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!

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!!!

 

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!