2015’s Perfect Christmas Present ~ Slouchy Hat

This holiday season just reinforced my love of all things warm, cozy and woolly and sharing it with loved ones.  My hands are happily tired from all the hooking and knitting but it was well worth it.

Of all the items made over the last couple months, my number one gift to give was the Macchiato Slouchy Hat designed by LittleMonkeysCrochet.  This hat is a fantastic accessory for the winter, a great gift for hat lovers.  Rebecca has once again picked the perfect yarn for this project – Lion Brand’s Scarfie.  The ombre effect is gorgeous and yes, the one ball can make two hats (just).  It is by far my favourite slouchy hat for winter and, pictured below, worn by one of my favourite people.

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I’ve also made it in black and white with a weathered red button for some “wow!” effect.  I love the splash of colour against the white and black.

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I have one more ball of Scarfie in black and dark raspberry pink – can’t wait to make a couple more!

 

The Chili – A Crafter’s Weekend Saviour

While the focus of this blog is primarily yarn related, a girl’s gotta eat!  This chili has sustained me through many a project, saving me from the hassles of cooking when I’m engrossed in far more interesting endeavours.

A few notes, suggestions, thoughts before getting started …..

I like to add the spices to the veggie/meat mixture and let it all simmer for a few minutes.  I think it enhances the flavours.  Please don’t ask why I add the corn at the end, it’s something my mother does with her chili and I’ve never really questioned it.  I just know it works and the corn is always sweet and crunchy.

Also, around the 1 hour cooking mark, I like to have a taste to see if I’ve made it spicy enough, does it need more salt, etc.  Check throughout the cooking to make sure it has the right amount of kick that you’re looking for.  I’ve found some days I want an extra tbsp of chili powder, some days I think another dash of cayenne is in order.  Chili is one of those fabulous dishes that you can easily adjust to suit your personal tastes.

Chili freezes beautifully when stored in proper freezer friendly containers.  I like to divide it up in meal size portions pulling on out the morning of the day that I’ll need it.

The Chili

3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium/large onions, small dice
small head of celery (remove leaves), small/medium dice
1 green bell pepper, small/medium dice
1 red bell pepper, small/medium dice

700 g (approx. 1 1/2 pounds) extra-lean ground beef

5 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp fresh ground kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

*combine these dry spices in a small bowl and set aside.

2 squirts of ketchup (approximately 2 tbsp)
1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 cup red wine (merlot, malbec)

1 – 796 ml (28 oz) can of whole, peeled tomatoes, with juices
1 – 796 ml (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes, with juices
2 – 540 ml (19 oz) cans red kidney beans, drained
1 – 540 ml (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained
1 – 540 ml (19 oz) can tomato juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 – 341 ml (12 oz) can Niblets corn

In a large dutch oven (this is where I bring out my bad ass Le Creuset cast iron pot – I cook everything in it).  Saute the onion and garlic in 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat until onion has softened.  Add celery and bell peppers and cook over medium heat until the veggies are softened but still on the firm side.  Add ground beef and cook until meat is browned.  Add spices and mix well to coat the meat and veggies.   Add the ketchup, Worcestershire, Tabasco and red wine.  Mix thoroughly.

Add the whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, red kidney beans, chickpeas, tomato juice and tomato paste.  Stir to mix thoroughly and increase heat to bring the contents to a boil.  Once the chili is bubbling, reduce to simmer and partially cover the pot.  Let cook for 2 – 2 1/2 hours stirring every 20 minutes or so.  Add the corn with your last stir of the pot and continue to cook until the corn is heated.

Serve with grated cheddar cheese, sliced green onion and a dollop of sour cream (full fat of course!) or just eat it as is from the pot.  If I’m feeling a carb-craving coming on, I make some garlic toast to serve on the side.

Enjoy!!!

 

Crochet Bliss! Chainless Foundation Stitches!!

I haven’t posted for awhile but am busily working on various projects for Christmas orders which led me on a hunt for a tutorial to learn how to do the chainless foundation crochet.

I’m currently completing an order for 4 crocheted headbands/ear warmers.   In the past, I’ve created the chains, trying so hard not to make them too tight and then go back and complete all the stitches only to discover in the next round that the initial row is tighter –that doesn’t happen using the chainless foundation stitch.

After scouring YouTube and Google and reviewing at least a dozen tutorials, I finally found one that I can wrap my brain around.  It’s not that it’s a hard stitch, but you need to see those loops to put the hook in to create the next chain — this has been my stumbling area.  

I encourage you to check out Crochet Geek by Teresa Richardson (www.youtube.com/crochet).  Teresa does a great job describing how to create the stitches.  What makes these tutorials stand out from others? She replays her instructions in slow motion!!!

Foundation Single Crochet
Foundation Half Double Crochet
Foundation Double Crochet

Now that I’ve spent some time practising, I’m in crochet nirvana! Yes, I’m being a bit dramatic but it’s already made such a huge difference to the projects I’m working on.  I dare you to try it and see the difference!!  I’ll be posting some finished work soon so stay tuned!!

Happy knitting, hooking and creating everyone!