreadsheet. Mine looks like this.

Click to look closer.

Of course, yours may look quite different. Don't worry; the basics are the same. As long as you know the names of the cells you want to put into a list of instructions for grading, that's all you need.

Second: Choose the numbers you want to place in a list.
For the first list, I'm using the row of numbers highlighted here:



These are cells C6, D6, E6, F6, G6, H6, and, finally, I6.

I've used my own standard method of presenting instructions, with parentheses and each number in the parentheses separated by a comma and a space. You can change this to suit your style, which I'll show you how to do in a minute.

Third: Find the column where you would like to put your list. I usually choose the first empty column in a row of numbers I want to list. Click on it.



Fourth: This is where things to start to look like a string of incomprehensible symbols and numbers, but stick with me. 

Type your equals sign. This lets Excel know that it needs to do some work.

=

Next (and this is the important bit), add a parenthesis. This is not part of your list, but just lets Excel know that you're grouping the following numbers. So that cell will now look like this.

=(

Appropriately.

Anyway, this is where you'll actually start to use your precious calculations from your spreadsheet. So select the cell that holds the first number you want to list:



and follow it with an ampersand (&). Mine is shift-7 on my keyboard. It took me a while to find it. The "&" will not show up on the final list of numbers; this is just what connects a string of numbers and characters. If you leave it out, Excel's brain will explode.

Fifth: You've listed your first number! Congratulations. Now, you'll want to add whatever character separates your numbers. In my case, the first number is separated from the second number by a space and parenthesis. To add a character that isn't from a cell, you will have to place it in quotes. After the ampersand, I will add " (". So in my cell, I will now have:

=(C6&" ("


What do we need after this? Why, another ampersand, of course!

=(C6&" ("&

Tip: Depending on the finickiness of your Excel, if a cell number is black instead of blue, purple, yellow, etc., it might mean it hasn't been inputted properly. You've probably forgotten an ampersand.

Now you just continue adding your numbers, not forgetting the ampersands, nor the quotes around those spaces and commas. By the time I get to I6, my formula bar will look like this:

=(C6&" ("&D6&", "&E6&", "&F6&", "&G6&", "&H6&", "&I6&

It's a bit confusing to look at at first, but once you get the hang of it, you start to see the pattern and copying and pasting &", "& becomes your friend.

Now we just need to close her up. But don't forget your ending parenthesis. The first one, I mean.

 =(C6&" ("&D6&", "&E6&", "&F6&", "&G6&", "&H6&", "&I6&")"

It's in quotes, so it will appear in the resulting text. That's the closing parenthesis that you'll want at the end of your list of numbers.

Now you just need to add one more parenthesis to close the string of commands:

  =(C6&" ("&D6&", "&E6&", "&F6&", "&G6&", "&H6&", "&I6&")")

Press enter...


 And voila! A tidy list of your graded numbers, just like you wanted. Messed up? Don't worry, just go back and fiddle with the string in the formula bar.

So that's it. Even better, once you've typed it up once, you can use it through your entire spreadsheet. Just click on the cell that contains your list and copy it (don't click and drag to highlight the contents of the cell, as that will copy the resulting numbers rather than the  formula) and paste it into the next row down or any of the rows below (if you move it over to a different column, you'll need to adjust your cell numbers in the list to keep it accurate).



Need to use colons instead of commas? No problem:

   =(C6&" ("&D6&": "&E6&": "&F6&": "&G6&": "&H6&": "&I6&")")

What about brackets?

 =(C6&" ["&D6&", "&E6&", "&F6&", "&G6&", "&H6&", "&I6&"]")

"But they don't want me to use spaces!"

   =(C6&" ("&D6&","&E6&","&F6&","&G6&","&H6&","&I6&")")

That should cover it! 

Questions? Let me know in the comments. Otherwise, happy Excel-ing!

P.S. In the comments, Teresa pointed out you could dedicate a cell to whatever punctuation you need (say, C3 for the comma, and refer to it as a static cell: $C$3), and use that so you don't have to change the lists throughout the pattern in case you need to change the formatting. It wouldn't need to go into quotes in this case.

This could be especially helpful if you originally published with a magazine but want to self-publish later. Good tip - thanks Teresa!



Saturday, 8 December 2012

Giveaway Winner!

Our winner has been chosen. By the hands of the fine robots at Random.org, the winner is...

Number 12, Carla!

Carla will receive three skeins of Manos del Uruguay Serena and a copy of Hele, or a shawl pattern of her choice.

Thank you to everyone for entering!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Manos Serena Giveaway!

To make up for my long silence spent at the bottom of the Well of Spreadsheets (I tech edit everything), I'm giving some stuff away. Well, some yarn, actually. And a pattern!


What we're giving away:



Artesano is very kindly offering three 50g skeins of the lovely, silky Manos del Uruguay Serena in a colour or the winner's choosing.

Three skeins of Manos Serena also just happens to be enough to make...



Hele! My lovely lace shawl with nupps (or beads, if you'd prefer) and a feathered edging. The pattern will also go free to the winner (or, if the winner already has it, another of my shawl patterns of their choice).

All you have to do is comment on this post by 23:59 GMT, Friday 7th December and tell me your favourite fibre for Autumn (I know - it may feel like Winter, but that doesn't start for another three weeks!). On December 8th, one lucky winner will be chosen and notified by e-mail, so please be sure to include it in the e-mail field when commenting, or by PM on Ravelry, if preferred.

Only one entry per person, please, and feel free to comment no matter where you live!