Long Time No See

A year is way too long to go without posting but here I am, back again.  For 2014 I’ve committed to doing one project a week and share it on my Pinterest board 52 weeks.  I’ve forced Mom to join me mostly so we can look back and see all that we accomplished this year.  Of course, knitting has been my primary focus.  So far I’ve been working from other peoples patterns but this week I’ve developed a new pattern of my own and I love it so much I have to share it.

The image that launched a thousand hats (or just two)

The image that launched a thousand hats (or just two)

Anyone familiar with my blog (all three of you) knows that I have a thing for wanting knits that I see but somehow have no pattern available.  This latest came from a pin of a fashion spread.  Time to count stitches and work out a pattern!  Obviously I don’t want to be a complete knit plagiarizer (is that a thing?) so I’ve made a few changes.

Diamond Pom Pom Hat

Materials:
2 skeins Ella Rae Superwash Chunky
US size 7 16” circular
US size 10 16” circular
US size 10 double pointed needles (I used 5 for this)

Stitch abbreviations:
t2rp: This is for a 2 stitch cable purling the second stitch.  Knit second stitch leaving it on the needle, purl the first stitch then pull both stitches off.
t2lp: Purl second stitch through the back loop, knit first stitch then pull both stitches off.

imageHat Brim: Using the size 7 circular needles, cast on 64 stitches and join for working in the round.  To replicate the look of the inspiration hat I used eskimimimakes alternating cast on for ultimate stretch.  I started with a slip knot (which I wouldn’t do if I made this again) and joined for working in the round with a 65th stitch passed over the first stitch.  This is why my rib rows will start with a purl stitch vs. a knit stitch to match up with the alternating cast on which creates a k1, p1 rib start.

Rows 1 -20: p1, k1 around

Body of the hat: If you did a k1, p1 vs. p1, k1 like me you’ll need to move a purl stitch from the beginning of the round to the end to match up your knit stitches with a knit row in the cuff for a neat transition.

Row 1-2: *p5, [k1,p1] 4 times, p3 *repeat to end of round
Row 3: *p4 [t2rp] twice, p1, [t2lp] twice, p3*repeat to end of round
Row 4: *p4, k1, p1, k1, p3, k1, p1, k1, p3 *repeat to end of round
Row 5: *p3 [t2rp] twice, p3, [t2lp] twice p2 *repeat to end of round
Row 6: *p3, k1, p1, k1, p5, k1, p1, k1, p2 *repeat to end of round
Row 7: *p2 [t2rp] twice, p5, [t2lp] twice p1 *repeat to end of round
Row 8: *p2, k1, p1, k1, p7, k1, p1, k1, p1 *repeat to end of round
Row 9: *p1 [t2rp] twice, p7, [t2lp] twice *repeat to end of round
Rows 10-20(or 22 like mine): *p1, k1, p1, k1, p9, k1, p1, k1 *repeat to end of round
Row 21: *p1 [t2lp] twice, p7, [t2rp] twice *repeat to end of round
Row 22: *p2, k1, p1, k1, p7, k1, p1, k1, p1 *repeat to end of round
Row 23: *p2 [t2lp] twice, p5, [t2rp] twice, p1 *repeat to end of round
Row 24: *p3, k1, p1, k1, p5, k1, p1, k1, p2 *repeat to end of round
Row 25: *p3 [t2lp] twice, p3, [t2rp] twice, p2 *repeat to end of round
Row 26: *p4, k1, p1, k1, p3, k1, p1, k1, p3 *repeat to end of round
Row 27: *p4 [t2lp] twice, p1, [t2rp] twice, p3 *repeat to end of round
Row 28: *p5 [k1,p1] 4 times, p3 *repeat to end of round

Decrease Rows:

Row 1: *p3, p2tog, [k1,p1] 3x, k1, p2tog, p2 *repeat to end of round
Row 2: *p4 [kn,p1] 3x, k1, p3 *repeat to end of round
Row 3: *p2, p2tog, [k1,p1] 3x, k1, p2tog, p2 *repeat to end of round
Row 4: *p1, ;2tog, [k1,p1] 3x, k1, p2tog * repeat to end of round
Row 5: *p2tog, k2tog 3x * repeat to end of round
Row 6: k2tog all the way around

Cut tail of yarn and pass it through the remaining stitches.  Make pom pom and attach it to the hat.  I used the jumbo (4.5”) pom pom maker that you can pick up at most craft/yarn stores or use whatever method you prefer.  Also, feel free to play around with rows 10-20 of the body.  On my first attempt I only did 6 rows but I found that required me to start reworking the twisted cable pattern before decreasing.  I ended up doing 12 rows of repeat and really like the way it slouches a bit under the weight of the giant pom pom when my DD wears it.

A note on this pattern vs the original inspiration.  The inspiration hat is actually worked in a garter stitch between the diamonds but I found that I liked the contrast of the reverse stockinette better.  Ok, honestly, it took me two hats to realize that I was making it different but let’s just chalk it up to not wanting to copy the original exactly.  Our little secret.image

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Just for you, Mom

I’m behind my personal goal for blogging but really who cares.  Who am I really doing this for?  My Mom and I.  So, in honor of Mother’s Day, I’m making a special post just for Mom.

Mom passed the sewing reins on to me, though I still get her to make the occasional item for her grandkids, but what is she doing to keep the creative juices flowing?  Making jewelry!  I don’t really remember what got her interested in beading (sorry, Mom) but she’s been at it for at least a decade now.  Early on, I was roped in as the design consultant (yeah, art degree) and I will still give her a push in a certain direction every now and then but this is really her thing.  Recently, a necklace popped up in my pinterest feed but the image led nowhere and the google image search just brought me back to pinterest.  A few ebay and etsy purchases later, I had the supplies and she made me this amazing statement necklace.

Three Strand White turquoise with Turkish hammered gold accents.  Amazing!

Three Strand White turquoise with Turkish hammered gold accents. Amazing!

Here are a few others she’s made on demand:

Found this in a magazine in orange for $500!  Mom made it in pink quartz with orange crystal accents.  One of a kind.

Found this in a magazine in orange for $500! Mom made it in pink quartz with orange crystal accents. One of a kind.

December birthday girls must have lots of turquoise.

December birthday girls must have lots of turquoise.

Extra long and sparkly for the holidays.

Extra long and sparkly for the holidays.

You can find more of her jewelry in her etsy shop: www.mandkdesigns.etsy.com.  If you like something you’ve seen here she’ll take custom orders too.

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Chips, Dips & Dorks

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, the one day a year that you will actually find me watching football with my husband.  I generally have no idea who is playing, nor do I care.  What I do care about is the commercials, the half-time show and our squares.  For those who don’t know, squares is a game where people bet on the score at the end of each quarter by picking empty squares on a grid and then the point combo is filled in.  It’s fun mostly because there is absolutely no strategy.  Last year we won one quarter and the final which is the highest paying, whoo hoo!

While many celebrate the Super Bowl with a party and all the accompanying party food, we generally don’t, but after over a month of sticking to a strict menu plan, I had to have a little something special… chip dip.

Now this isn’t any old plastic tub from the grocery store chip dip.  This is my dad’s favorite garlic chip dip that was so special in our house that it had its own Tupperware.  A Friday movie night wasn’t complete at our house until the beta max was in the VCR,  the Pringles were open and the chip dip whipped up.  I was a little concerned about sharing this recipe because I wasn’t sure the original source would want me to but my dad remembered that it actually came off the back of a Fritos bag. I don’t recommend eating it with Fritos but maybe that’s just me and Dad.

Mmm mmm good

Mmm mmm good

Chip Dip

8 oz package cream cheese (Philly all the way!)
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp milk (original recipe calls for cream, I often use half & half)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp onion juice (you can buy this in a jar but I grate a fresh onion)
½ tsp salt
Dash of cayenne pepper or white pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix everything but the garlic together until smooth.  Add garlic at the very end.  If you like your dip a little thinner just add more milk/half & half.  Serve with Ruffles.

Don’t even think about substituting another ridged chip, they just don’t hold up to the dip like Ruffles.  We recently tried Jays and they just fell apart in the dip.  Be prepared for some strong breath after but it is so worth it.

(Who can name the movie I stole my title from?!?!)

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A Small Obsession

Growing up in Michigan (blizzard of ’78 anyone), I was always chilled in the winter especially because we had giant picture windows in our living room (not the awesome gas filled triple pane windows of today) and there was no getting Dad to turn up the heat beyond 66, maybe 68.  But this gave us all the opportunity to enjoy snuggling under blankets. I’ve previously mentioned that I have more afghans than any one family needs and yet they are something I cannot resist.  Even when it really isn’t that cold (we have a wood stove and our house is never less than 70 in the winter), you won’t find me without a blanket.

blanket

The dream blanket.

One day, after I’d begun knitting for myself, I was browsing Pinterest and I saw this amazing cable knit afghan that could be a comforter or a rug and I was in love.  One thing I love about Pinterest is following people who share your interests and tastes and it seemed that everyone I was following was in love with this afghan.  Unfortunately, it was from a website based out of the Netherlands and there was no way I was paying 299 euros for it!  So, I decided to make it.  Copy a picture, blow it up in paint, count the stitches, make a pattern, find the perfect yarn, calculate yardage, put the skeins in online shopping basket and BAMMMM…$290 before the actual time it would take to knit.  Yikes! And that isn’t making it two sided like the one I could purchase.

It’s my fault that it was this pricey but I can’t help myself.  I have blankets that grandma knit before I was born that look better than ones that are just a few years old.  One truth in knitting, unlike in other crafts, is that you can’t do it for less unless you want to use lesser materials.  Today’s inexpensive acrylic yarns are just not what they used to be.  Kids, pets and frequent washing have turned most of my current afghans into plastic-y feeling, dog hair filled lap warmers.  The universal truth, “you get what you pay for” is so true in knitting.  The yarn I fell in love with for this blanket was Spud & Chloë Outer, a wool/cotton blend in super bulky that was perfect.  I managed to buy myself a couple skeins with a groupon and added more to my Christmas list (thanks Mom!) and in the end, it won’t cover my whole bed, but I have a perfect lap blanket for snuggling on the couch.

Multi-Cable Lap Blanket/Baby Blanket

IMG_2875

Oops, just realized I took a picture of my big mistake!

Yarn: 8 skeins Spud & Chloë Outer (480-500 yds super bulky yarn)
Needles: US # 13 circular 24” or more
Cable needle

Cast on 86 stitches using long tail cast on. Knit in 2 by 2 rib (knit 2, purl 2) for 5 rows. For the body of the blanket: first 4 stitches of every row work in garter stitch (knit right and wrong side).  Between border work cable chart 3 times (sweeping cable, purl 3, braided cable, purl 3) plus one more of 1st (sweeping) cable. End row with 4 stitches in garter stitch.

cable pattern

Sweeping cable is cabled every 10 rows. Braided cable alternates cabling every 6 rows.

I continued this for about 130 rows and then knit the lead in 2 x 2 rib rows for 5 rows again.  I bound off with the Elizabeth Zimmerman’s bind-off for a more flexible edge.  The finished size is approximately 30″ by 40″ (if I ever get around to blocking it).

If making a larger blanket I would add a bit more separation between the cables and add more cables as needed.

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I did it

I’m going to have to back peddle a little bit here and post my Christmas post in January and then follow with New Years and head into the New Year.  The holidays are a crazy time around here but my brain has been spinning with new things to share with you.  So, for Christmas, I’m so excited to share some green thumb info.

My house growing up was always filled with plants.  Mom nurtured a fern that was literally bigger than me and there were many unnamed (at least to me) other plants all over.  Unlike Mom, I was never much for being able to care for plants that need regular attention.  I did manage to grow and keep alive a fern for many years until it became pot bound  and I had to give up on it. My favorite house plants are those the thrive on neglect. My mother-in-law gave me, oddly enough, a mother-in-law’s tongue that has not only thrived but been divided and shared for years.  It only requires monthly watering which works for me. But the one plant that has frustrated me for years is my Christmas cactus.

The Christmas cactus, like a mother-in-law’s tongue, survives fine on neglect but the one thing it won’t do is bloom on time.  I’ve managed to get it to bloom for Easter but, in 8 years, never for Christmas.  But this year, after much research and a little forgetfulness, I finally got it right!  I may have only had one bloom and a bunch of buds on Christmas but I did it and here is how…

IMG_2865

During the summer I keep my C. cactus in a room that gets very little sunlight and I pretty much forget to water it, ever.  In October, I gave it a big feeding (I like Jack’s plant food, a nice 20/20/20 mix) and moved it into our living room which is mostly windows and has skylights.  From then on I watered it weekly but didn’t feed it more.  Once buds appear (from what I’ve read) don’t feed it other than a little water because the buds will fall off (yeah, I’ve done that and didn’t know why I lost all my buds) and you’ll have some full blooms for the holidays.  I’m thinking next year I’ll bring it out to the living room and feed it a little earlier.  I might even divide it this spring to have more than one.  A friend of mine has one she swears is over 100 years old!

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Like Father Like Daughter

From the day of my birth (30 some years ago today), I’ve been told that I look like my dad. This isn’t a bad thing, he’s still a pretty good looking guy. He’s aged rather well through the years, almost too well. On more than one occasion over the last 15 years, we’ve been mistaken as a couple when my mom wasn’t with us… ewww. But the one thing that always got me about being told I looked like my dad was the fact that he has a full beard and mustache. I’m not a particularly hirsute person and I definitely don’t have facial hair!

Then, early this past year, my cousin and I were browsing etsy together and stumbled across the growing fad of knitted and crocheted facial hair. We concocted a plan for me to knit up a beard for her boyfriend (who struggles in the beard growing area) for Christmas. I managed to get it done by Thanksgiving and sent her a preview picture of me modeling the beard…..

The spitting image of Dad

The spitting image of Dad

Dan Jr. Beard

Yarn: worsted or bulky (it doesn’t take much)
Needles: size 8

Cast on 60 stitches (This makes a good size for a man out of bulky weight and a woman out of worsted. Adjust your number of stitches cast-on rather than gauge. In bulky for a woman’s beard I cast on 54 instead.)

Work in seed stitch for 2 rows (if you’re like me just watch your stitches and knit the purls and purl the knits)
Row 1: k1, p1
Row 2: p1, k1
Row 3: k1, *p1,k1* 12 times, bind off 10, p1, *k1, p1* to end
Row 4 : p1, *k1, p1* 12 times, cast on 10 (I used a reverse e cast on), k1, p1 to end
Row 5-8: continue in seed stitch
Row 9: bind off first 5 stitches, continue in seed stitch to end
Row 10: bind off first 5 stitches, continue in seed stitch to end
Row 11-12: continue in seed stitch
Row 13: slip first stitch, k2tog, *p1, k1* to last 2 stitches, p2tog
Row 14: slip first stitch, p2tog, *k1, p1* to last 2 stitches, k2tog
Repeat rows 13 & 14 until around 20 stitches remain on needles, bind off.

Your row 13 & 14 may be different than mine depending on the number of stitches you started with but just remember to work your seed stitch and you should be fine.  Sew or knit into the hat of your choice.

This knits up really fast (about an hour or two) and makes a quick last minute gift for those with a quirky sense of humor.

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Purgatory

“Oh, I’m sorry but that’s a secret.”  You’ve heard it before after enjoying an especially tasty treat.  There’s a super secret family recipe that travelled across on the Mayflower or was smuggled in or out of somewhere and you can’t have it!  I remember reading an article a few years ago by a woman whose failed marriage at least resulted in her gaining access to a closely guarded toffee recipe and it just made me sad. So, to all you recipe hoarders out there I say, you know what… keep your recipe, let it die and spend eternity in purgatory.  I, on the other hand, love to share recipes, particularly family favorites.  I hope that when I’m no longer making them someone, somewhere is trying, testing and tweaking them.

Holidays bring out some of my favorites to make and share.  Thanks to my daughter’s generosity in volunteering (me) to bring sugar cookies to her holiday party at school even though I took my turn for Halloween, I get a second chance to make Grandma’s Sugar cookies.  I made them for O family cookie day with a little help from Grandma.

The left baked reindeer still resembles his unbaked counterpart

The left baked reindeer still resembles his unbaked counterpart

Now you may be asking yourself why I don’t just run out and pick up some Pillsbury sugar cookies and I would then have to suggest you wash your mouth out with soap.  I’m not a fan of the boxed and packaged.  I cringe at cake mixes.  And don’t get me started on canned frosting!  One of the reasons I do love this recipe so much is that unlike most packaged sugar cookies it truly holds its shape when baked which makes for a superior surface for icing.

Grandma’s Old Fashion Sugar Cookies

(I’m pretty sure this was my Grandma’s mother-in-law’s recipe so I guess that would make it Great-Grandma’s Sugar Cookies and who knows where she got it, brought on a boat from Finland maybe.)

1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (does anyone really measure vanilla)
¾ cup buttermilk
4 cups flour (+ 1-2 cups set aside)
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Sift dry ingredients together, set aside.
2. Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
4. Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk until mixture is firm (I like to work 2 handed and drizzle in the buttermilk while adding the flour.)
*At this point Grandma stood next to me and instructed that I needed to add another cup of flour, hence the +1-2 in parenthesis.  This is also the point where it becomes apparent that you must have a seriously powerful mixer, great-grandma must have had some pretty amazing upper body strength.  My Kitchen Aid got so hot that all the little bits that weren’t cleaned off it started to burn off and my cousin, the firefighter, was concerned that he’d need to fetch his gear to rescue me from the inferno. To prevent the destruction of your mixer’s motor, switch to a dough hook to add the extra flour. It really is a dense dough and the dough hook allowed me to add about 1 ½ cups more flour.
5. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 days.
6. Roll out on a floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Be generous with your flour at this point and feel free to mix in more if the dough feels too moist. Dough should be about 1/2″ thick (thank goodness for texting because this has never been my job and I had to text my aunt to get the exact dimensions, though my uncle disagrees, he says 12 mm)
7. Bake in 400° oven on greased or parchment lined cookie sheets for 10-15 minutes, only until edges turn golden.
8. Decorate with frosting or icing of your choice.

Some samples of decorated cookies and yes, that gingerbread man is wearing a speedo.

Some samples of decorated cookies and yes, that gingerbread man is wearing a Speedo.

A couple options for you:

Sugar Cookie Glaze

Blend 1 cup sifted powdered sugar with 5-6 Tbsp water.  Add food coloring.  Brush glaze on warm cookies

Powdered Sugar Frosting

1 box powdered sugar (yeah, I have no idea how much one box is.  I buy in giant bags at Costco)
1 stick butter softened (or margarine but you’ll never catch me using margarine, it’s right up there with canned frosting)
2-3 tsp milk

Beat butter until light and fluffy.  Slowly add powdered sugar.  Add milk as needed to get right consistency.  (copying mom’s recipe here so forgive the ambiguity) Divide into smaller batches and color with food coloring.

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