Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Liquorice Allsorts Socks

Liquorice allsorts socks
New socks yay!
These have been my 'boring purse knitting' for a while and they are finally done!

I had to re-knit the first sock, which was a major bummer, but serves me right for knitting all the way to the tip of the toe before trying it on.

The yarn is Regia in one of the Kaffe Fassett designed stripe patterns. These are just basic 3x1 rib socks, 72 sts around, on US#1s. The colors reminded me of liquorice allsorts (not that allsorts have THAT much blue in them, but you get the idea) hence the name.

Liquorice allsorts socks
I love the mismatched stripes
Now to find my next easy socks to carry around!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

New Free Pattern: the Denver Cowl

We've all been there. Maybe it’s wool fumes, maybe it’s a color (or three) that calls your name, but suddenly you end up with a big skein of variegated yarn and you have no idea what to do with it.

Here’s something to try - a big cozy cowl that you can wear wrapped once or twice. The stitch pattern grabs on to short stretches of color and turns them into little starbursts all over the fabric.

Denver Cowl
Laughing photos are the best photos
The Denver Cowl is a new FREE pattern, born of a collaboration between Miss Babs and myself. It's designed to make the most of the always-changing, no-two-alike, fun and funky "Babettes" that Babs dyes. There's a secret to the process that I can't reveal, but it means that there are always super-saturated flashes of fantastic colors all over the skein.
Denver Cowl
Denver Cowl, worn as a scarf
The yarn is the fabulous Miss Babs Yowza. If you've never worked with this stuff, you're missing out. It's 8 oz. of superwash merino - a huge skein clocking in at 560 yards. It's soft and snuggly (see below). And Babs dyes it up in these fantastic colors. FYI - don't expect to see this EXACT color again. It's just an example. If you love it and can't live without it, I'm really sorry! See if there's something else you love.

Denver Cowl
Yay snuggly!
So you need one. Can you pick just one? Go here and look. I'll wait. After you've grabbed your yarn, go and grab your free copy of the Denver Cowl pattern on Ravelry and you'll be all set!

The pattern is simple - knit in the round on a big circular needle in Daisy Stitch. It does use pretty much all of a skein of Yowza, so you can just go until it seems like you're going to run out, do the border, and quit. And contrary to my usual MO, I'm not even going to hassle you about blocking it. What a deal.

Denver Cowl
I just love having my photo taken a zillion billion times
Here's the full stats for the curious...

Finished measurements: 10” wide and 54” around after blocking.
Yarn: Miss Babs Yowza, (560 yards per 8 oz; 100% Superwash Merino wool, shown in First Choice), 1 skein.
Needles:  Size 8 US (5mm) 32” circular.
Notions: Stitch marker, tapestry needle.
Gauge: 20 sts and 28 rows = 4” in Daisy Stitch (gauge is not critical to this project)
Denver Cowl
Ah, that's better
And now it's back to work on all the other things that I have going on... secret knitting, the ever-fun paperwork... or maybe just snuggling up in a cozy cowl some more. Yes, please!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Something's Cooking

...and it's not turkey.

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What could it be?
Stay tuned!

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Goodies

Last weekend I headed to the marketplace at Interweave Knitting Lab in San Mateo and came away with some new goodies.

I got a box project bag and a wee tiny little triangle bag...
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Project bags
And I couldn't resist a little yarn from Alpenglow and Knitted Wit.
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New yarn!

I am busy whipping up a couple new things, which I hope to be able to share with you soon! And then of course there's the standard super-sekrit sample knitting and super-sekrit Christmas knitting going on, but I suppose all will be revealed in due time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pointelle Socks

I'm back to the Sock Knitters Anonymous challenges this year. So far... so good - although it's only been one month (the annual challenges start in September). One of September's challenges was "All knit with the same color - red" and I just happened to have some red Knit Picks Stroll laying around. It's not what I would ordinarily choose for socks - it seems too flimsy - but it worked up OK. We'll see how they wear.

The pattern is Pointelle by Cookie A. It looks complex but the pattern is just lace patterning on every other round - there's a lot of plain knitting in these. In between all my other knitting, these went very quickly!

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Pointelle socks
Next month's challenge includes a 'holiday stocking' option - which is great, because I still haven't finished my Christmas stocking from last year. I've ripped it all the way out because I got the color dominance wrong, so it's fresh for a new challenge.

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Starting over
Are you doing any knitalongs? Have you started your holiday knitting yet?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sample roundup

Miss Babs has been keeping me busy (as usual!) working on some samples.

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Erica Shawl
This is the Erica Shawl, knit up in Miss Babs Tierno (the alpaca-silk blend also known as the 'kitten yarn') in Coventry - my favorite green. It's an easy bottom-up pattern that involves a giant cast-on, the lace pattern, and then short rows in stockinette stitch to complete the body.

To ensure the greatest possible flexibility on the bottom, I went looking for a new cast-on. I discovered that Jeny - she of super-stretchy bind-off fame - had found a very stretchy cast-on. However, I found her method a bit awkward and used the method described in this video instead. It's definitely worth a try if you have a large number of stitches to cast on (no long tail) and need great elasticity. It requires a little more attention than the standard long-tail cast on, but is well worth the effort.

Stitches Midwest 2012
Boyfriend Cardigan
I knit up a quick Boyfriend cardigan for Stitches Midwest in Miss Babs Yowza in Ruby Spinel. Yum, red - and I found the perfect little shiny shell buttons to go with it. It's a very simple pattern with an interesting rib detail.

Deco
Deco
And this month I've been scrambling to knit up Deco in Northumbria DK in Moss. I love the slip-stitch pattern. Deco might also be the sweater that converts me to top-down set-in in-the-round sleeves. I'll do another post on the details of the technique that Kate Davies used... but long story short, it wasn't frustrating (unlike every other time I've tried it). This sweater is winging its way to Rhinebeck and SAFF... Yes, I made a Rhinebeck sweater but I didn't get to go! One year...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Color Affection

It's finished - FINALLY! I am now one of the over 3,800 people who've finished one of these (at least according to Ravelry).

Color Affection
Color Affection
I had no idea how long the last rows were until I bound off, washed it, and threw it on the floor to block.
Color Affection
My highly technical blocking method: throw it on a sheet on the floor

A very sweet little girl learning to knit at one of the knitting groups I go to asked, "do you even KNOW how many stitches are on your needle right now?" No, honey, I have no idea... and I don't even want to know. (She was practicing garter stitch on 12 stitches and very dutifully counting after every row.)

But now it's over and it's snuggly and has twirly little ends and it used up a bunch of yarn and I'm happy. As you can see, I added another section with just the second 2 colors before knitting the final border.
Color Affection
It's huuuuge!
The brown is Fiber Optic Yarns Foot Notes; the grey is Louet Gems; and the pink is Ella Rae Lace Merino. I have just a little bit of the pink left, but there's enough brown to add to a colorwork or argyle project. Hooray for using up stash.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More Conic

I have finished knitting the back of my Conic sweater.

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Conic back
I love the way the silk in this yarn catches the light. 

Right now Conic has to be on hold for a little while as I catch up on some sample knitting. But soon I'm looking forward to getting started on the sleeves and enjoying some easy knitting in the round. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bonsai


Over the weekend was the Art and Wine Festival. This means street closures, insane traffic, noise, and the questionable aroma of grilling sausage filling my house for 8 hours a day. Of course it also means booths full of all kinds of stuff. Usually I end up buying a piece of jewelry, but the piece I fell in love with turned out to be way, way out of my price range.

So I brought home this little guy instead.
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Juniper bonsai
He is a little juniper tree. (I picked juniper because I think they can take lots of abuse, and hopefully that will give him a better chance.) I think he looks very nice next to his rock. 

Anybody out there ever tried to grow a bonsai tree? Any tips?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Conic

So just like Color Affection (I'm almost done, I swear!) I'm going along with the crowd on this one. A bunch of us from the Thursday evening knitting group are all knitting along together on Cookie A's new cardigan/bolero design, Conic. Of course if you can't make it to my knitting group, there's also a knitalong thread happening on Ravelry for any of the new Shapes + Form patterns. (Are you going to join us?)

Conic Back
Conic back progress
The yarn is a wool and silk blend fingering weight from Mistralee Farm Studio - they're from PA, but I can't find a website for them. I'm so happy to be knitting a sweater in a commercially dyed yarn! No alternating skeins! And I love the chocolate brown and I think the silk will give it a nice drape. Even though it's on #3 needles, it's knitting up fast. I'm so excited for new sweaters for fall.

Of course now I have approximately a zillion projects on my needles (including SOOPER SEKRIT stuff as always) so I'm hoping I can create some temporary project monogamy and finish a thing or two - and soon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Afghans for Afghans

Back in May, the very kind folks over at Cephalopod Yarns started up a collection of wooly things to benefit Afghans for Afghans. They promised a $32 store credit to anyone who sent in something for a4A's current campaign (a hat, mittens, socks). I had been hoping to send in some items to a4A anyway (because my gosh there's a lot of worsted weight wool just laying around) so I took the opportunity.

I knit up two hats - one with a geometric color pattern, one with stripes - and promptly forgot to photograph them. Good job, me! You'll just have to use your imagination instead of looking at a picture.

In return, my store credit turned into this lovely skein of Bugga!

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Bugga! in Ivory Cone Snail
Even for two hats, I feel like I got far more than I deserved here. I love the color (yellow and cream and pinky-tan and brown spots! - a very unusual choice for me) and of course MCN is just lovely stuff. So - a big thank you to Sarah and the crew at Cephalopod for drawing attention to this good cause and so generously rewarding everyone who gave.

Now... to decide what to make with it... hmmm.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Afflicted

I have been affected. Afflicted. Infected.

Whatever you want to call it, I've now officially joined the 5,000+ people who've knit Color Affection. I think half my knitting group has made one, for starters.

Color Affection
Into the three-color section!
I thought, "ugh, all that garter stitch." I thought, "ugh, all those long rows." I thought, "haven't I been doing enough boring knitting already?"

And then I spent Sunday at Stitches Midwest wearing one and it was snuggly and pretty and had curly little tails and - well, ok, let's be honest, I had already set aside three skeins of yarn just in case. So without a major deadline currently over my head, I am cranking away at endless garter stitch. [Details on yarn are on my Ravelry page here.]

The brown and linen-grey aren't that exciting, but I love the pink added in at the end. And instead of transitioning directly from the three-stripe section to the final color, I am considering working some stripes in taupe and pink only before the pink border. We'll see. There's lots of yarn to knit up yet.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stitches Midwest

I spent the past week in Chicago to join forces with Miss Babs and work Stitches Midwest (and, also very importantly, to see my mom).

Stitches is always a ton of hard work - and an equal amount of fun. Babs has put together a great team of people to work with. We hustle like crazy and haul giant heavy boxes around like they're nothing. And of course it's great to be surrounded by all the beautiful colors and happy yarn people all week!

Stitches Midwest 2012
Part of the booth at Stitches

Color Affection has been an incredibly popular pattern and why not? it's easy to knit, snuggly, and eats up three skeins of sock yarn! Miss Babs and the crew put together sets of three colors... picking two colors that go together is pretty easy, but adding that third color to bring it all together can be pretty tough. No one person loves all these sets... but as the weekend went on I became convinced that there was one for everyone. 
Stitches Midwest 2012
Color Affection sets
At first I thought "oh my gosh all that garter stitch surely I'll die of boredom" but then I wore one for a couple of days and... now I need a Color Affection of my own. I have picked out my colors: espresso brown, cream, and peony pink.

I didn't do too much shopping at the show, but I had to pick up some Hiya Hiya Sharps needles. [I can't use Addi Turbo Lace needles because the finish on them reacts really horribly with my body chemistry, so it's so nice to have an economical and non-reactive option.] I also couldn't resist this skein of Windsor sock yarn or this lovely sock project bag from Erin.Lane

Stitches Midwest goodies
Can you tell I have a thing for green with purple?
I also showed off Brighton all weekend in the booth and I was super tickled by all the people who said they loved it, bought the pattern, and even asked me to autograph it! All in all, I had a great time - I was totally exhausted by the end, but it's well worth it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Introducing Brighton

Brighton is a long infinity cowl that’s perfect for that skein of variegated sock yarn you just couldn’t live without.
Brighton
Brighton cowl
It seems to happen to everyone. I fall in love with variegated sock yarn at the drop of a hat. It’s even worse when I learn the color will never be dyed again. And some of it is just too pretty to put on my feet! A cowl is the perfect way to show it off.

Brighton features an open, easy-to-work star stitch that breaks up color pooling, and the cowl gains structure from blocks of garter stitch and a faux i-cord edging.

Don’t like the cowl thing? Work an extra section of garter stitch at the end and make it into a long scarf.

Brighton
Wrapped once
And the stats:
Finished measurements:  8” wide and 58” long after blocking.
Yarn: Miss Babs Yummy 2-ply, (400 yds per 4 oz; 100% Superwash Merino wool, shown in Malachite), 1 skein.
Needles:  Size 6 US (4mm) straight or circular.
Notions: Tapestry needle.
Gauge: 21 sts and 28 rows = 4” in Star Stitch Pattern after blocking (gauge is not critical to this project) 
Brighton
Wrapped twice
If you're planning to come to Stitches Midwest, please come say hi at Miss Babs' booth! We'll be in booth numbers 317, 319, and 418 with tons and tons of beautiful yarn. I'll have copies of this pattern available as well as some others - and Babs will have lots of Babettes - gorgeous colors that will never be dyed again.

Get the pattern here for $6: 


Brighton

As always, happy knitting!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Summer Knitting

I don't know why I feel compelled to knit summer sweaters, but I just finished a couple. Maybe I'll even wear them. Here's some photos from a silly photo shoot we had.

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Buttercup
Back when I was at the yarn shop, I saw a lot of nice Buttercups come and go. So I picked up some Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy (seriously, this is the best warm-weather yarn out there, and a bargain at the same time) and got started. It's actually not as flattering as I would have hoped, but whatever. It's green! And airy! And super-duper fast. I probably should have bought another ball of yarn and made it longer, but... it's all done now.

Big thanks go out to Abigail for putting some of the last rows on it at knitting one night when she ran out of knitting and I (as usual) had three projects in my bag.

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Homa
This is Homa (yeah, there may have been a lot of laughing going on when the photos were taken) which is surprisingly way more flattering than Buttercup. It's a top-down sweater with some clever arm shaping and an easy lace pattern all the way around the body. I knit it in just three balls of Berroco Remix in this awesome tangerine color. Not so sure about a worsted-weight short-sleeved thing, but it's cool enough here that I should be able to wear it with a long-sleeved tee in the fall.

Any fun summer knitting going on out there?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Introducing Marquise

This post has been a long time coming.

Last year I knit a reversible baby blanket for my friend Amanda's little baby Hazel. The first blanket was screaming hot pink (perfect for Amanda) but I had a terrible time photographing it.

So Miss Babs and I teamed up to make another sample, this time in a beautiful spring green. The yarn is  Yowza, a lovely superwash merino in big 8 oz. skeins, and the color is called Spring Lettuce. It seems like everything I make is in this shade of green, but ... I can't help it, I love it so much.

Marquise baby blanket
Marquise baby blanket

The blanket is called Marquise because of diamond pattern reminds me of a marquise-cut diamond. It's just knits and purls, is completely reversible, and works up quickly into a thick and cushy blanket on big needles. (The pattern is given both as written directions and as a chart). You can get your copy here on Ravelry for $6...

Marquise baby blanket
All snuggled up!
Next week I'll be heading to the Chicago area for Stitches Midwest, where once again I'll be wrangling yarn with Babs and her crew. We have a triple booth: 317, 319, and 418! This year I've roped my mom into the mix, too. We're going to have one heck of a good time... and I'll have another pattern debuting at Stitches - perfect for using that skein of variegated sock yarn you just couldn't live without.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Anna's Hummingbirds

Hummingbird at the feeder
Hummingbird at the feeder
Ok, so I am still a bit obsessed with the local Anna's Hummingbirds. I found a stick-on feeder [probably the best $20 I've spent on entertainment in a long time] for the window by my desk so I can see them up close, all the time. They are super skittish when they see me but they just keep coming back. 

These little guys are incredibly aggressive when defending their territory or food, so there is a lot of high-speed fighter-plane stuff going on all the time. They also have to inspect me when I sit in the chair you can see in that photo, hovering three feet from my face as if to say 'who are you?! what are you doing here?!' 

Maybe I am easily amused but they do provide me with nearly endless amusement. The other day I watched as, mid-hover, one of them reached up with a foot to scratch its head. Yes, while flying!

As you might suspect, I've been busy with stuff... much of it knitting related (which is good!). I'll have some new things to share soon. But first? I think it's time to refill the hummingbird feeder.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Orchids

orchids
Blooming orchid

I have adopted a couple of very ordinary orchids to add to the houseplant collection. I don't know a lot about orchids, but I seem to be having good luck with them!

orchids
Growing new buds

I bought this Phalaenopsis back in November. It held the blooms until March, and now is growing more stems out of its stems. These look like they'll have flowers too, which is very exciting. Apparently Phalaenopsis is the only orchid genus which can re-bloom from an existing stem.
orchids
More flower buds!

And there's also this orchid... I got them at Trader Joe's, so I have no cultivar names or anything, but I loved the big purple, yellow, and green spidery flowers. This is its second bloom for me, which is so cool!

orchids
Normally he lives on my desk

I am looking forward to getting some more attractive orchid pots and repotting them (when they're done flowering, of course).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Everyday Socks, Finished

All my sample knitting has meant it's taken me a while to finish even a simple pair of socks for myself.

socks
Everyday Socks

I finally did finish my Everyday Socks at the beginning of March, just in time for me to wear them on the flight to Chicago.

There's not too much to say about these, but they were simple and satisfying to knit, and I LOVE the color (called Rocky Top, courtesy of Dragonfly Fibers)!

I've since started two other pair: some plain stockinette socks in a new Miss Babs yarn called Shiruku, which is a merino-silk blend...

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Shiruku socks

...and some herringbone rib socks in a very boldly variegated color (I think it has every color in the world in it, except purple) from Creatively Dyed yarn.

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Creatively Dyed socks

As you might imagine, there's more super secret knitting happening over here, so that's keeping my needles and fingers busy. Any socks on the needles lately?

Monday, April 02, 2012

A Visit to Clear View Farm

Earlier in March, I returned to the Chicago area to visit my mom. Between hanging out and knitting and generally doing fun mom stuff, she'd planned a special fiber field trip out to Waterman, Illinois to visit Clear View Farm with her regular knitting group.

Clear View Farm is run by Sandra Schrader [who also happened to be my bus driver when I was a lot younger! It was fun to see her again]. She raises prizewinning Cormo sheep on her farm, as well as the usual farm assortment of chickens, barn cats, and a dog.

Cormo sheep are a cross between Corriedale and Merino; they were bred for high-quality, low-micron (fine) fleece, good mothering instincts, high fertility, and easy manageability. They are medium sized animals with lots of wool. Sandy keeps her sheep covered year-round to keep the fleeces clean and free of too much vegetable matter, which makes spinners very happy.

Clear View Farm Cormo
Soon-to-be-mamas

We were excited to visit the sheep, who were in their barn out of the weather. Many of the ewes were expecting lambs... unfortunately none of them had been born by the time we visited, although some were very close - we missed two sets of twins by just a couple days. The sheep were a little shy... justifiable due to having lots of strangers in the barn... but got a lot friendlier when we took out coffee cans full of grain treats.

Clear View Farm Cormo
Everybody wants a treat

A couple of Sandy's local farm friends also visited and showed off their handspun yarn, goat milk soap, and angora rabbits (and fiber)! Here I am in the farmhouse, holding a German angora rabbit, who was more fluff than bunny, and so hot under all that fur that he was panting.

with angora rabbit
Bunny!

He was a visitor from Happy Hoppers Angoras. German angora rabbits are bred for fiber production and have to be shorn. We also got to meet a French angora rabbit, who had a much less dense coat and was a beautiful grey-brown color. French angora rabbits shed their fur and must be plucked.

We all hung out, knitted, and had a potluck lunch, all the while keeping an ear on the baby monitor Sandy had hooked up in the barn, hoping to hear about new lambs. 

Nearly everyone took home a little souvenir of some kind. I purchased some combed top and some rose geranium-scented soap. Mom got a skein of beautiful angora-cormo blend yarn.

On our way home, we decided to stop at Esther's Place, a sweet fiber shop located in a Victorian house in Big Rock. Even though the shop wasn't supposed to be open on Monday, Natasha was kind enough to let us in and wander around. I got a skein of her hand-dyed sock yarn - it's an uncharacteristic color for me, but it's lovely!

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Handpainted sock yarn from Esther's Place
Had any fun fiber field trips lately?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seville Orange Marmalade

I love citrus: all things lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit - you name it, I am all about it. Living in California has only increased the adoration for all the bright and tangy flavors of citrus fruit - and it has introduced me to lots of new types to try!

As my palate has matured (gosh, hello, that sounds pretentious, but whatever) I've gained a greater appreciation for bitter things like Campari (which we now go through by the liter) and marmalade. Marmalade has wonderful bitter and sour notes that balance the sweetness of ordinary jam.

Seville Orange Marmalade
Mmmm, marmalade

I knew, of course, that real marmalade is made with something called a Seville or sour or bitter orange, but I'd never seen such a thing. Lucky for me these things exist in California, if only seasonally, and finally I got my hands on some last week at the Milk Pail Market, our wonderful produce and cheese market. [They also have incredibly delicious bake-your-own croissants.]

Having had good luck with his recipes in the past, I used pastry chef David Leibowitz's recipe for Seville orange marmalade. Please go read his recipe and look at his gorgeous photos, as I didn't get many while I was chopping.

Essentially, you juice the oranges, keeping the zillions of seeds aside, and then slice up the rest of the orange, pith and all. Boil it all together with water and sugar and eventually it cooks down into something that will gel. Throw in a little Scotch and pour it in jars and ta-da, marmalade.

Of course, because I'm spectacularly clumsy in the kitchen, I managed to carefully slice up 6 1/4 of my 7 oranges before slicing a teeny tiny bit of the end of my finger off. After a brief interlude, I channelled my internal Anthony Bourdain, said lots of cuss words, and got back to finishing the marmalade. [Thankfully, the end of my finger has since grown back.]

Seville Orange Marmalade
My very full stockpot (beginning to cook)

I was a little concerned when my big stockpot was full past the 4-qt mark when the recipe indicated the yield was only 2 quarts of marmalade. But because marmalade relies both on the natural pectin found in the orange seeds and on cooking the mixture down to thicken it, it takes a while - for me, nearly two hours - to cook. For those of us who are used to using supermarket pectin and boiling for "just one minute!" this takes some getting used to.

I tested my marmalade with the cold-plate-in-the-freezer test as well as with my handy Thermapen, and when it was ready, I ladled it into clean jars and sealed them up. I'm a lazy canner and don't have a pressure-canning system, so the jars live in the fridge for now (although most of them vacuum-sealed on their own). It's a sparkling golden orange and so tasty!

Seville Orange Marmalade
Marmalade on crumpet

Besides eating it on crumpets for breakfast, I'm planning on trying to make my own version of Jaffa Cakes. Orange and chocolate and cake? Yes please!