Gadget Girl Goes Gaga (yes, it’s a post about the Instant Pot) (and also about my other obsession: homemade Greek yogurt)

For someone who loves old-fashioned, slow things like knitting and spinning and weaving, I sure do love gadgets. So I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I would fall in love with a kitchen gadget. I just really wasn’t prepared for how very hard I would fall.

I had read about the Instant Pot on NomNomPaleo’s blog for months before I finally couldn’t take it anymore – I had to try this thing. I gave my husband some pretty blatant hints (things like sending him a link and saying, “Hey, I would love one of these for Mother’s Day!”), and – what a nice surprise! – I received one for Mother’s Day: the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker 6Qt/1000W, Stainless Steel Cooking Pot and Exterior

Twenty years ago, I dated a guy who loved to cook and specifically loved cooking in a stovetop pressure cooker. He persuaded me to get one, and I did. But I was always so scared of that thing that I probably used it less than a dozen times over the years. But the electric pressure cooker takes away that fear for me, because it takes away the risk. It also takes away the guesswork. I was attracted to this particular electric pressure cooker because it’s a 7-in-1 gadget- it works as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, food warmer, yogurt maker, and it sautés and steams.

But here is my confession. For the first six months of owning this beautiful baby, I only ever used it to make yogurt.

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There were two reasons for that. One: I was intimidated by all the functions and options on the machine. Two: the yogurt is amazing.

I started eating yogurt again (after years of reducing and occasionally eliminating all dairy) last winter, after a really nasty stomach bug. When I was getting back on solid foods, there wasn’t much that appealed to me. Then I suddenly had a deep, undeniable craving for Greek yogurt – thick, plain, whole milk yogurt (I believe in eating fat). I had some raw, local honey from my stepson and his fiancé (they raise bees) that I stirred in, along with some raw nuts. It was total bliss, and I was hooked.

In May, after receiving my Instant Pot, I started making my own plain, whole milk yogurt. I used to make yogurt years ago, when the boys were toddlers. I have a dedicated yogurt maker for just that purpose. But this was even easier than that:

  1. pour in the milk, lock the lid, hit the Yogurt button, and the pot brings the milk to boil. It beeps when it’s ready.
  2. Take off the lid, turn off the machine, let the milk cool to 115F or below (this is the hardest part of the whole process).
  3. Stir in yogurt starter (I use Fage Total yogurt or some of my previous batch of yogurt). It needs a lot less starter than you might think. I stir in 1 Tbsp per quart (and I usually start with half a gallon of milk and so stir in 2 T yogurt).
  4. Put the lid back on, hit the Yogurt button again, and adjust the time (I usually do about 10 hours, but it can be as few as 8 or closer to 12 – I just set it depending on what else is going on with me that day). When the timer goes off again, you have yogurt. It can go straight into containers in the fridge to chill at that point.
  5. But since I like Greek-style yogurt, I always strain mine first. I pour it into a strainer lined with a clean cotton tea towel, set over a large bowl. I then set the whole thing in the fridge for 2-4 hours, which makes for a very thick, very creamy yogurt (and a good amount of whey, which can be used for many other purposes).

I know that food bloggers always take pictures and show you each step. But I’m not a food blogger and my kitchen is poorly set-up for capturing those moments anyway. So I’m just going to assume that you can visualize the pushing of buttons, the closing of lids, and the straining of yogurt, and skip right to the goods:

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It is SO GOOD, y’all.

And so thick:

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And since it’s plain, everyone in the family can stir in whatever they like (or leave it as is). I like mine with honey, almonds, and fresh berries.

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As delicious as this yogurt is, and as unbelievably easy as it is to make, I decided over the holidays that it was high time I started using the Instant Pot for over things, too. So I joined this amazing Facebook group dedicated to the Instant Pot, and it has been really educational and inspiring. My gal Heather and I text about our Instant Pots all the time, and she’s been encouraging and helpful, too.

So I finally took the plunge and went beyond making yogurt. And I have been ALL IN. In the last 11 days, I’ve made Buffalo Wings, Kalua Pig, Chili, Vanilla Custard, Mocha-Rubbed Pot Roast (a dish I usually make in the slow cooker but was even better in the Instant Pot; actually the same could be said about the Kalua Pig), Mexican Beef ( AMAZING), Crispy Chicken Breasts with Lemon and Capers, Potato Soup, and absolutely perfect easy-peel boiled eggs (twice). (I will try to come back and add links to all of those when I have a minute – this post is already getting out of control!).And of course, I’ve also made more yogurt.

My mind is hopping all the time now with Instant Pot ideas, so I figured I might as well subject all of you to it, too. I’m probably going to need to write up some of my ideas and experiments, too, so consider this fair warning – you may have to see many more I Love My Instant Pot posts.

But in case you came by for crafts and not for yogurt, here’s a thing I made with all the time my Instant Pot has saved me:

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Hello Yarn “Blossom” on Finn – my first spin of 2016 – 3.5oz, 252yds 2-ply DK. Love this bright, happy yarn on these cold, grey days!

Disclaimer: Yes, that is an Amazon affiliate link up there. I was not paid anything for gabbing about my Instant Pot. But if you are thinking about getting one and you use my link, I will get a tiny commission to support my blog habit. No pressure. HAHA SEE WHAT I DID THERE? #imsopunny

 

 

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Done. Just Like That.

To knit is to protest the mechanization of life, to remind oneself of the value of sitting down, taking time, going slow, being patient, persisting. To knit is to resist the notion that efficiency is everything. To knit is to embrace the value of the process as much as the product.

And still. Sometimes it’s pretty darn exciting to make something so fast you can only shake your head and marvel.

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I warped the loom late Saturday afternoon, and by Monday evening, the weaving was done. And it’s not like I spent every waking moment, or even every free moment, weaving. I did it in little bits of time here and there. Amazing!

I hemstitched one end first thing this morning. Now all that’s left is hemstitching the other end, cutting the fringe down to size, and washing it.

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If I had to do it over again, I would’ve omitted the horizontal stripes, but I can live with it. It also turned out slightly shorter than my calculations told me it would. But I’m learning from my disappointments and missteps, so they aren’t really losses, and I can live with how the piece looks overall.

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Even Louie is pleased.

I’ll show you better pictures once it’s all finished up. In the meantime, all this weaving put me in the mood to wear something woven, and today it’s almost cold enough to actually need a scarf (what is with this crazy weather?).

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By the way, if you want to see a truly gorgeous handspun handwoven piece, check out Knit Bug Val’s latest post. WOW.

A Thing I Thought I’d Do a Lot of This Year

For Christmas last year, my mom gave me a loom. Actually, it was from both of my parents, but everyone knew my mom was the chief gift-giver in our family. In fact, giving gifts was something she was especially good at and took great pleasure in. As the grateful recipient of many of her gifts, I took great pleasure in her gift-giving ability, too!

A few years ago, my husband gave me a Schacht Cricket loom for Christmas. I still love that little loom (though it has seen precious little action), but I eventually wanted something bigger. Since I adore everything else I have by Schacht (two wheels, a lazy kate, and the little loom), I decided to go for a Schacht Flip (the 20″). My husband gave me a stand to go with it.

I absolutely love it, and I got to weaving on it, at my parents’ house, right away. If you’ve ever knit a scarf and then you decide to weave a scarf, it almost takes your breath away how fast it goes.

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Before I knew it, I had this squishy handspun scarf all done.

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As you can see, my selvages left something to be desired. But the scarf was really just for practice, and for the sheer enjoyment of weaving. The warp is my own handspun Hello Yarn Shetland in “Minerals,” and the weft is, I think, some white Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool worsted.

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I love the fringe, with that party of colors. I bought a fringe twister but didn’t actually start trying to twist the fringe until a few days ago (and I’m still not done). That’s how I do – make something and then drag my feet on the last little detail for … awhile.

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Maybe once I get the fringe all twisted, I’ll manage some better pictures.

At any rate, the process of making this scarf was so enjoyable that I couldn’t help but get started on another one immediately.

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Love me some pink and brown! For this scarf, I paired two different handspun yarns, both from fiber I got years ago from Funky Carolina. The warp is “Little Lady” on Shetland; the weft is “Scutterbotch” from batts. The Scutterbotch was one of my very first yarns (I think the third one I’d ever made, and my first from batts), and it is very much a beginner yarn. When I sampled it, it didn’t look great knit up, but it worked perfectly as weft; it’s nice and skinny and neutral and allows the colors of the warp to shine through (bonus: I still have a bunch left, for more weft).

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For this scarf, I tried hemstitching for the first time, and I really liked the effect. I did better on my selvages, too, though there’s still some unevenness here and there. I also haven’t twisted the fringe yet (of course). But who cares, I love it.

I made both of these scarves in January, marveling all the while at how fun it was and how fast, and thinking that I’d maybe weave a scarf each month. And one thing I espiecially wanted to do was to weave a shawl for my mom, for this Christmas. But none of that was to be. The year slid sideways, especially this second half, and since the end of January, I have woven precisely … nothing.

For awhile after my mom’s death, the loom just made me sad. Partly because it was her last Christmas gift to me, and partly because I never got to make her anything on it. But I’m trying hard to embrace the ongoing nature of the many gifts she gave me, and the loom is certainly a gift that, in the using of it, will keep being given to me, if I let it. And I’ve realized, too, that when I use it to make gifts, my mom’s giving is even further extended. She would like that.

So that’s what I’m doing now. And it feels really good, and really right.

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The Almost Perfect Sweater (Handspun Laurie)

This summer, I had a brief lull between major events in the life of my family. That lull neatly corresponded with Tour de Fleece, so I spun and spun and spun, ending up with more finished yarn than during any previous Tour.

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I was especially excited about the pound of Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot. A wooly wool similar to Shetland, this was a delight to spin.

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I spun it with a sweater in mind, thinking these colors would be absolutely perfect for fall.

I cast on during my family’s staycation in mid-August. The following week, I knit my little heart out in the waiting area while my husband had surgery.

In June, my husband was diagnosed with moderately aggressive prostate cancer. The diagnosis was scary and the surgery to remove it was major, but everything went very well and his prognosis is excellent. The pathology report indicated that the cancer was confined to the prostate and that the surgery got it all.

But before we got to that point, the summer was fraught with worry. My knitting was a good companion during the time of waiting; this sweater has a lot of hope stitched into it.

I wanted a sweater pattern that was simple, slouchy, and textured. The Laurie pattern looked like it would fit the bill, and mostly, it did. I love the wide neck, and the intriguing sweater construction. After the neck, the knitting is just round and round, with the tiniest bit of texture to keep things interesting.

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One of the things that drew me to the pattern was its shape – a little slouchy, a little boxy. But that’s also what kept it from being totally perfect. Because once I finished and put it on, it looked too boxy. There’s a whole bunch of weird extra fabric in the back (almost like wings), and no way to fix that by taking in the sides because it’s seamless.

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At first, I thought the problem was with my execution – perhaps I picked a size too large, or maybe it was the fact that I was knitting with a heavier weight of yarn (worsted as opposed to DK, with my stitch count adjusted for my gauge). But the more I studied the pattern photos and pictures other people have posted of their sweater, the more I realized that, no, it’s a feature of the sweater. Everyone seems to pose their way around it – with arms crossed, or hands on hips holding the sweater in closer, for instance – but if you look more closely, you will see the extra fabric in the back on some pictures.

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If I pose like this, you can’t see the extra back fabric, right? (ironic duck face distracts the eye even more)

At first I was pretty disappointed. It was a lot of knitting (not to mention spinning) to end up looking like a blob.

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Blobbiness emphasized by horizontal stripes!

But my husband has convinced me that it looks better than I thought, and that not everything has to be the most flattering things I’ve ever worn.

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I can always rip back to the armpits and decrease several stitches at the bust, to see if that helps. But for now, I’m going to keep wearing it as is.

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Because it is so comfortable, and so cozy, and the colors are so yummy.

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I wore it to Rhinebeck, so it also reminds me of super-happy times with a sisterhood of knitters.

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It’s not everything I wanted it to be, but it’s almost everything. And it’s basically almost perfect. And for now, that’s good enough.

 

My Own Personal Tour de Fleece

Thanks for all the sympathy and support regarding my broken hand. It is a depressing and discouraging development, especially after everything else that has happened in my life in the last six months, but it should be only a temporary setback. It’s definitely disappointing not to be able to knit (I have tried, and it is so clumsy, cumbersome, and slow, that it gives me almost no pleasure or relaxation to do so). Fortunately, there is no shortage of other activities I enjoy that don’t require two fully functional hands.

Happily, spinning is one of those. My right hand is mostly stuck in exactly the correct position for how I like to spin:

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perfect!

So I am going to treat these next four weeks as my own personal tour de fleece. Let’s see how many yarns I can make, shall we?

I finished Yarn #1 Tuesday night:

Look at those colors!

Look at those colors!

How delicious is that?! It’s Hello Yarn Falkland (one of my fave fibers) in “Mignardises.”

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Look how plump!

Spun as a a light worsted 2-ply with an attempt to line up colors as much as possible. 4 ounces, 218 yards.

I got the next fiber on the wheel yesterday morning:

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Southern Cross Fibre Shetland, “Beltane.” I’m going to chain-ply this for socks for one of my kiddos. Shetland will be okay for socks, won’t it? If Shetland is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

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The greens, blues, and golds in this fiber are so yummy. I hope to finish up the spinning tonight and ply tomorrow!

Sunday Spinning

Sundays are so full and busy for me, in a good way, but it means they spin away from me so quickly. Today is spinning by especially fast. But I’m helped by the fact that I started the day by doing all the things that ground me, including some spinning.

  
Finished the first two ounces of Hello Yarn Falkland, “Mignardises” (June 2014 fiber club). I love it and plan to make a little time for more spinning tonight.

I hope your Sunday is beautiful, and that you are able to make a little time for whatever fills you with joy.

A Few Things for Friday

1 – I made some yarn.

Hello Yarn Extra Fine Merino, “Damp Earth”

I like it! It’s not for me, though. It’s Jessica’s prize from the giveaway I held in … July. (Sorry for my delay, Jessica!)


She said she likes earthy, autumnal colors and I think this “Damp Earth,” with its ochre, tan, chocolate, vanilla, and bits of mossy green, fits the bill. It’s 180 yards of aran weight fluff that feels like kittens.

2 – I changed course on the hat I was making.

It wasn’t quite turning out the way I wanted, so I frogged and started over from the top (literally), revisiting one of my all-time favorite patterns (details when I’m done).

3 – I picked out my next spin:

Hello Yarn Falkland, “Mignardises”

I’m pretty excited about it.

How about you? What’s on your finery docket this Friday?

Lying and Plying

I accidentally lied to you yesterday. I said that when I spun that Hello Yarn Polwarth/Silk “Slumber” that it was one of those cases when I knew exactly what I wanted the fiber to eventually become and then I spun it that way. Later yesterday, I reread my original notes (i.e., looked back at my blog posts from a year ago), and discovered that no, it was exactly the opposite of that. I spun the fiber the way I felt like spinning it, and then as soon as it came off the wheel, I was like, This has got to be a Pi Shawl! And then I became obsessed with knitting it. So yeah, sorry about the lying.

But THANK YOU for the nice comments here and elsewhere about my Pi Shawl. And to answer a question in the comments: I spun the yarn into light fingering-to-laceweightish singles. I ended up with close to 800 yards. Even so, that was only 4 ounces, and that meant a slightly smaller shawl than the shawls my friends brought to Rhinebeck. I am already plotting my next Pi Shawl, and am thinking towards something bigger.

In the meantime, I did another kind of lying yesterday – and that was lying all the way down to ply. That’s right, I am exactly that lazy. To wit:

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(I made a gif, y’all! I’ve never done that before. I’m playing with the Live Photos on my new phone and used a new app to convert this one into a gif. I hope it comes through right).

That’s me, lying all the way down on the couch to watch Jon Oliver and ply some yarn (that’s my sweet puppy hanging out on the floor). I’ve certainly put my feet up before while plying with my new Hansen e-spinner, but I’ve never gone into a full on lie-down – I didn’t realize I was that lazy and/or tired. But apparently I am. And I’ll be honest, I actually did snooze a little while plying – crazy but true.

And when I woke up, I’d made this:

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It’s still drying from its bath, but I’ll be back tomorrow with better shots and more details. I’m excited to think I might be really back to spinning at last.

All the Spinning followed by All the Not Spinning

When Tour de Fleece happened last month, I was ALL IN. For three weeks, I spent all my crafting time spinning, and it was glorious. I finished my Tour on the first day of my vacation. First, I spun up a pile of Hello Yarn:

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn

The top yarn is 4 skeins of “Gobbler” on Cheviot – 17oz., 814 yards heavy worsted 2-ply. The bottom left yarn is 4oz., 296 yards DK 2-ply “Light as Feathers” on Romney Lambswool (a spin I loved so much I went back and bought a pile more of the fiber). The bottom right is 4oz., 192yds light worsted 2-ply “Crivens” on BFL/Silk (I somehow managed to spin this as 2 skeins of the exact same yardage).

After spinning all that Hello Yarn, I branched out a tiny bit to spin some more Discworld MegaSAL fibers.

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Bottom middle is Nest Fibers “Magrat” on Mixed BFL, spun as 218 yards bulky thick-n-thin singles. Bottom right is Into the Whirled “Death” on Superwash Merino, spun as 380 yards fingering(isn) 2-ply (which I’ve already knit up).

This was by far my best Tour ever, with slightly more than 2 pounds spun up, for a total of 8 skeins. It was a delight from beginning to end.

I had imagined I would be spinning throughout my vacation, but it turns out I haven’t spun one bit in more than three weeks now. I’ve gotten back to knitting instead – and with my newly-made handspun, that’s been total delight. Soon I hope to show you something I knit up in just a few days on vacation, but for now, I’ll just show you what I cast on this morning:
Handspun beginnings, potential #rhinebecksweater - #helloyarn "Gobbler" on Cheviot. #spinnersofinstagram

This is possibly my Rhinebeck sweater, the Laurie pullover. Love, love, love those fall colors. Only I realized after a few inches that I made a huge and stupid mistake – at the end of the cast-on, I ended up joining in a round, when it actually doesn’t say to do that in the instructions. So I joined and then just kept knitting for a few inches before realizing that the beginning is to be knit flat. Oops! So I’m ripping back and starting over. I hope to have something more to show you soon!