Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mixed Stripe Photos

Couldn't resist adding a few larger photos to show my progress.  Thanks for indulging me!

Mixed Stripe Progress, Update 4

I've fixed my mistake and reworked all the rows I had to remove. So glad to be moving forward again!  
I ended the last update with the blue Catherine Wheel, here is what's been added.  If you are following Jules on Little Woollie, you'll see I've deviated just a little from her pattern, putting things in a slightly different order. 
2 rows sc - lipstick
2 rows hdc - meadow
2 rows sc - citron
star stitch - aspen
2 rows hdc - pomegranate
2 rows hdc - wisteria
outline clusters - shrimp & aster (quick note - in the shrimp, instead of sc rows, I did hdc.)
3 rows hdc - magenta
4 rows hdc - cloud blue
Catherine Wheel - clematis & magenta
2 rows hdc - spring green
2 rows hdc - fondant
2 rows sc - plum
5 rows granny stripes - wisteria, turquoise, citron, turquoise, wisteria
2 rows sc - lipstick
1 row hdc - sherbet
bobble row - meadow & fondant

For this project, my yarn is Stylecraft Special DK, the pre-selected colorpack of 17.  

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

 What do you do when you score a you a huge box of onions - free?

Thank God for food processors!

I filled my pot with the sliced onions and a little olive oil to get them started browning.  I like to start with olive oil and add the butter a little farther in the cooking process. This gives me the illusion of making a healthier soup. :)  Season with garlic, salt and pepper. Cook on low for a very long time, until beautifully caramelized.

When the onions reach a lovely, golden brown, add a vegetarian beef-style broth. I used McKay's, but if you are sensitive to MSG, you'll want to find something else.  Simmer until the onions are tender.  Add 1/4 cup dry sherry towards the end of cooking.

Cut a thick slice of crusty french bread. Toast it and place in oven-safe bowls. Ladle soup over the bread, and top with mozzarella, provolone, or Parmesan cheese. I used shredded Parm because that's what I had on hand.  Place on a baking sheet and slide into a 350 degree oven until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.  Nirvana!

Next time, I'll get a picture of the finished soup.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Animal Squares

Obviously, these squares haven't been blocked, so they look a bit wonky in these pictures.  I wanted to get them posted anyway. I'm impatient like that! They will be given to Love Squared and included in blankets for homeless children.

Hello Kitty - followed these instructions.  I improvised the bow, making a rectangle from a few rows of half double crochets, then wrapping and tying yarn around the middle. Super easy.

This lion pattern is an Anne Halliday design from Color-Bright Creatures, published by Leisure Arts. The original design is done in a hexagon.  I'll be making more animal shapes from this book over time, as it includes really cute piggies, frogs, birds, turtles, bears, and puppies. Great for including in kid's blankets and for using up leftover yarn!

Looks like the faces on both squares are tilted just a little. Guess I'll have to be a little more careful about that on the next one.

Same as above, but with a larger crochet hook, so the design is a bit bigger.  He still needs a face!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Outlined Cluster Pattern - Tutorial

In the Mixed Stitch Stripey Blanket Crochet Along, Little Woollie gives instructions for the Outlined Cluster Pattern: 

One row of sc in red.  

Next, one row of 4tr clusters in turquoise, made the same way as the 4dc clusters, but with trs instead.

Next row, ch1(counts as 1st st), 1sc in next stitch, then 2trtog into centre skipped st of the first row of sc in red, *then 3sc across top of cluster sts, then 2trtog into centre skipped st of first row of sc in red*, and repeat to end of row. 

Do you need a visual? 

I substituted pink for red, and purple for turquoise.... the first two rows are pretty self-explanatory, so lets focus on the third row, and specifically the repeating pattern instruction between the *.  3 sc across the top of the clusters - then 2trtog in the center stitch of the first pink row (the stitches that were skipped between the triple clusters).  This picture shows which stitch you will work your 2trtog.  

YO (yarn over) twice - so that you have 3 loops on the hook and insert your hook into the first row stitch. 

YO and pull up a loop. You now have 4 loops on the hook. 

YO, and draw through 2, leaving 3 on the hook.  

YO, pull through 2 again, leaving 2 on the hook.  

YO twice (4 loops on the hook) insert hook back into the same first row stitch. 
YO and draw up a loop - but instead of 4 you have 5 loops on your hook. 
YO and pull through 2 (leaving 4 on the hook) and again YO, pull through 2. 
You now have 3 loops on the hook and are ready to close the stitch. 
YO and pull through all 3 loops. 
3 Sc across the top of the next triple cluster. 

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mixed Stripe Revisions, and Other Yarns

I made a mistake with the Catherine Wheel stitch - omitting the three stitches in between each motif - which caused those rows to be significantly shorter than the preceding rows.  You can't tell in the other pictures, but it was painfully obvious to me. I kept trying to ignore it - thinking I could find a way to compensate. Finally, I gave in to reality and removed the first Catherine Wheel section - the one in two shades of pink.  I was able to do this, maintaining the two blanket pieces as separate, intact, works.  So painful to rip that out. Sometimes, I hate facing reality.

Now, I'm reworking the pink Catherine Wheel, and all the rows that followed, getting my blanket back up to where it was. Unfortunately, the section I removed is bigger than the section I'm building on. Right now, I'm using that discarded section as a winter wrap, wearing it around my shoulders in the cold evenings. 

This shows the strip I removed, what was left with from the first section, and the new Catherine Wheel underway.

 Above - the section I'm temporarily wearing as a shawl. Eventually, it will become it's own blanket.  I detached it from the other section on the left - at the dark blue. The light blue was added so that all those loops wouldn't pull out, unraveling the stitches.  I used the light blue to make a modified "broomstick" stitch - grabbing 4 loops and making 4 single crochets in the tops, then moving to the next set of loops and doing the same.  Usually, broomstick lace uses longer loops, but this was the best solution I had to my predicament, and I love this blanket. It's so pretty! I'd hate to lose all that work. 

Here is the actual blanket, Catherine Wheel reworked, and a few of the replacement rows completed.  Lots more to do. I hope it goes quickly!

On another note, I spent a little time over the holidays finishing up another project. I joined several Block A Month groups on Ravelry last year, with good intentions.  My yarn was Caron's Simply Soft in plum. I ended up hating that yarn, and abandoning the the project. 8 squares were done - and they sat all year. I made one more square, connected them all, and made a border. I like the textures of the squares.  Pay no attention to those two doggies under the  blanket. I didn't have the heart to make them move. 

This shows the upper right corner better. The first picture doesn't really fit it in. 

The border is a combination of rows of single crochet, half doubles, doubles, a row of star stitch, and more singles and doubles.  It's not quite done.

This is the blanket Thing One is working on. She chose the yarn as one of her Christmas gifts, and started right away on a Hexagon blanket, connecting as she goes. I love it! 

2013 Resolutions

Interestingly, I've never made New Year's Resolutions before. I don't know why. Perhaps it has to do with setting myself up for failure.  Many people set goals, and then feel very badly when they fail. Of course, often those goals were unrealistic to begin with, so failure was a high probability.  I don't know about you, but I don't like failure.  As an adult with ADHD, I know far too much about failure to follow through (look - a bunny!) I often take on more than I can handle - get frustrated, and quit rather than completing the task below the stated goal.  It ends up becoming an all or nothing proposition. Either I achieve the goal - winning on every count - or quit, because I can't stand to put in the effort and come up short. (If I fail to meet the goal because I didn't make the effort, it's a different story.)

My intention is to try and make realistic goals, so I can actually achieve them without feeling defeated before I begin.  If I find these goals to be too much I will revise them, but for now, this is what I'm taking on for 2013:

  1. Walk 30 minutes every day. 
  2. Budget $100 per week for food/groceries - and stick to it. This includes eating out. It does not include dog food or chicken food. It does not include cleaning supplies.
  3. Create a more structured daily schedule - and follow it.  Too often, I float through the day, not accomplishing the things I set out to do, because I'm not following a schedule. I'm hoping more structure will make me feel more productive, efficient, and effective. 
  4. Crochet - 1 square a week, plus other projects. (Finish the mixed stripe blanket, etc.) 
  5. Blog - once a week minimum. More is good. 
  6. Read again. I miss reading for fun. I used to do it all the time. Goal - at least one hour of "extra-curricular" reading each week. Reading tied to specific work projects doesn't count.
  7. De-clutter my house and my life. Remove 1 big bag of stuff each week.  It can be donated, recycled, or trashed, but it has to go. I have a terrible habit of accumulating stuff that "might be useful."  My husband and Thing One are bad about this, too.  Maybe I can get Thing Two to help..... she's ruthless about tossing things out. 
  8. Garden more efficiently and effectively this summer. We didn't produce much in the way of veggies last year, and this needs to change - especially with my food budget goal in place. (I will not count the cost of gardening in my food budget.) 
  9. Less television. Less Facebook and Pinterest. Not sure what goals I want to establish around this yet, but I know I want less of them in 2013.  Perhaps the parameters need to be built around accomplishing the other goals first? 
  10. When I fail, don't give up. I'm sure there are days I will not walk, and weeks I will not crochet a square, throw out a bag of stuff, or stick to the food budget. It's okay; I have permission to fail - but not to give up. There is always time to start again. 
What are your goals this year?

Ready for 2013!

How did we celebrate the new year? Well, the husband went to bed before 11 p.m.  Thing One dropped Thing Two off at an overnight party around 10:30, then joined me on the couch for crochet and Star Wars. We noticed it was 2013 at 12:09 and gave our obligatory new year's greetings.  Very exciting, indeed.  I was more interested in planning my New Year's day dinner - a traditional Hoppin' John recipe - vegetarian style. This one got rave reviews from The Fam, and so I'm making a slightly altered version today using navy beans, and multi-colored peppers.

After dinner, we played cards, drank tea, and ate homemade lemon meringue pie. The pie tasted good - but wasn't one of my best, so I'm not including it here. I think I used too much lemon juice, as it just didn't set up quite right.  

Our game over the holidays has been 500.  I live with sharks. Card sharks.  In 500, you get a partner for each hand, based on whatever trump is and the card the "leader" calls.  Around here, people are willing to throw themselves into negative numbers to stop other people from winning. It made for quite an interesting game.

Here is the original, basic recipe Hoppin' John.  Use the dry beans (super cheap!) soak them overnight. Discard the soaking water and rinse. They say this reduces flatulence associated with eating beans, so I always do it. Gotta say, since we've been vegetarians, I haven't noticed much trouble with this. 

1 pound black eyed peas, pre-soaked
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper. I used yellow because that's what I had. Traditional Hoppin' John calls for green.
1 15 oz can chopped tomato with the juice. If you have fresh tomatoes, by all means use them. 
2 cups water
Spices: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp thyme, 2 chopped garlic clove, 1 tsp chili powder, salt & pepper to taste

Dump it in the crock pot and cook all day on low, or use a covered stockpot and simmer gently for a good 4 - 6 hours. If in doubt, cook longer. This recipe benefits from a low, slow simmer. Check it periodically and add more water if needed - especially if cooking on the stove. You don't want so much water that it becomes a soup (although it would be a delicious soup). Think "stew" with enough liquid to create a gravy or sauce, rather than a broth. 

It's done when the beans are soft and tender, and you can gently mash some of them to thicken the sauce. Serve over rice. 

Feel free to adjust the spice levels to your taste. If you like a little heat - go ahead and add it. Beans are bland and rely on good seasoning for flavor.