Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Knitted Hat--Re-do!

If you remember, last December I made this hat and posted about it. I posted about the process of making it here as well.

There were a lot of things I didn't like about it--the pattern (being my first attempt at using a chart rather than written pattern) was difficult to follow, the headband was much too big for my head, and I ended up with a cone head at the top of the hat.  But the cabling pattern was so lovely that I needed to make it again and fix those problems.

A note about this post: I'm glad I printed the pattern out last year and kept it.  While looking for the pattern electronically for this update post, I realized the pattern link is actually dead.  It seems that Sarai, the owner of (the site from which I found the orginal pattern), has rolled her old blog into the blog for Colette Patterns, a fairly amazing collection of sewing patterns that she owns.
I must say that the second time using a chart was MUCH easier than the first.  I know how to read a 
chart now, so the stress of not having to look up tutorials and you tube videos on the whole process made it go much more smoothly.

The original pattern called from size 5 needles for the headband, and 6 for the hat-at-large.  I went with size 3 for the headband, and continued using a 6 for the hat.  It is definitely a better fit, but I may go down to a size 2 for the head band if I do this hat again--it seems to migrate down my forehead more than I would like.  

I also used a very inexpensive yarn for this one--Red Heart (~$2 skein) as opposed to the 100% cotton, hand-dyed yarn I used last time (~$12 skein).  I found it blocked better, and I can wash it with the rest of my laundry if I need to.

The plan is to make at least one of these for a Christmas present.  My mother requested one over Thanksgiving weekend, so I best get knitting!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pretzel Bread Bowls & Butternut Squash Soup

Fall means a few things to me, and two of them are baking and soup!  And (as long as you have strong arms or a stand mixer), these two easy recipes will keep you ready to fight the impending frost.

First, I made these pretzel bread bowls.  And luckily, my trusty helper Little Man was there to help dump in the flour and make a mess.  Though the entire process took some time (20 minutes of mixing and kneading, an hour of rising, 25 minutes to punch down/separate/rest, 10 minutes of baking soda bath, 20 minutes of baking), it really couldn't have been easier.  And we fought over the left-over bread bowls...because apparently having 6 left over wasn't enough to make us all happy.

While they cooled, I made the butternut squash soup.  Very easy to do from scratch and it takes maybe 30 minutes and will feed 4 people LARGE soup portions.  Can be made vegan or vegetarian by using oils and water or veggie stock.

Butternut Squash Soup
1 large Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 small onion, diced
1 quart of chicken stock (box or home made)
1 tsp of sage
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup cream or half and half
salt and pepper to taste

Put a stock pot over high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil or butter.  Once it starts to glisten, add in the onions, sage and bay leaf and pinch of salt.  When the onion is slightly translucent add in the squash.  Saute about a minute until the squash starts to turn a bit darker.  Add in enough stock to just cover the squash and bring to a bowl.  Put the lid on, turn the heat to medium, and cook until the squash is soft.

Take off the heat, remove the bay leaf. Using a stick blender, blend away until all the soup is smooth (can be done in a traditional blender as well in stages).  Add the half and half, stir and return to the heat for a few minutes until it's nice and hot again. 

Serve with a sprinkling of sage or a dusting of nutmeg.

Can be made vegan or vegetarian by using oils and water or veggie stock.
Freezes REALLY well.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Our Kitchen Makeover--the before pics!

I can't call this a remodel.  We're literally just giving this old girl some lip stick and new clothes in order to be our regular budget-conscious selves.  Since we are on the verge of done (hopefully the final paint will go up in the next few weeks, I figured I'd get this series rolling!

Here's a picture of what our kitchen looked like when we moved in way back in 2006:

I seriously wanted to kill myself looking at all that harvest gold.

Oh, and here's a close-up of that super-sexy floor
I know you're jealous.

So what did we do? And how much did it cost?

We removed all the drop ceiling, fluorescent lighting, vinyl walls, and ugly switch plates
We replaced all the appliances:
 -Fridge (twice since the yellow monster above didn't really get cold)
 -Added a Microwave
 -Sink & Garbage disposal
 -Added a dishwasher
We rehabbed the cabinets, reorganized them, and added some new ones--including a center island with butcher block top.
Replaced the back-splash
Replaced the old and added a lot of new electrical (lights, plugs, general wiring, etc.)
Installed a new counter
Installed a new laminate "hard wood" floor (also installed a floating laminate to hide the scary orange for a while)

And it only cost $5K...and took almost 7 years to happen.

I'm going to try to post weekly on the process until it's all done.  I'm not sure how to organize it yet though, so if you have any thoughts please let me know!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Home made Pedialyte

I totally stole this exact recipe from 100 Days of Real Food, but it's surprising to me that a lot of people don't seem to realize that Pedialyte isn't the only thing you can give your child when he's sick.  Here is a much better alternative (spelled out for you) which will save you quite a bit of money.  Plus, I know you all have this stuff at your house already, so it saves you a trip to the store, too!

She recommends using OJ, but I think the acid might be too much for a sensitive stomach. I use watered-down
apple juice or cider with a pinch of salt in it for Little Man (worked twice now).


Homemade Pedialyte Recipe

Mix together:
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Note: If you fear your child will think this drink is too plain consider adding in a couple splashes of orange Juice. Also, the sugar and salt may dissolve more easily if you warm up the water first.

Disclaimer: This recipe is recommended for children who are older than 1, generally healthy with properly functioning kidneys, and not experiencing severe dehydration or high fever (which would probably require direct medical attention anyhow). And, as always, follow your own doctor’s advice over anything you find on the internet!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Summer Re-cap

I hate bloggers who apologize for not keeping up with their blogs--because blog readers are just glued to their computers waiting for us all to share what we had for dinner, the cute outfit we spent hours laboring over for our kid who messed it up 2 minutes after the photos were taken, or finding out what fun picture frame we fashioned into a completely useless piece of wall "art".

So, I'm not apologizing for not posting anything for almost 6 months--I have a life.  But, I've missed cataloging what I've been up to, so I thought I would do a bit of a photo montage that explains what I've been up to over the last six months.  Enjoy!

We finally had a strawberry this year!  It rained a lot, my tomatoes are coming in like crazy (still), I built a vertical planter for sweet potatoes (that died) that seems very well suited for cucumbers, pesto: the elixir of pasta, a squash plant I started from seed and hydrangea. 

Helping me make cinnamon buns with his friend one morning.
And thankfully, we had a lot of beach & lake time this summer.
I discovered the olive bar at Wegmans's; Mac n Cheese, grilled lamb leg, avocado pasta, pierogies with chorizo(!), the book that started it all, cold-brewed coffee (a revelation), we made baked beans from scratch, this crazy watermelon rum drink with limes and cilantro, Heizenberg special rock candy (just a touch of chili p yo), and the most beautiful fritatta I've ever made.

Beer/Liquor Drinks:
A small sampling what I've been drinking this summer.  Lots of ales and saisons, now transitioning into festbiers and porters.  I haven't brewed since probably Februrary, but I'm enjoying what others are making immensely!

The chill of fall has also reignited the bourbon (me) vs. scotch (my husband) debate in our house.  Here's a fun maple mint julep I made--it's actually better without the ice cubes to take that chill off your bones.

If you have any questions about what I have up here, just ask!  It may make its way into a full blog post one day!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013



I have decided to join a blogging pledge this year--Me-Made-May--wherein I have pledged to wear two items that I have made each week and create one additional item by the end of the month.

For those of you close to me, you know I haven't sewn anything except my son's christening gown since his birth--it's not just a lack of posts about things!  I'm kind of excited to have a real reason to buckle down and get sewing especially since I've been lamenting my lack of handcrafting lately.

So here's my first entry--a dress I made at least two years ago.  Sorry for the less than stellar photos, but it's all I'm capable of while solo.


I LOVE this fabric, but am not too keen on the waist placket as it literally adds at least an inch to my waist (many layers of a heavy fabric=a bad BMI).  I'm pretty sure this was a McCall's pattern--any interested parties are welcome to inquire and I'll try to dig it out.  It's really nice despite my comments.  I just used the wrong weight fabric for this, though it was awesome whilst preggo and post for covering up/accomodating the belly.

Let me know if you're participating.  I'd love to have some MMM '13 love!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rural Revolution: How long will home-canned food last?

I had to share this blog post from a blog I randomly came across months ago. 

Now, I don't have a pressure-canning system so I can't can meat, but this is a great example of how great home canning can be!  And don't forget to read the comments.  Some are great!

Rural Revolution: How long will home-canned food last?: I was cleaning out my pantry a couple days ago when I came across some home-canned jars of meat: beef and ham, as well as lentil soup. No...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cleaning Sophie

I do much of my best thinking in the shower--the same location where Little Man does most of his best playing.  This morning, I noticed that his bath toys were a little less than sparkling and I realized that a lot of people probably have NO idea how to clean their children's toys without potentially poisoning them.

Rubber, plastic toys:  You can either immerse and/or wipe down with a water and vinegar solution.  If you can handle it, I recommend using 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water and then either rinsing in wiping down with clean water.  For squeezy toys (rubber ducks, Sophie the giraffe, etc.) squeeze under the vinegar water to get some inside and then shake it around before squeezing the water out.  You may want to repeat that a few times.  Some funky stuff can grow inside those guys--especially the bath toys! 

Fabric, plush:  Spot clean with warm water.  If that doesn't work, try a little clarifying shampoo (nothing moisturizing!). Don't rub if at all possible, especially on the plush.  Pat dry and let sit until completely dry or it will look worse than when you started.

Stuffed Animals: If it's just general ick on the stuffed animals (great to do post-cold, too) get a big paper shopping bag (plastic works, too but not as well) dump in a hefty amount of baking soda (about a cup) on top of the toy, close it up (folds, tie, etc.) and then shake it.  And I mean SHAKE it.  For 30 seconds to a minute depending on how gross the toy is.  Remove from bag, shake and pat (outside or over a clean garbage pail is best) until you get all the excess off.

Just a note: I highly caution against using baby wipes for "cleaning".  A lot of them have moisturizers in them that can discolor plastics, stain fabric, and flatten pile on toys.

I'd love to hear how others clean their kids' toys. Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cold Weather Makes me Want to Knit!

Next week we're leaving on a week and a half journey across the Great White North--and considering it'll be February I'm assuming that Canada will live up to its nickname.

Little man just turned one, just started walking, and and just lost his only pair of mittens.  So in preparation, I've been trying to find a pair of baby mittens at stores, online, in patterns, etc.  It's harder than you'd think to find a pair of mittens for a small toddler with thumbs!  As in impossible so far.  All the mittens with thumbs were for kids at least twice his size (2T-5T was the size), and his hand swam in them.

After quite a bit of internet searching, I found some knitting patterns for 12 months sizes and also discovered some really fun places with free knitting patterns!

The first I stumbled across was, which appears to be a yarn wholesaler named Crystal Palace, and has a HUGE library of both commissioned and user-created patterns for free.  Not all of their "indie patterns" are free, and none seem to have any user comments or updates on them directly, so one can't be sure how well they've been vetted.  But I guess what you pay for.

The mittens I'm considering making from their site are their Baby-Toddler Mittens.

The other site that I came across while looking for these mitten patterns is  This Norwegian yarn artisan company has a TON of free patterns, and since the pattern section is made in a blog format, there are some comments about where users ran into any issues which the Pickles folks use to actually update their patterns.  From my browsing, most of the patterns are really fashionable and current, and since they're in Norway, you know they have to be warm!  I'm going to make the kindergarten mittens for Little Man, and if time permits this cute hat, sweater, and booties babykit for my best friend's own impending Little Man.

The Pickles site actually has an online store, too, so if you fall in love with some of their yarns, you can buy them immediately.  Just make sure you find the little British flag at the top right corner so that you you can actually tell what you're buying!

I'm going to make Little Man's mittens with an appropriate yarn that I already have in my stash--I'm not convinced that he needs to wear Merino wool yet.  I'm hoping to start them this weekend, so maybe I can post them next week!  Fingers crossed!