Enter the Dragon

Monday marks the start of the Year of Dragon. My mom arrives on Monday, and will be armed with niangao (a traditional chinese new year cake). Since the ones here are cantonese style and don’t taste the same as the Taiwanese ones, I made a special request of my mom to bring some from home. We’ve got dumplings we can eat too so we’re all set.

We’ve had a thorough spring clean so we’re ready to face the new year. Our old Gaggia was on its last legs, so we needed to get a replacement. Lately I’ve been finding that, much as I love to pull a great shot, the time it takes, and the noise the steam wand makes when frothing milk, I just can’t be asked with all the faff.  I figure with baby coming too the simpler, faster and quieter, the better. My mom and friend M both have Nespresso machines, and are both quite happy with them. The choice of different espresso pods is pretty impressive, the fact that there is virtually no mess, and Nespresso has a super easy recycling system for the 100% aluminum pods made it an easy choice. I was tempted by the limited edition Shanghai Tang dragon Nespresso machine, but decided against it as it didn’t include the milk frother and larger base and in person, it didn’t look as good as in the photos. So instead, I brought home this baby in a bright dragon red, with a lovely matching red laquer box to home all the pods (it does have a cool dragon on it).

We have a couple sets of Illy Collection cappuccino and espresso cups which we I love but found them too fancy to use with the gaggia, but for some reason, I really love using them with the nespresso machine.  At the shop, I tried out a bunch of different espressos- some with the most amazing crema (Arpeggio and the limited edition Kazaar had amazing guinness like crema).  The lighter coffees, unsurprisingly, were very nice as lungos but not so much as espresso shots.

The coolest thing is the frother – it makes the most perfect microfoam (literally like a smooth sheen on the surface, you can’t even make out any bubbles!) and best of all, takes about 10 seconds to froth and is so quiet you have too look at it to tell if it’s working.  So easy. In fact, everything about the machine is just super easy.  So happy!  Lest you worry that I’m taking in too much caffeine, I bought a bunch of decaf pods so I’m all set (and the lady at the Nespresso shot made sure to tell me to only sip a little from each shot, since I tried like 8 of them).

Another Chinese New Year tradition is to wear new clothes. Since I’m about to pop, there is little point in buying new clothes at this stage. So instead, I bought some new tools for work, and really indulged. I got a set of Signature circulars. These are like Aston Martins of the needle world and really are lovely to behold, and a pleasure to use.   I got them in the post today, and ripped them open just before we headed out for lunch so I could cast-on a swatch.  Sadly they don’t do the smaller sized needles (for socks) but they have from 3.25mm upwards so I got a set from 3.25mm to 5mm.  Hopefully they will have 2.25, 2.5 and 2.75mm soon as those are ones I am most excited to get my little mitts on.

They are colour coded by size, and have the size of the needle etched into them.  No need to run around trying to find my needle gauge while clutching a handful of needles trying to find the right size!  I took a pair of 4.5mm circs (also in red – all very Dragon-esque) and started a swatch of a merino/cashmere yarn I’m test driving.  Loving the needles, and the yarn so far, but the real test is how well the yarn stands up to some abuse.

Spriteling SMSKAL Swatch Up

It’s time to swatch up for the Spriteling Socktopus Mystery Shawl Knit-along. Needles, check! Yarn, check! Ready, set, KNIT!

In case you are wondering, the swatch is knit in Sokkusu-Original (in a yet unnamed colourway – I am having trouble giving this one a name. I think I am blinded by my love for this colourway!). I’ll have some available in the shop next week.

I hemmed and hawed over lace weight vs fingering weight, and finally opted for fingering weight since it has a more restrictive yardage (it’s easy to substitute lace weight for fingering, but not always so easy to do the opposite). If you substitute lace weight just be sure to adjust the size of your needles so you get a pleasant fabric.

Yarn

400 metres fingering weight yarn.

Gauge

24 sts and 36 rows = 4 inches in stockinette (unstretched, unblocked)

Needles

Size 7 US (4.5 mm) circular needle, or size needed to obtain gauge

Notions

A crochet hook and waste yarn for provisional cast on, stitch markers and a tapestery needle

You can download the swatch info for free from Ravelry by clicking here.

The first clue will be released on the 1 April. You can purchase the pattern either in the side bar or by clicking here:

Happy swatching!