Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yarn Lust

I have yarn lust. I've been knitting almost exclusively for the last couple months for the local homeless shelter, using acrylic/wool blend yarns and I find myself looking longingly at my sock needles and my etsy favorites for some more higher end and/or exotic yarns and fibers.

I thought I'd share with you a few that particularly caught my eye. Christmas is 37 days away and for us knitters that means panic! A couple of these yarns are worsted or bulky weight so would knit into a super quick gift for you if you too fall in love with them.

First we have "Caramel," a hand painted merino/cashmere sock yarn in a gorgeous burnt gold color. I am not normally attracted to gold but the color on this yarn is delicious and who doesn't want to knit with cashmere?!
Find it at:

Then I saw "Truth or Dare," a fun and funky bright colored thick and thin handspun plied with a commercial black yarn. At super bulky weight this would make an almost instant (and most awesome) hat. I'm thinking a Gnome hat, but that's just me! You can go drool over it at:

Back to sock weight, we have "Midnight". Oooh... I love this one. Gorgeous, gorgeous blues. With my love of short socks this 400 yard skein could get me two pairs of luscious socks! If you'd like to nab it before I do, hit:

Or cool down your color palette with this super silky handspun bamboo yarn, "Ice Princess." Barely discernable colors lend this the hues of reflections in ice and would make a wonderfully soft scarf for someone special on your list! Check it out at:

I've had the pleasure of working with "Mystic" and I was not disappointed! It knits up super squooshy and warm, with the blue and purple colors pooling and patterning nicely and is very soft on the feet! Pick up your own skein from:

"Chutney..." how warm and inviting are the colors in this yarn?! It makes me think of sitting before a fire, eating a hearty bowl of soup and keeping warm. And warm is just what this BFL wool yarn would keep you. I'm thinking some chunky mittens. What do you think?

The wonderful color of "Eire" makes me think of course of the rolling green hills of Ireland and maybe even, a little luck? And again, this yarn is a superwash merino/nylon/cashmere blend! Knit your man some lucky luxury socks to stick in his stocking this Christmas. Go ahead, you still have time!

And how can I not include "Palette by Yarn Lust? A super stripey cashmere blend of pinkish-red, yellow, green and blue, this yarn would be so much fun to knit with! Let the fun begin at:

This "Black Beauty" is simple gorgeous. Slightly thick and thin worsted weight yarn, handspun from local (to that shop) alpaca. Could it be better? Could it be more warm? I don't think so! Very manly but very beautiful, truly a unisex yarn. Drool over it at:

"Pretty in Pink" is another fun and chunky handspun. If the blend of very soft merino, bamboo and sparkles weren't enough it's also had some light pink jump rings spun into it! How fun is that?! Jump on over to it at:

And last but certainly not least, I give you not a yarn but a decadent carded fiber batt. I have a CD spindle just itching to get this fiber on it! It's gorgeous!!! "Bloodlust" is almost 6oz of scrumptuous, yummy fibers like superwash merino, bamboo, milk fiber, etc. It will make a killer yarn! Lust over it at:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I can TOO make Pumpkin Pie!

I've never made pumpkin pie before. This is because I have a mother. A mother who makes the best pumpkin pie ever. But...

My church let all the kids decorate small pumpkins for Halloween and had a ton leftover and my boss let me take 4 home. So these pumpkins are sitting around, staring me down for a week. I know I have to do something with them before they expire. Finally I got up the nerve and called my Mom.

"Can I bake pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin?" There was silence on the phone, I assume she was deciding whether to pretend she didn't know who was calling. Finally, "Yes."

"Can I bake pumpkin pie with small pumpkins?" Sigh..."Yes."
"How do I do that?"

The instructions were: Cut the pumpkins in half and lay them on waxed paper on baking sheets and bake for a couple hours until they were mushy. I didn't have waxed paper (or tin foil, this brought more sighs.) So I lined my baking sheets with butcher paper, plastic-y side down, and sprayed it with Pam. This worked marvelously but left the edges of the pumpkins a little black (not burnt!) but I dealt with that later.

Amidst this there was a lot of, "Are you sure this is gonna work?" "Yes."

I baked my pumpkins at 375 for 3 hours; while I watched TV. You may choose to clean or knit or have a roll in the hay with your hubby; any of these are an option for passsing the time.

Then I turned the oven off and went to bed, leaving them to cool in the oven overnight.

The next day:
"What now?" Sigh. "Scoop the guts out."

"How do I do that?" Sigh...

I cut each half pumpkin in half again just to make it easier to handle.

I armed myself with a gallon size ziplock bag, a large spoon and a smallish sharp knife.

  • First I trimmed the black edge off the pumpkin, which I assume was just caused from the butter flavored Pam. This did not harm the pumpkin nor the flavor.
  • Then I used the spoon to "scoop" the guts out of the center of the pumpkin. This was SO much easier to do after the pumpkin was baked!!

  • Then I used the spoon again to scoop around just between the rind of the pumpkin and the mushy pumpkin I wanted to "harvest." Kind of like you do with avacado. See picture. This also was a lot easier than peeling the pumpkin before hand, and was actually easy to do with the spoon than the with knife. I tried both ways.

  • In the middle of this my darling husband called and said, "What're you doing?" To which I replied, "I am channeling the spirit of my prairie foremothers in preparing food from raw form with my bare hands." He said, "Sorry I asked. See you later."

    Once you have all your pumpkin scooped and the part you want to keep (that's the mushy soft part between the rind and the guts, okay?) put all the "keep" pumpkin in the gallon sized ziplock and throw it in the fridge overnight. Throw the rind and guts away in an manner you wish (compost pile, garbage, pig slop, neighbors' doorstep).

    The next day:
    The Making of the Pie:
    A text to Mom: Pie. Directions.

    The resulting ingredients and directions were:
    1 1/2 cups pumpkin
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup sugar
    dash of salt
    small can of evaporated milk (5oz I think)
    about a teaspoon total of pumpkin pie spice or a mix of cinnamon and nutmeg (I used almost 2teaspoons)

    Bake about 45 minutes at 400 degrees. It's done when a knife comes out moist from steam but not gooy with pumpkin.

    This makes ONE pie. You can double it for two. It's good.

    To do all this I started with the pumpkin and the eggs in the bowl and beat them to total mush with the mixed. Then I added the sugar, etc and beat it. The mix is runny when you're done (I was concerned but Mom assured me it was fine). It does set up just fine in the oven, so no real cause for alarm.

    I cheated and used a STORE BOUGHT CRUST. This is because I was leaving for a 34hr trip to Parris Island, South Carolina the next morning and was also baking an applie crump-topped pie and a spiral sliced ham. I can make pie crust. I can make really good pie crust. I just chose not to. Don't judge me.

    Bake your pie; let it cool while you run to the grocery for a small container of heavy whipping cream. Do not eat Cool Whip, it will kill you. I never understand people who buy Cool Whip "cause it's easier." Heavy whipping cream is $1.48 at Walmart. You need about 1/4 cup of white sugar, a clean mixing bowl and cold beaters and 4 minutes. How hard is this?

    So if you want to put whipped cream on your pie:

  • Toss your metal beaters in the freezer for 5-10mins.
  • You don't have to, no, but it helps.
  • Pour cream in mixing bowl.
  • Begin to beat on speed 1 for minute or two.
  • Slowly sprinkle about half your sugar in the cream. Increase speed to 2.
  • Continue to beat until it begins to thicken. Sprinkle the remaining sugar in and continue to beat until it's completely whipped and fluffy in texture.

    Enjoy! Impress your inlaws! Or, keep it all to yourself and eat it out of the pan in front of the TV. Just enjoy!
  • Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Des and Tony take a Grown Up Trip

    Last Saturday (October 2nd) was my husband's and my 6th wedding anniversary. Jeremiah arrived a quick 9mo and 10 days after our wedding (our honeymoon lasted 1 night before Tony had to be back to work) and we've never been away from both kids for one night since. Jeremiah has spent the night from time to time with Nana but there's always been Hannah here.

    Tony put in for some vacation so he'd have a couple days off and my MIL Cheryl volunteered to watch the kids Fri and Saturday and then on Sunday so we could take the TN hangun safety for carry/conceal permit class.

    Friday we drove over to Gatlinburg and got a motel room with hot tub access for the night. We took a stroll down the main drag of Gatlinburg trying to decide where to eat and finally settled on TGI Fridays since neither of us had ever eaten there. The food was *wonderful*. Best meal I've had out in forever! I can't tell you how relaxing it was to sit there, have grown up conversation and eat a meal (hot) without having to get extra napkin, forks, take salt out of little hands...

    We took a soak in the hot tub afterward and I'd never been in a hot one, just one with Jeremiah once that was the temp of bath water. I can understand why they're popular because after 20 mins I was soooo sleepy and relaxed! Wonder if we can put one on our front porch? It was nice to lay around on the bed and watch non-PBS sponsored TV and knit on a sock a little while Tony talked to me.

    Saturday morning I awoke to my beloved coming into the motel room with a box of a dozen glazed fresh croissants from The Donut Friar which is located in "The Village" in Gatlinburg. They open at 5am! Apparently Tony also sneaked a photo of me snoozing away in the middle of the bed. If you are ever in Gatlinburg at any time of day, you owe it to yourself to hit the Donut Friar. They have the best donuts ever (HUGE eclairs, delicious and almost too much to eat!) and it's so much better than standing in line at all the local resteraunts. Good coffee too, which you'll need to wash down an eclair. We each ate a couple and brought the rest home to the kids.

    Then we walked around town a little more, did some browsing in a few stores (and how nice was it to go into a store, look at what you wanted to look at and not have to pry a single thing out of tiny fingers?!).

    Then it was time to head over the mountain to the 2nd part of our Grown Up Trip: Harrah's Cherokee Casino. I'd never been, not having been old enough to enter a casino when we married and Tony has only been once since then. We're not big gamblers. He's a bad gambler and I'm cheap, so taking some cash in with us suits us fine. We played some .25 bet card game the whole time we were there LOL! Lucky 7s or something that had rules kinda like anything, straights, flushes, 2 pair, 3 of a kind, etc. If you got 3 7s you got to rub one of 3 pots of gold that appeared and that would be bonus winnings. I lost $10 out of my $25. I think Tony lost $60 LOL!!

    The drive from Gatlinburg to Cherokee is a gorgeous 35mil winding road up and back down a huge mountain. I could hang out the car like a dog to look at the view, I really could.

    After we left we went into a couple tourist traps in downtown Cherokee to get the kids some "Indian drums", feathered headdresses, etc then it was back home to Cheryl's house here in town. By the time we got there the kids were asleep which was sad to me because we were reall y missing them at that point but we spent the night there, left their presents and donuts and got up early the next morning to take the gun class.

    We got done with the class and the written test, which we both passed, by about 1pm on Sunday and finally got the kids back. The rest of the day we laid on the couch, snuggled and watched movies. It was a very nice weekend, indeed!

    In retrospect casinos are really depressing as hell. None of the games run off coinage or 1 dollar bills, they all take $5s which isn't too bad. They also give you a "member card" which you put in each game and the more you play, you rack up points that you can redeem as coupons off food, hotel, etc. These member cards are attached to small bungee cords. We only saw 3 other couples our age, everyone else was 65+. Looking around you saw hundreds of old people, tethered to whatever game they were playing and most of them chain smoking, their walker or oxygen tank next to them. Atmosphere of lost hope and dissapointment. BUT they serve alcohol now so if you're of that mindset, you can drown your sorrows (we didn't) and then it won't really bother you LOL.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Big Ugly Man Mittens

    My brother Artemas is heading off to college in New York in January and has been loudly complaining that even with all the knittes in the family he still doesn't have any knitwear to keep him warm. My sister Diantha and I have secretly begun knitting him a little cache of cool weather warmies. I could't find a suitable plain ol' mittens pattern I could use so I came up with my own. I thought I'd share it here so you can use it too.

    These mittens look incredibly huge but they fit my big handed husband (and hopefully brother) really well. The decrease rounds toward the fingertips make them fitted through the fingers and less bulky for handling things.

    Big Ugly Man Mittens
    I used 1 skein (approx. 200yds) of “Encore” worsted weight yarn by Plymouth Yarns. The fiber content is 75% acrylic, 22% wool and 3% viscose for some nice warm and user friendly mittens.

    You will need:
    1 200 yd skein of worsted weight yarn
    1 set of 4 size 3 (3.25mm) DPNs or one shorter circular needle of the same size
    1 set of 4 size 5 (3.75mm) DPNs or one shorter circular needle of the same size
    One stitch marker
    Waste yarn (2 pieces approx. 6” long) or 2 stitch holders
    Yarn needle

    Sts = stitches
    K = knit
    P = purl
    Kk = knit knit, knitting a stitch then pulling the yarn to the font before removing it from the needle and knitting it again, effectively increasing 1 stitch (making 2 sts where there was 1)
    K2tog = knit 2 stitches together, effectively decreasing 2 stitch

    Both mittens follow the same pattern thru row 32 and then again from row 48 on.

    Loosely cast on 48 sts (16 sts on 3 DPNs) on the size 3 needles.
    Join in the round without twisting, placing marker at the end of the row and work in k2, p2 rib for 24 rows.

    Switch to the size 5 needles and work in plain stockinette for 8 rows (you are now at row 32).

    1st mitten:
    Row 33: k47, kk
    Row 34: k47, kk, k1
    Row 35: k47, kk, k2

    Continue in this manner, increasing 1 stitch on the 48th sts every row for 15 rows (until row 47).

    Row 48: k48, place next 15 sts on waste yarn or stitch holder, make a loop of yarn by twisting yarn backward onto working needle twice (effectively “casting on” 2 sts). Join back in the round and knit 2 rows.

    Row 50: k23: k2tog, k23, k2tog
    Rows 51-55: knit all sts
    Row 56: k6, k2tog to end of row (42 sts)
    Rows 57-65: knit all sts
    Row 66: k5, k2tog to end row (36 sts)
    Row 67-69: knit all sts
    Row 70: k4, k2tog to end of row (30 sts)
    Rows 71-79: knit all sts
    Row 80: k4, k2tog to end of row
    Row 81: knit all sts
    Row 82: k3, k2tog to end of row
    Row 83: knit all sts
    Row 84: Cut yarn about 10” away from knitting and using the yarn needle thread that tail through all remaining sts, pull tight and tie off to the inside. Weave in end.

    Using your size 5 needles, pick up sts from waste yarn or sts holder and 5 more sts over middle/web of thumb area (where you increased by casting on 2 sts when working the main body of the mitt) You should have 20 sts.

    Work in stockinette for 14 rows then cut yarn about 8” away from knitting, use the yarn needle to thread that tail through all sts, pull tight and tie off to the inside. Weave in end.

    2nd mitten: (follow previous pattern thru row 32)

    Row 33: k47, kk
    Row 34: k48, kk
    Row 35: k49, kk

    Continue in this manner, increasing one stitch at the end of each row for 15 rows (until row 47).

    Continue previous pattern directions for rows 48-end of pattern.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Incredibly Veggie and Beef Stew

    Cooler weather is finally upon us here in East Tennessee. We've been able to have our air shut off and our windows open for 4 whole days and nights now; which may not seem like much to you but I am thrilled!

    To celebrate the reprieve from the heat my dinner menus have turned to warmer meals. Tonight's was incredibly veggie beef stew. Yes, I mean "incredibly" instead of "incredible." This is because there is an incredible number of veggies in my stew.

    I use:
    1 14oz can of petite diced tomatoes
    1 30oz can of tomato sauce
    1 14oz can of low fat/low sodium beef broth
    1/3 cup frozen peas
    1/3 cup frozen corn
    1/2 a container of mushrooms, sliced
    2 huge cloves of garlic, minced
    2 stalks of celery, sliced
    1 large onion, diced
    1 green pepper, chopped
    1 cup of sliced carrots (I use baby carrots cause they're easy to cut & good for snacking)
    2 cups fresh green beans, snapped into 1.5" long pieces
    5 small red potatoes or 2 regular potatoes, cubed
    1 package of beef tips or a large steak cubed

    I start with the heartier veggies (carrots, celery, green pepper then onion) sauteeing in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Then I add the garlic, peas, corn, mushrooms, green beans, and cans of tomatoes and broth. Season with about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Add potatoes and beef. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about an hour or until all veggies are softened (but not mushy.)

    Delicious, low maintenance, low hassle dinner! It keeps in the fridge for several days, tastes wonderful reheated and also freezes well. Pair with some crusty bread and there's your meal!

    Variations: Use whatever veggies *your* family likes! Like okra? Add it! Don't like peas, leave 'em out! Want to try it a little spicy? Substitute a can of rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies for the can of diced tomatoes. Don't have any beef tips? Cut up a couple chicken breasts or toss in some sausage! The sky--and your budget--are the limits.

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Princess Lily Turns 3

    Princess Lily turned 3 a week and a half ago, but aside from a couple Dollar Tree gifts her birthday this year went by without much ado because this week her Daddy comes back for a visit from his current tour in Afghanistan and they're planning a big birthday party for her to share with her sister and brother to make up for their missed birthdays this year.

    Lily, my Goddaughter, is very opinionated about all things girly. For instance she asked for a big, poofy, fluffy, pretty princess dress. It needed to be pink. Pink is a girl color, or maybe purple she said. Not blue, blue is not girly enough. Sparkles are good.

    So, Auntie Des headed off to the fabric store with a sample dress (from Lily's older sister Summer's 2yo old days) and a plan and returned having met with a great sale.

    Princess Lily is getting a huge, poofy, fluffy, sparkly light pink satin dress for her birthday, just in time for Daddy to come home to see.

    My own Princess Hannah will be getting a matching (though smaller) dress in light purple from us for Christmas. Hannah's dress has not been cut out yet but the materials were bought during the aforementioned great sale.

    Lily's dress was made 2" too big around the middle so it will fit her longer, but with ties at the side to make it fit now. It snaps at the shoulders because I didn't want to snag the satin with my cheapy machine trying to zigzag stitch button holes. The buttons at the shoulders are for show but are pearlized and have small, girly flowers on them. The material for the bodice of the dress is pink satin with sparkles. The sheer fabric over the plain pink sating skirt also has sparkles and rhinestones. The skirt of the dress has a lining complete with 4 layer section of toule to make it fluffier. It is long, good for twirling. I know she will love it.

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    The Ride Home

    I took these pictures around town a couple weeks ago and they have been hanging out and waiting on my desktop for me to finally post them. I truly love where I live, here in the foothills. Things have a little more color on them now with all the rain we've been having but you can still see how beautiful the countryside is in the little town I live in.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Just Call Me Murphy

    I don't know if it's creativity, a mischievious muse or maybe just pride that makes me look at something that's already wonderful and think, "Yeah, I can do better."

    It all started with an idea. Let's have another TwitterKAL. I've had that Susie's Reading Mitts pattern in my queue since the last TwitKAL and 2 skeins of Lavish super-fine alpaca in a gorgeous blood color, sent to me by a fellow knitter in a yarn swap. In preparation for the cast-on date (which is Fri!), last night I took my beautiful yarn and wound it around the back of my Mom's couch so I could dye half of that skein and the yarn would self-stripe. (We discovered Mom's couch is actually the perfect circumfrence for dying yarn for socks/gloves so that they stripe in 2row wide stripes!)

    For some reason the black dye I used didn't work. This morning I mixed orange koolaid with grape koolaid and the resulting color is very dark dried-blood/almost black which works for me cause I was planning on channeling Tim Burton's version of the Queen of Hearts with my mitts anyway. I'm calling this colorway "Iracebeth" in her honor.

    Which brings us to Murphy's Law. If it can go wrong, it will. Great idea, bad in execution. The part that went wrong? The re-skeining. I made sure not to tangle or twist the HUGE skein while it was dying, being rinsed and hung to dry. I began to wind it around my swift to form a 2yd skein and got exactly 3 rounds before it all went to hell. Tangled. Terribly tangled. I think it took me 3 hours to untangle it. While I was working on it, I made homemade pecan cinnamon buns though so it wasn't a total loss.

    But finally, I have my 200yd ball of dark red and darker red which will stripe in a spectacularly gothic manner. I wonder if I should try to wind it into 2 center-pull balls so I can make sure to make each mitt the same size (since I'm already 20yds short, gonna have to tweak the length) or if I should just wing it? After all, it isn't like I couldn't dye the other skein....