Reducing the stash … the struggle is real

What makes the acquisition and accumulation of large quantities of beautiful, soft, squishy yarn so addictive? For me, it’s the promise of what could be, the potential to create for others and sometimes because, well, it’s pretty!  

I’ll admit that when I hear the word “addict”, I don’t want it associated with me. According to Wikipedia – addiction is defined as “a brain disease that is characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences”.

Can I get on board with that definition?  Sure!  I have an insane addiction to all things involving yarn and the many accessories that go with it.  I was giddy at the thought of Baad Anna’s winter yarn sale a few weeks ago.  I showed up 30 minutes early before the opening and joined a few ladies waiting in line!  I’m rewarded with new additions to my ever growing yarn stash. I met a few new people, got to spend some quality time with a close friend….what’s not to like?  

My yarn stash is out of control and my cart continues to fill on LoveKnitting and KnitPicks.  You would think that with five projects on the go, I’d be satisfied with what I have to work with but…um, nope.   I still find myself searching for those one or two skein projects thinking I’ll use up that yarn I bought ages ago and ultimately just end up picking out new yarn because I find a few more half dozen projects that I’m dying to work on.  Does this sound familiar anybody?

I used up over six skeins of yarn making winter hats with pom-poms for a local shelter.  I have the best of intentions.  I’m trying to reduce the stash, really I am, but within a couple weeks those six were replaced by six more new ones.  I assembled knit project kits with patterns, needles and yarn for donation.  I crocheted some washcloths for my sister to use up some of my cotton stash – now that one has stuck, I haven’t bought more cotton to replace what I used…..not yet.

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Travel also adds another dimension to the stash — Is it bizarre that when I booked a trip to Iceland with two of my dearest friends, the first thing I thought of when booking the airfare wasn’t “how am I going to afford this trip?”, it was “do I need a second bag to carry back all the Lopi I’m going to buy in Reykjavik?”, “will I see sheep? cause, crap, we’re missing the spring round up” Sad? Perhaps. Neurotic? Maybe.  Just please don’t show me your judgy face.  As an aside for anyone interested in visiting Iceland, they sell yarn in the grocery store! Now that’s my kind of country!  While in Iceland, I was quite restrained and only picked up one of these fabulous mittens kits.

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We were in England last fall for our friends’ wedding.  I just had to pick up these beauties while touring through York.

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I attended Vogue Knitting Live in New York in January this year – WOW!  Too much fun and look what I got – yarn on right is pure cashmere bliss.

Really, the only adverse consequence of my addiction to yarn? I sleep less because I knit more.  My family is doing fine, they just have less storage for their “stuff” and one less arm chair in the living room because the baby blanket I’m making using the Intarsia technique, with seven balls of yarn in the works, has found a home there (separate post coming on that project – it’s coming along beautifully).  I can’t clean the blinds because I have a couple hanks hanging that need to be wound.  So I took up an entire closet, do I apologize for this? Heck no, I own the house!  My kid doesn’t starve — in addition to my love of knitting, I’m also a self-proclaimed fabulous cook.  If my daughter is watching a little bit of TV, I hang out on the couch with her, albeit with yarn and needles in hand, but hey, I’m there and she’s excited to be on the receiving end of another pair of fingerless mitts to go with the new hoodie she got for Christmas.  Are tiny pity violins playing yet?  Nope, don’t hear them and everybody’s looking pretty happy to me.

Yes, the stash costs but I like to justify my knit expenses by comparing them to the cost of all the other useless items I could put in my house.  When I think on it, I’m usually making gifts for other people.  I can count on one hand the projects that I keep for myself so really I’m actually saving money and encouraging cottage industry!  Now I don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of hats, scarves and mitts for my kid, boyfriend, his kids and myself each year.  We all have a fabulous collection growing ~ whether they like it or not! Ha!  

I take comfort that I’m not alone with my shamefully over sized stash.  Facebook is full of posted one liners about the neurotic behaviour of us fibre artists out there – my friends pepper my page with them.  They’re funny because they’re true!  

“It’s not a pile of yarn, it’s a pile of potential”

“My greatest fear is when I die my husband will sell my yarn for what I told him it cost”
[this is soooo true]

“Some might call me a yarnaholic fibre whore and they wouldn’t be wrong”
[my personal favourite]

“I’m not addicted to yarn, we’re in a committed relationship”

Be aware though of this potential downside to the stash!  Family and friends, who may or may not be knit worthy, could become wary of you.  You morph into the crazy aunt or eccentric friend who’s always whipping up something fuzzy for their head, to wrap around their neck or shove on their hands.  What begins with “oh my goodness, so beautiful!” becomes a wry “wow, you made another one?”  

I haven’t travelled down the road of making jumpers that will ultimately get stuffed into the bottom drawer, after receiving a somewhat genuine “gee, that’s great, thanks!”, along with a rather indiscreet eye roll which screams “OMG! She made another one!”  I’ll save that for when I’m a granny! 

 

Pho at Home! Woo-hoo!

While walking the soup aisle of Superstore (if you haven’t visited one in Canada, it’s a no-frills, basic grocery store), my heart was in my mouth when I looked to my right and saw that Campbell’s now makes Pho broth for home! I could have done a jig and clicked my heels with delight.  I loaded up with a couple tetra paks and headed straight to the veg area for green onion, bean sprouts, basil, cilantro and lime.

Now, I will put this disclaimer out there — if you have travelled to Vietnam and enjoyed pho made fresh and piping hot in the early morning, you will be disappointed.   I spent a very short four days there and enjoyed beautiful food.   I’ve only found a couple restaurants in Vancouver that can compare with the real thing; however, if you want something quick that takes care of a pho craving and maybe have kids who want a simple meal to make, this is a fun dish for home.

Campbell’s also does you a favour and puts a recipe on the side for those who need the basics of the ingredients and assembly of this dish.  I like to wing it and vary the quantities each time I make it – no two phos are the same.  A plus to this packaged broth is that it’s pretty low sodium so you can amp up the salt if you need to.  Another tip, don’t just squirt the Hoisin or Sriracha on without sampling the broth first, see how you like the flavour before adding the condiments.

So, here’s what you need for a fun, quick and tasty “home” pho (no 12 plus hours of simmering the marrow out of bones ~ don’t get me wrong, I’m determined to try making the both from scratch..some day, when I have 12 hours put together that I can devote to my kitchen).

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Shopping list:

1 – 900 ml box Campbell’s Pho Broth
1/2 pound of flank steak, cut thinly, crossgrain, seasoned with 1/2-1 tsp salt and lightly tossed in canola oil (maybe a 1 tbsp)
1 cup bean sprouts (love them, so I like to have lots)
1/2 pound dry rice noodles
1/2 small yellow onion, very thinly sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1 lime (cut in half)
2-3 tbsp cilantro and basil leaves, roughly chopped
1-2 tsp fish sauce (optional)

I’m a big rice noodle fan so I like a lot in my pho.  Cook rice noodles according to package, rinse with cold water and place to the side.  Toss seasoned flank steak with canola oil and over medium heat cook the steak 1-2 min each side and place to side while broth is heating up. I like my meat to be somewhat rare in the centre because the broth is so hot, it cooks the meat once the soup is put together.   Heat broth over medium heat until it is simmering – check to see if you want to add salt, remembering the meat is salted and onions and herbs will add flavour.  If you want to, add 1-2 tsp of fish sauce – season to taste.

Divide noodles between serving bowls (I get 4 good size servings per box of broth), add sprouts, both types of onion, cilantro and basil and steak pieces.  Pour broth over the noodles and veggies and using one of the lime halves, squeeze a spritz of juice over each bowl. Cut the other lime half into wedges for garnish. Taste the broth.  If you want a kick, add a squirt of Sriracha sauce, or for a sweeter, smokier flavour, Hoisin sauce.  Serve immediately while broth is hot!  With chopsticks and soup spoon in hand … enjoy!

 

 

 

Poor little dishcloths

My crocheted dish cloths are the most loved and the most abused of all my crafting creations.

Before…..

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After…. (I was kind to viewers and washed them first before photographing them):

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Now my faded and worn crochet dishcloths say a couple of things to me: 1. I do a lot of cleaning …. sigh; and 2. These are amazing little work horses.  While the colour may fade after a ton of cycles in the washer, the cotton doesn’t fray and the stitches hold their shape.  I’ve even had mine stuck in the garburator but that poor thing did land itself in the garbage bin after that incident.

The above cloths were made alternating rows of single and double crochet.  I’ve tweaked that a little and below is now my standard dishcloth and washcloth pattern using Bernat Handicrafter cotton:

Using size H hook, chain 26

Row 1: 1 sc in the 2nd chain from hook, 1 hdc, [1 sc, 1 hdc] repeat [ ] until one stitch left, 1 sc;
Row 2: Ch 2, 1 hdc in 3rd chain from hook, 1 sc, [1 hdc, 1 sc] repeat [ ] until last stitch, 1 hdc;
Row 3: Ch 1, 1 sc in 2nd chain from hook, 1 hdc [1 sc, 1 hdc] repeat [ ] until last stitch, 1 sc;

Repeat rows 2 and 3 for pattern until fabric makes a square.  Weave in ends.

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Above is Bernat’s Handicrafter cotton in Earth Ombre.  The light, concrete colour blue adds some coolness to the warm browns  – this is my favourite of Bernat’s variegated cotton yarn.

I love to give these as house-warming gifts or  as part of a spa gift.  If you’re ever in a pinch for a quick crochet project, these are easy, versatile and a stash buster!

Happy crochet!

 

Highland Knits – Check this one out…

HighlandKnits

I am making my way through the first book of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  I saw online that there’s a TV series inspired by the books, but I hadn’t given it much thought until I was given this book by some fabulous friends as a birthday gift – Highland Knits:  Knitwear Inspired by the Outlander Series (Interweave.com).  Now not only do I want to check out the show to see who they cast as Jamie Fraser, I need to book a trip Scotland so I can travel through the highlands wearing the fabulous cowl featured in the cover photo of the book!

What I really love about this book is that the yarn used is readily available.  Some yarns used are Caron Simply Soft, Vanna’s Choice and Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick – all of which can be bought at Michaels.  Cascade Yarns is featured in a few of the projects as well.  At least in Vancouver, their yarn is easy to find and the prices aren’t crazy.  I’m not saying it’s cheap but you get what you pay for. As I mentioned earlier, having recently celebrated a birthday, I’ve justified all kinds of yarn indulgences so that I can work my way through this beautiful book.  

There is a project for every skill level and a variety of items to make.  The instructions are clear and well written.  The greatest difficulty is deciding where to start.

Crunchies!

Crunchies have taken our kitchen by storm!  My guy is from Johannesburg and said his mum used to make Crunchies for him and his sisters.  I started searching on google and found this great recipe on www.africanbites.com   I haven’t changed anything except that I don’t include the almonds as my daughter takes these to school and summer camps which have nut-free policies.  These yummy bites are simple to make and can be an easy introduction for kids to use the stove top.  

http://www.africanbites.com/crunchies/

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces butter
  • 11/2 tablespoon golden syrup or honey
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½-1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dry shredded coconut
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds
  • 1½ cups of oats
  • 1¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon spice
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg spice

Instructions

  1. Prepare a 8×8 or 9×13 baking pan/sheet if you want a thin crunchies – grease or spray with cooking oil. Set aside
  2. Melt butter, syrup, brown sugar, sugar and salt in a saucepan, until completely melted. You may do this in a microwave safe bowl. Then add baking soda. Mix.
  3. combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl – oatmeal, flour, coconut, sliced almonds and spices. Thoroughly mix.
  4. Pour butter mixture into the bowl of oatmeal mixture , mix well.
  5. Press mixture into a greased baking pan. You may use parchment paper to smooth it out.
  6. Start baking at 325 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes , then finish at 300 degrees minutes for another 10 minutes or until golden brown ,depending on your oven. Start checking after 20 minutes. Remove let it cool completely, then cut into squares and serve. You may store in an airtight container for up to a week

I like to bake mine at 325 degrees F for 20 minutes, then reduce temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking for another 15 minutes.  I find they come out a deep golden brown.  The edges are the crunchiest and the butter flavour is yum!

I’ve tried a few variations like adding raisins and orange juice to change things up but the results are great since it goes really crumbly for some reason.  That being said, if you do find they turn out really dry when you start playing with the recipe, just crumble it over yogurt or ice cream with some fresh fruit, like peaches or nectarines, for a totally different dessert or breakfast treat!

Sweater Challenge Update!

So I began my personal 2016 Sweater Challenge this past January (see earlier post this year).  I’ll admit it has been slow going, not because of difficulties with the project but just making time to work on it.

May has begun and I’m almost there!  I’m still totally in love with the yarn and can’t wait to see the finished product. Below is a picture of where I was in January compared to now – there are just 2 more inches of length in stockinette stitch before I can add the ribbing, then we’re off to blocking and the sewing together.

Now I don’t have a lot of experience with that “B” word … “blocking”.  This will be my first attempt at blocking a silk wool blend. After all the hard work, I really don’t want to mess up my pretty shrug.  If anyone has any tips that may help, please share!!!  Thanks so much!

Happy crafting!

I know May just began, but I’m preparing for winter…

Yes, I know it seems an insane idea to start work on a winter blanket now that May is here and the sun came with it finally, but I’m not the fastest knitter out there.  I’m trying to use more decorative patterns to develop my skill set which inevitably leads to greater concentration and slower work.

I took advantage of a fabulous sale at Michaels and picked up three big balls of Impeccable (Loops & Threads) – 784 m (858 yds) each.  It’s a lot of yarn which made me feel a bit overwhelmed by the idea that I would actually need to use all this lovely stuff.

There are three patterns used for the squares. I’ve made one in each pattern to make sure my gauge is correct and that I like the colours (see pictures below).

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