Yarn winder – a must or else you have….

this

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Yup, that was my Thursday night after being impatient and attempting to start a project without using my yarn winder.  I love the look of a hank of yarn before it’s wound.  The shape reminds me of the infinity symbol, representing endless possibilities of what can be created.  I bought two hanks of Cascade Yarns Venezia (sport weight) – it’s a beautiful, soft merino wool and silk blend – my post-holiday splurge.  It begs for knitting needles!

Now, had I just attached the winder to my kitchen counter, this would have been the initial result….

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Now doesn’t that look more civilized!

My guy is a saintly man, promising to help me sort out my pile of yarn disaster before I use up my current ball.  It reminds him of sorting out fishing line! Bless him!

Hopefully in a short time, this lovely yarn will be a beautiful, soft, knit shrug.   I’ll be sure to post pictures once completed!

Happy knitting and hooking all! 🙂

 

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!!!

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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!

To Crochet Infinity and Beyond

The Infinity Scarf ~ A Wardrobe Essential

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE infinity scarves! I have a ton of them in a variety of different fabrics – crocheted, knit, silk, linen, wool, cotton etc.

I have one for every season as there is never a wrong time or place for an infinity scarf. On a late summer evening, once the sun goes down with a little wind rustling, a light scarf adds warmth and comfort on the patio.  In the worst, spine numbing cold a thick, wool infinity scarf can block out chilling winds keeping your neck and chest area toasty warm.

I recently made these two crocheted infinity scarves for a very happy customer.  These two wrap three times around for a super cozy look and feel.

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Both are made with an acrylic/wool blend in a simple pattern  of double crochet stitches into the back loops to add a ridged texture.  The scarf is crocheted in the round for as many rows as you want for the desired width.

I am currently working on putting the pattern on paper, or I should say Word file, so I can share with you all.  Stay tuned!!!

 

Banana Bread …. It Feeds the Creative Mojo

Getting the creative juices flowing and pouring hours into crafting is hard work and you need a break to re-fuel every once in awhile.  When I am working on a project, be it with hook in hand or on my sewing machine, there is a favourite go-to snack.  In my house, we call it “B Bread”, there’s no need to mention the full word “banana”, that’s wasting time that could be better spent eating.  Pairing beautifully with a tea or coffee, this banana bread is flavourful, moist and you can’t stop at just one slice. As soon as my kid sees a group of three bananas browning on the counter, she gets giddy.

Where did this recipe come from?  Sad to say I didn’t think this beauty up myself.  Back in the early 80s, my elementary school published a cookbook as a fundraiser with contributions from various families.  My mom gave me her copy years ago.  The cover is long gone, her notes are in the margins of food stained, dog-eared pages — all the signs of a much loved cookbook.  It has become a family heirloom of sorts.  With everyone remaining anonymous, I wouldn’t have a clue who the baking goddess is who came up with this recipe but whoever you are, kudos to you!  I’ve tweaked a few measurements and added a couple new ingredients over the years with the same results ~ yum, yum, yum!!

So here you go….

  • 4 tbsp margarine
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed (if on the smaller size, add another banana)
  • 1½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt (table or sea salt will work)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • (optional) ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (toasting the nuts first adds a richer, nutty taste)
  • (my optional my add-in) ¼ cup dark chocolate chips  (sometimes I just sprinkle these on top of the batter before it goes in the oven — satisfies the chocolate craving but doesn’t overpower the banana-ness of the bread)

Note regarding using margarine over butter =  I’ve discovered you can substitute unsalted butter for the margarine, the difference in taste is negligible but even as a staunch butter-lover, I am convinced the margarine does taste better.

Preheat oven to 325ºF, with a rack in the centre.  Using either your stand mixer or hand mixer, cream margarine and brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy; add the beaten egg and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Alternating, add dry ingredients and the mashed bananas in thirds to the creamed mixture mixing each to just incorporate the ingredients, be careful not to over mix.  Use spatula to scrape every last ounce of batter goodness into a well-greased and floured loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes.  I like to run a knife through the batter to get rid of any air bubbles before baking.  It’s ready when an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.  Leave the loaf in the pan to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack to let cool completely.  I don’t think I’ve ever made it to that point without cutting a slice — it’s really tasty still warm but easier to cut a room temperature. Enjoy!

If you have a favourite banana bread or similar loaf recipe, please share! I am in search of a zucchini loaf!

A Personal Piece of Creative Heaven

It’s sharing time today…..there is a place, or rather a place in time, that I would describe as a personal heaven – it’s around 10 pm in the evening when my always entertaining, ever-loving and exhausting (in the best way possible) daughter has been happily, sound asleep for a couple of hours, the school bags are packed, clothing set out and lunches made for the next day (this level of organization does actually happen about 75% of the time) and there is a general calm over the household.  

I can smell the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.  Feeling serene, I fill my cup, add the requisite cream and sugar and then settle into my big oversized chair.  In front of me on my coffee table and the floor below are newly started projects (ok, some not so new), gauge samples spread out all over.  There are a myriad of supplies: crochet and knitting needles; stitch markers; scissors and baskets and bags full of …. wait for it….yarn!  

Surrounded by an array of beautiful hues of colour and simple tools to aid my creative juices, I am peaceful.  Not only peaceful, but buzzing with swirling thoughts of “what can I make next?”  Make no mistake, you can be peaceful even though your mind is busy.  I believe your state of mind rather than the pace determines your level of zen.

Happy knitting, hooking, crafting, designing, whatever brings you joy to all of you out there!

Pumpkin Orange Cozy Scarf

Just in time for Halloween….I finished off this bright, pumpkin orange scarf.  Tassels added to the ends create fall flair (pattern by Rescued Paw Designs – check out the website, a great selection of projects).

Using Bernat Satin and a combination of half double and criss crossed half double crochet stitches, this scarf has texture while remaining comfy soft.

Happy  Halloween everyone!!!