Monday, April 13, 2015

Recipe Reboot - Ham and Bean Soup

Recipe Disclaimer: I'm not a chef or a nutritionist/dietitian.  I'm just a mom who loves the 21 Day Fix program, and I figure out container counts for some of my favorite foods and share them with all of you!

Ham and Bean Soup with 21 Day Fix Container Counts

One of my favorite comfort foods is ham and bean soup.  I love ham in general, it's a great way to feed your family for several meals when you're on a budget.  If you get a ham on the bone, one of your options for using up the leftovers is soup!  This soup is not traditional "diet" food (but what does that even mean on the 21 Day Fix??) - it's usually high in fat and sodium.  Canned soup uses a lot of starch, very little ham, and a lot of salt to make it taste ham-y.  All of that changes with what is about to follow!  It even passes the kid-test in my house - kids that usually don't like soup at all.

So you start with a bone-in ham.  When I made this soup and took pictures, it was a few days after Easter.  I had a large spiral-cut ham (the kind that comes with a packet of brown sugar glaze, a packet that promptly went in the garbage).  We had a delicious dinner on Easter, breakfast for dinner the night after, sandwiches... and soup!

The soup starts with soaking the beans overnight.  Or, if you're like me and forget to put beans in water overnight, it starts by covering beans with water, placing on the stove and bring them to a boil.  Let them boil for about 5 minutes, then turn the temp off, cover and let sit for an hour.  Drain, and set the beans aside.  Have your yellow container handy for later.

Now we get to the delicious smelling part  In the same pot, brown the ham-hock on all sides.  Butter is not allowed on the 21 Day Fix, but you do need a fat to brown the meat.  You want to avoid coconut oil for this, as the smoke point is too high.  You can use a small amount of olive oil (a tablespoon or less - when you divide into servings, the amount will be negligible).

Ham and Bean Soup with 21 Day Fix Container Counts

While the meat is browning, chop your veggies.  I start with the Holy Trinity of soups - onion, celery and carrot (one green box of each).  When the meat is fully browned, drop the chopped veggies in and allow them to soften.  If you're using frozen spinach, add it now.  Hold fresh greens until the end.  For the record, I love frozen chopped spinach for soups, and I always keep a box in my freezer in case I get the urge to soup something.

Ham and Bean Soup with 21 Day Fix Container Counts

When the carrots and celery are soft, add the water, seasoning, bay leaf and beans - measure them with your yellow box into the pot.  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for an hour.

When the timer goes off, carefully remove the ham-hock from the pot and set it on a cutting board - let it cool before handling.  Check the beans to see if they are tender.  If they aren't, give them another 30 minutes of simmer time.  Mash them gently with a ricer.  When the ham is cool enough, chop it up (removing fatty parts) and measure it with your red container into the pot.

Stir in the meat, increase the heat slightly (add any fresh greens now if you want) and cook together for 15-20 more minutes.

To serve: ladle soup into your green box (per Autumn's instructions in the book).  When I measured my soup, I got 12 green boxes.  So all my calculations are done by dividing the total ingredients by 12.  I think that 2 green boxes makes a hearty soup for a main dish (see the top picture - 2 green boxes-worth in that bowl); if you're having it alongside a sandwich or salad, stick with one box. If you have 2, remember to double your container counts!

Annie was really mad that she didn't get any of this soup.  She thinks it's really unfair to have to smell ham cooking so many days and not get any.  Meanest dog-mom EVER.  Also, mean to call her over for a picture and not have a piece of ham ready.

This soup just gets better when it sits in the fridge (although if it will be more than 4 or 5 days, stick it into the freezer).  It also thickens as it stands, so add water if necessary to bring it to your preference.

Select and print this part:


Celery, chopped - 1 box
Onion, chopped - 1 box
Carrot, chopped - 1 box
Spinach (frozen chopped, or fresh) - 2 boxes worth

2 Cups white, navy or Great Northern beans - 8-9 boxes after soaking

Leftover ham-hock, browned and chopped - 12 boxes

4 cups water
1-2 tsp 21DF Multipurpose Seasoning
1 bay leaf

Prep: Overnight or 1 hour; Cook: About 2 hours

Soak beans overnight, or place beans in pot and bring to a boil; boil for 5 minutes, then turn the heat off.  Cover and let sit on burner for 1 hour.  Drain and set aside.

Brown ham-hock in 1 Tbsp olive oil.  When meat is browned on all sides, add chopped celery, onion and carrot and frozen spinach (if using fresh, hold until later).  When the veggies are soft, add water, seasoning and bay leaf.  Measure beans into pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.

Remove ham-hocks and cool before handling.  If beans are not yet tender, allow to simmer for another 30 minutes.  When beans are tender, mash them slightly.  When ham is cool, chop the meat, remove fatty portions, and measure into pot.  Stir, increase heat slightly (add fresh greens if desired) and cook an additional 15-20 minutes.

Ladle soup into green box - each green box measurement gives you:
.5 green, .75 yellow, 1 red

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Weeks In Stitches

Only one project to update this time - the Easter sweater.  I'll end the suspense right away - I didn't finish in time for Easter.  I found one in a really similar color on Amazon, which had a lacy pattern, and was on sale, and available for free Prime shipping.  It arrived the Thursday before Easter!  Shoulders properly covered - and I still plan to finish this sweater because:

Twist Pullover, the cover project from Knit.Wear Spring 2012
Look how cute!  And unique!  The long section in the front can be twisted around the neck like a scarf, too.

I had a hard time finding a pattern, until I had an e-mail from Interweave Press about magazines available for $1 - I ordered Spring and Fall 2012 of Knit.Wear (which both have beautiful patterns, and I'm really excited).  The downside was it took 10 days for the magazines to arrive.  So that left me with only 10 days before Easter.  I gave it a good go.  In 2 nights I got this far:

We had a brief power outage at work one day, and I thought maybe they would send us home, and I would get sooooo much done... and then the power came back on after about 30 minutes.  Oh well.  But that same night we had a craft night at church, so I managed to get about 4 hours of work in there:

It seemed like I got so much more accomplished that night than shows in this picture!  But at this point I'd finished the ribbing and started on the stockinette.  I worked really hard the whole next week, and managed to finish the seamless lower portion, then shape the back of the armholes and work the back up to the shoulder seam.  By the night before Easter, I'd attached a second ball of yarn and started shaping the front armholes.  But I was so happy for that back-up sweater!  It took all the stress off me, so hopefully I'll still love this one when it's done!  Here's the progress as of now - I'm working on the front drape:

Stay tuned, I will keep working on it and updating as I go!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

National Crochet Month 2015: A Guest Post from Michelle

This week, I'm so thrilled to bring you a guest post!  Michelle and I have "known" each other online since our first kids were born - we met in a parenting message board group that has stayed together, and I'm privileged to count her among my real friends, even though we've never met in person!  A couple of months ago, she began posting questions on Facebook for her "crochet friends" about a vintage afghan pattern she was trying.  As some of us looked at the pictures and googled and Pinterest-ed and questioned her sanity, she began to tell the story of why this afghan was so important to her.  Michelle is sharing with us how that story makes the struggle and the frustration (and the victory!) worth every minute - I love this story, and I hope it touches you, too.

Michelle has a blog and a Facebook page!  You can visit, like, and see more of what she's working on!

Calming.  Relaxing.  Satisfying.  Accomplishment. ......These are the words that come to mind when I think of crocheting.  I try and make sure I carve out time for myself on a regular basis to crochet - whether I'm making blankets, hats, scarves, baby booties, even cup cozies....whatever comes my way.  It is my wind-down at the end of a busy day.  It is my sanity saver.  It calms me.  It is something for "me" in a schedule busy with taxiing kids, planning lessons, and the day to day ins and outs of family life and raising 3 kids.  I enjoy the challenge as much as the finished product and the joy of sharing it with others.  However, recently I took on a project that I have found to be a challenge beyond any crochet challenges I've had before.  It has been trying, frustrating, and even aggravating at times.  So why, if crocheting is my way of relaxing, would I take this on and torture myself?  Isn't there enough stress in life already?  The answer is simple and complex all at the same time, and it is a story that comes from my childhood.

For me, this project is so much more than a pattern and some yarn.  It is sentimental, a connection to the past, and it is a work of heart.  You see, crocheting is a gift from my mom.  It is a piece of my childhood and the tangible remains of my memories.  I have many vivid memories of my mom sitting down in the evening working on a craft project of some sort.  I inherited her love for crafting - it was an innate part of growing up for me.  Among the countless, invaluable things a mother teaches her daughter, crafting wove its way into so many lessons..... patience, determination, giving... love.  There was so much to learn from her, but unfortunately time was not on our side.  At the age of rr, my mom was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer.  Knowing each day was a gift, she made the most of every last one.  (I have so much I could say about how amazing this woman was, but that is a whole other post!)  During that time, she was always working on a project.  Throughout the last months of her life my mom went back to crocheting.  She said it helped her to keep her hands busy and it calmed her.  It was during those months that she taught me to crochet.  I completed my first project - a very basic afghan - during those months.  I treasured that time with her.  The conversations, the quiet, the company, the lessons, the memories - all of it a gift.  Crocheting was truly one of her last gifts to me and I have continued to crochet ever since.  When I became pregnant with my first child, I crocheted her baby blanket and made her Christmas stocking, as I did with each of my boys after that - just as my mom had done for my siblings and me.  Crocheting has been a connection to my mom that I cannot put into words.  It has also been a way for me to carry on a tradition that I grew up with - crafting items for my children and those I care about.  Giving from the heart.

So what does any of this have to do with a frustrating, aggravating afghan pattern that has caused me to say more than a few unlady-like words?  The afghan is a replica of one my mom made over 30 years ago.  Growing up, it sat on the back of our couch.  As a little girl I would curl up under it on a regular basis.  A little over a year ago my dad had taken it out and immediately I was flooded with memories.  At that moment I knew I had a mission.  I was determined to make what she once had made.  It took me awhile to track down the pattern.  Hers had long since disappeared.  When I finally found some tidbits of information about the pattern I learned it was no longer in print.  Still determined, the hunt continued and by chance I found a copy of it on eBay.  It was only recently I was finally able to start working on this afghan from my childhood.  The yarn had been chosen and I was ready.

Then I read the pattern and immediately I was intimidated and discouraged.  It was written a little differently than most other patterns I was used to.  There were terms I was unfamiliar with and not even a Google or YouTube search was very helpful at times!  I read, reread, searched, re-searched and even posted on Facebook for help (of which my husband was convinced I was speaking a foreign language!)  FINALLY I felt like I had the stitches figured out.  This pattern as 2 basic sections:
1) an aran pattern bordered on each side with a high ridge front stitch and knurl stitch.

... and 2) a basket weave pattern.

The last one was familiar territory - but almost every single thing about the first section was unfamiliar and a challenge.  The terminology and the description took many read throughs to be certain I understood what to do.  Then, once I thought I had the stitches and patterns figured out, working through it the first time had me second-guessing myself every step of the way.  A double chain?  Surely they must mean double crochet?  No?  Wait - what?  Could that REALLY be right?  Eventually it came together.  I learned to break it down to small familiar nuggets.  For example, the knurl really is a variation of the crab stitch.  The double chains are really a way to create a cable effect.  I began to understand the importance of how this pattern uses FLO and BLO to create a working design on the front and a smooth sc appearance on the back.  The puzzle was becoming clear piece by piece.

Now that I have finally completed the first run through of all the stitches and patterns, I feel more confident.  I also fee energized, and yes, even a little proud of myself.  I have a LONG way to go!  These two patterns will repeat several more times, but I already feel like I have conquered my own crochet version of Mt. Everrest by getting through this..... from tracking the pattern down to figuring out the unknown (mostly) on my own.  In retrospect, having worked through it, the patterns are relatively simple now.  But it certainly took more work and "research" than I would have thought, or even welcomed in most cases.  As I work on it now - finally finding some calm in this crazy pattern I am determined to get through - I feel this incredible connection to my mom.  I fell she is a part of me, that she is with me.  This afghan, when finished, will truly be a work of heart with memories and love woven in to each stitch.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My Week In Stitches

Hooray for stitching!  And actually having progress to share!

Week before last, I had 3 days off from work, so I spent part of day 1 watching Breakfast at Tiffany's (for the first time - yes, I know, many of you are shocked!) and casting on a pair of socks.  Because for some reason that's what I do when the weather gets warmer.

I've had this yarn on my desk at work for a while - I always meant to do something with it during my breaks.  But I'm not the best at taking my breaks, so the yarn just kind of sat in a mug as a decoration.  I decided it was finally time to use it, and brought it home for my very long weekend.

It makes big wide stripes!  They make me really happy - I've had so many self-striping yarns lately that made skinny stripes, that sometimes barely made it around my foot before changing colors...

You can find the pattern here, it's called Anastasia, and I really like it.  It has an intuitive pattern, so it's easy to work on while you're watching a movie.  However.  When I got to the heel, it was too tight again (just like with the cursed socks from last fall).  I think the issue is the short row heel.  I suppose I might not be making the foot section long enough, but it seems that I have a "tall" heel, which means I need some give in order to get the foot past the ankle portion.

So I pulled it out, and cast-on again.  I'm working my way back up the foot, and this time I'm going to do the heel the way I did the Uzu socks - with a gusset.  I really like the idea of the short row heel, and maybe one day I'll be able to make it work for me.  But I also want to like these socks, so I'm modifying!

I'll have to put the socks down, though, and get to work on the sweater I want to make to go with my Easter dress.  Must have a sweater, since it's a sleeveless dress and I'm helping to lead worship Easter Sunday!  Less than 2 weeks left - I'm still waiting for an older issue of a magazine to arrive that has a bunch of cardigan and shrug patterns before I can begin.

After Easter (read: after I finish this sweater) I want to get back to working on Doro Theos.  Then maybe Fairy Sisters will wake up a bit.  You never know with me!

We have one more post for National Crochet Month, and I'm really excited to share it with you - a guest post from my friend Michelle.  I think you will all really like the story she has to tell.

And I figured out how to make a signature!  There's actually a simple tutorial for CSS here - I hate doing anything with CSS, but if I can do it, then so can you (if you want to!)!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

National Crochet Month 2015 - Boot Cuffs (sized for teens and adults)

Alright, you patient people!  Finally, a crochet pattern - boot cuffs!

Free pattern for crochet boot cuffs for teens or adults
Thanks to K for being my photographer for some shots - she did pretty well for her first try - while waiting for dinner!

Boot cuffs (sometimes called boot toppers) are great gift ideas for fall into early spring.  They've become more and more popular over the last couple of years as calf-high and knee-high boots are in style for everyday wear.  In my office, boots are a staple, and everyone loves something to dress them up!

The pattern I'm sharing with you is designed for worsted weight, inexpensive yarn.  It looks great in solids and variegations, and works up super quickly - 2-3 hours per cuff.  Stitches used: slip stitch, single crochet, front-post and back-post half-double crochet, bobbles, and shells.  These are worked in the round, because you know how I hate seaming!  Sizing is listed based on calf circumference, and is easy to adjust based on your own measurements!  The front- and back-post ribbing allows for some stretch, so adjust down if necessary.

Bobble Edged Boot Cuffs
(c) 2015 Andrea Holme

ch = chain
ss = slip stitch
sc = single crochet
hdc = half-double crochet
fphdc = front-post half-double crochet
bphdc = back-post half-double crochet
dc = double crochet
yo = yarn over

Sooooooo soft.  I like to make all the things with this.

Yarn used - Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable in Cappuccino - I love the variegations, and it's really soft (which is important, because this could be worn directly next to your skin).

Stitch instructions:

To work shell - work 3 (5) dc in designated stitch (for start of round - ch3 for first dc and work 2 (4) dc).  The more stitches you have in your shell, the more ruffled your cuff will be.  If you want a pronounced ruffle, use 5 (or more, always an odd number); 3 will still give you a ruffle, but it will be more subtle.

For bobble - yo, insert hook in next stitch, yo and pull through, yo and pull through 2 loops, 2 loops remain on hook; yo and insert hook in same stitch, yo and pull through, yo and pull through 2 loops, 3 loops remain on hook; yo and insert hook in same stitch, yo and pull through, yo and pull through 2 loops, 4 loops remain on hook; yo and pull through all 4 loops.

Gauge: 3 stitches per inch (I/9 hook - 5.5 mm) - I work tightly, so you may be able to use H.  Check your gauge and your measurements, if possible, for the best fit.  This pattern is designed to work with any even number of stitches, so you can easily make adjustments based on your own stitches, yarn, and calf measurement.

Sizing (circumference around largest part of calf): Small - 15", Medium - 16", Large - 17"

Free pattern for crochet boot toppers for teens or adults
There are great tutorials on YouTube for "no-chain foundation row" - look for one for sc to start this way, and try not to let it twist!
Ch 43 (47, 51), join with slip stitch to work in the round - 42 (46, 50 stitches).  If you prefer, you can start with a no-foundation-chain row in sc.  This would count as row 1.  (Yes, I know the math doesn't quite work with the gauge.  You want to round down a little so the cuffs fit snugly, especially if your boots have a heel.)

Rounds 1-3: ch1, sc around, ss to ch1

Round 4: ch2 (counts as first hdc), hdc in next stitch and each stitch around, ss to top of ch 2

Round 5: DO NOT CH2!  yo and work fphdc in ch2 of previous round; *bphdc in next hdc, fphdc in next hdc* repeat from * all the way around, ending with bphdc; ss to top of first fphdc

Round 6: yo and work fphdc in first fphdc of previous round; *bphdc in next bphdc, fphdc in next fphdc* repeat from * all the way around, ending with bphdc; ss to top of first fphdc

Free pattern for crochet boot cuffs for ladies or teen girls

Repeat round 6 until cuff is desired height, approximately 3-3.5 inches from edge.

Crochet boot cuffs for ladies or teen girls - free pattern
Measuring tapes are our friends.

Embellishment set-up round: ch1, sc around, ss in front loop of ch1

Note - the shells are worked in the back loops, and the bobbles are worked in the front loops.  We'll do the bobbles first.  See my note above on the shells to determine how many stitches you want in each shell.

Crochet boot toppers for women or teen girls - free pattern
Front loops!

Bobble round: (worked in front loops) Work bobbles as described above in front loop of previous round; in between bobbles, you may use either ss or sc.  SS will secure the bobbles to the front of the shells like a beaded trim, while sc will create more of a "flap", making it look like the bobbles are folded down in front (this flap can slide onto the top of the boot).    Alternate bobbles and ss or sc all the way around, finishing with sc or ss; ss into back loop behind first bobble to set up for shells.

Free pattern for handmade crochet boot cuffs
This image shows the flap created with a sc between bobbles

First shell round (see note above on the shells to determine how many stitches you want):  ch3 (counts as first dc), 2 (4) dc in next stitch, sc in next stitch, *3 (5) dc in next stitch, sc* repeat from * around, ending with sc.  Finish the round with ss in both loops (this is a little fiddly, sorry).

Free pattern for handmade crochet boot toppers
In this image, you see the finished bobble edge, and 2 shell rows.  I made my shells with 3 stitches.

You can fasten off here, or you can do another shell round:  We'll put these shells through both loops  SS to the top of your first shell, then ss in center dc  You have a sc between 2 shells in the previous row - we'll work our shells in those sc's.  *3 (5) dc in sc, ss in center stitch of shell in round before*, repeat from * around, end with final ss; fasten off and weave in ends.

Make one more (I easily get 2+ out of the yarn mentioned).  Wear and enjoy!

I may need some brown boots now!

Copyright notice - this pattern, along with the images used to illustrate it, is my gift to the online stitching community.  You may make as many of these boot cuffs as you like.  Anything you make you can sell.  However, the pattern is my property.  Please do not sell, repost, copy, or otherwise distribute the pattern without my express written permission.  Thanks!
(c) 2015, Andrea Holme

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day Catch Up Post

Happy Pi Day!  At least in the US, with the way we express dates, today is 3.14.  More than that, today is 3.1415.  I know that the next  numbers are 926.  So at 9:26 in every time zone, social media sites are being flooded with pi posts.  And images of people with pies (because of course we instinctively use pi to serve pie).  I work for patent attorneys now, I may be picking up on some of their humor.

And we use pi in hand crafts too - any time you're creating something circular.  You may not realize it but you use it!  It's one of those mathematical laws that we can be proud of ourselves as humans for figuring out.  So Happy Pi Day, everyone!

I don't have any pie- or pi-related updates to show you.  From my post on mental fatigue a few weeks ago, you may guess that I've lost a little mojo.  It's starting to come back, though.  We've had several days of sunny, warm weather (71 yesterday!) which, oddly, makes me feel like knitting socks.  So I've started a new pair, and I like them so far.  I also have plans for a new sweater/cardigan/bolero to go with my Easter dress.

In reality, I spent the first 2 months of the year working on my health.  I'm not in terrible health - I don't have any chronic diseases or muscle pain, I fight off most colds, etc.  But I had a troubling health screen last winter.  My company provides the blood draw and cholesterol screening for us and if we improve numbers or maintain healthy levels, we get a bonus in our health reimbursement accounts.  It's a great benefit.  But last year my numbers were out of whack.  My blood pressure was high (never before in my life), and my healthy cholesterol was too low and my triglycerides were in a dangerous category.  My weight was too high, and my waist circumference was dangerous.  With my family history of heart disease, these numbers were a wake-up call!

I joined a gym (another benefit of our company) and started working out but the weight was coming off slowly.  I felt stronger, but I didn't see very many changes.  In January my friend Kristy invited me to do a 5-day clean eating challenge.  I figured I could do something like that for just 5 days!  Because I'm dairy-free (as much as possibe) the changes weren't huge.  But I lost 5 pounds and an inch off my waist in 5 days.

After that challenge, I joined another challenge called 21 Day Fix - 3 weeks of portion control, focusing on lean protein and getting fruits and veggies, and daily exercise.  After 3 weeks - I'd lost another 5 pounds and 3 inches off my waist.  I went from no real results to 10 pounds and 4 inches lost in the equivalent of a month!

I just started a second round of 21 Day Fix - this may be where my increased energy is coming from!  I'm having some fun modifying recipes and figuring out "container counts" - I sort of half-promised some lactose-free recipes a couple of years ago.  I'm now planning to share some of these calculations here on the blog.

Oh, I didn't tell you the best part - we had our 2015 health screening at the end of February (in the middle of my last week of round 1 of 21 Day Fix).  I just got the results back.  Blood pressure - normal.  HDL - moved into (low end) of optimal range.  Triglycerides - dropped over 100 points, from dangerous to optimal.  My LDL was in a normal range, but it dropped too!  I'm now 5 inches from a healthy waist circumference.  I'm not using pi in any way to calculate that number, LOL.  Or pie, either!

Thanks for reading all of that, it feels good to share it.  I know that as crafters we don't always seek out fitness (yes, I know there are exceptions, and I think I'm on my way to becoming one of those exceptions).  In general, we are drawn to handcraft because it's comforting.  We like comforting food, comfortable chairs, comfortabe clothes...  I just wanted to share with you that it is possible to improve health and still have time for the comforting things you love!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

National Crochet Month 2015 - The Return To Tunisian Crochet

This week, I thought we would revisit Tunisian crochet.  Several years ago I made some scarves using this technique.  This technique makes for a more closely-woven fabric than traditional crochet.  It is more like a knitted fabric, but still has the weight of crochet.  You work each row from right to left (if you're right handed) to pick up the stitches, then you complete the row by working the stitches off, left to right.  You never turn the work, which is part of the appeal for me!

You can buy a special long hook for large projects, but if you're doing something narrow like a scarf (or a granny square) you can use a standard crochet hook!

I'm using the cursed Premier sock weight yarn (the yarn isn't really cursed, just the socks were) and an E hook (the top of the recommended range) - it's a good idea to go up in hook size to avoid tension issues and curling. I still have curling, but I think it will block out.

I'm showing you the diagonal stitch (new to me) in a variegated yarn; if you want to see more options for working this stitch, I recommend visiting Stitch Diva - she has very good tutorials on how to execute the basic stitches (flat and in-the-round), as well as a series of classes you can purchase from her (not an affiliate post, I just really appreciate stitchers who put effort into teaching others!) - she also has free and paid patterns available. (Here's one of the free ones - chainmaille!  It uses this stitch!)

On to the project!

I found the best way to start this was with a no-foundation-chain row. It sets you up perfectly for executing the Tunisian diagonal stitch.

The diagonal stitch reminds me of Entrelac knitting.  Especially when I did a block of about 11 stitches, 11 rows high (I don't know why 11, it's just the number I picked).   I saw the left-hand edge looked an awful lot like slipped stitches that would be easy to pick up to start another block, so I did, and made a cool tulip-v-shaped thing:

Then I wondered what would happen if I picked up stitches on the right-hand edge of piece #2, and slipped each row to the top of piece #1 as I worked.  This happens:

It's like a hexagonal granny!  (I think it was pretty easy to figure out as I looked at it, but if you want a step-by-step for creating this granny, let me know in the comments!)

I think I've found some 12-y Seahawk redemption for this yarn, and I may try making my first real afghan out of these!  I started a grey one, too - I just need to get some off-white sock yarn to edge and attach the pieces!

You could also assemble them more like a puzzle, making 2 of the v-shaped-tulips and turning them points in.  There are a lot of really neat options with this idea.  What would you do with this stitch?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

National Crochet Month 2015 - Looking Back and Looking Forward

Welcome to National Crochet Month!  A couple of years ago I did a series of blog posts featuring new-to-me stitches and interesting projects.  To this day, the post on the Celtic Knot Granny Square is the most popular post of all time on this blog!

For this year, I have a lot of fun things planned, including techniques, a pattern of my own invention, and a guest post from one of my crafty friends!  If you have a Google account, you can easily follow so you don't miss any of these posts.

I'll be updating this post with links as the month progresses.  But let's start the celebration with just talking about crochet itself.

I know this question is asked by fiber arts pages on social media as a conversation starter all the time, but I'm really curious.  What is your favorite part of working yarn with one hook?

For me, there's something comforting in the repetition of pattern.  Somehow, crochet patterns seem easier (my friend Michelle will likely disagree with this when she tells about the project she's working on!) because of the repetition.  It soothes me - after the first few rows or rounds, I don't have to worry about what's coming next, or where I am, because it's all the same, and that's relaxing.

I've shared with you before that most of the things I crochet are utilitarian.  So I like to imagine my kids wearing the scarf or hat, someone carrying the bag, wearing the cardigan, wrapping their child in the blanket... That's also comforting to me.  This is the craft I do with purpose that also brings me joy!

Okay, your turn!  What do you love about crochet?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl 49 - My 4 Game Day Must-Dos

I don't do roman numerals.  Does anyone know why the NFL uses roman numerals for the Super Bowl count?  I think they do it just to be fancy!

I'm very excited for the game this evening, since my Seahawks are playing for their 2nd consecutive title!  My Facebook feed has been a lot of fun for the last 2 weeks, with articles and videos  meant to inspire fans.  It's working!

Since I have something of an emotional investment in the game for the 2nd year in a row, it feels like I'm starting to develop some superstitions traditions:

1.  Skittles.  The link explains it all.

2.  Wear the proper colors.  I was on the worship team at church today, so I 12'd in public, with blue eyeliner and a blue infinity scarf I crocheted.  Just not in Seahawks team gear (which is not easy to find in Idaho).  But I did this with my nails:

Love these Neptune Jamberry wraps!  They actually remind me of summer and swimming pools!
3.  No chicken for food during the game.  I don't know that this tradition is a thing, because I think we had wings last year, and it was a blow-out.  But tonight we're having slow-cooked ribs, because that's delicious.

Game-day food gets a little more tricky because I've drastically changed my diet over the last few years.  I think I told you, about 2.5 years ago I discovered I am lactose-intolerant.  And I'm pretty sensitive to things I ought to be able to eat (yes, I can take enzymes to help, but my body still reacts.  So I usually avoid anything made with animal milk).  This combined with an effort to improve my overall health means that I am now about 80% paleo - focusing on whole foods, lean protein, fruits & veggies, limiting grains (I do still eat whole-wheat bread).  And I feel gross when I go off this plan, so I'm trying to stick to it, even through the big game.  I made a vegan spinach-artichoke dip that I found here (recipe is made with cashews, so if you're avoiding dairy and nuts, this may need more modification).  Soooooo good and really fast to make.  I may not even miss the cream cheese dip my mom makes!

4.  Fiber arts in team color.  So, I abandoned the socks I was knitting - I decided the yarn was cursed.  Not only did the Hawks not play up to par when I worked on them, but I had fit issues, and when I pulled the whole thing apart to try a different sock the yarn started splitting.  I think I'll work on some of the things I want to show you for crochet month.  Which is not all in blue or green.  But I'm having a good time with it, which is also important.  I may also work on the blue sections of Doro Theos.

Whether you watch the game for the football or the commercials (or don't watch at all), I hope everyone has a fun and safe Super Bowl Sunday.  Go Hawks!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My Week In Stitches

Looks like this...

Like I said, my brain was too tired to focus on anything more than i-cord, which is not very interesting to look at. But I did this today:

Yarn was 25% off at Joann, so that's actually the inside of my shopping bag on my lap in the car. I think I have stash for some fun ideas and tutorials for crochet month in March!

Also, I found this cute notebook (clearance! bonus!) I think I'll keep it in my purse for times when I need paper. And this reminds me that I want to do a post on "color of the year!"

(And I'm blogging from my phone, so I have different formatting options - it won't let me choose my alignment, so everything after the pictures is centered. It probably only bothers me!)