Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Favorite Blogs - Food

As I have been playing with Feedly and Bloglovin, and trying to keep up with blogs I follow on a daily basis, it dawned on me that there are certain blogs that have become my favorites.  Well, more than favorites. It's more like I have withdrawal symptoms if I stay away from them too long.  These are the blogs that I anxiously await the next post and value the information shared.  In the next few weeks I will be sharing the blogs I love, by category.  First up - FOOD!

There are other blogs pertaining to food that I follow, and I am sure there are other valuable blogs to follow as well, but there are two that never leave me disappointed: Pinch of Yum and The Café Sucré Farine.  

Pinch of Yum was discovered through a pin one of my daughters-in-law made on Pinterest: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Onions, Bacon, and Apple.  Oh my goodness!!  Then there were the Baked Gingerbread Mini Donuts.  The recipes have never disappointed me and range from healthy to decadent, common to unique, and are always doable.  Lindsay and Bjork not only share food, but how they have made income from their blog as well.  They recently returned from spending a year volunteering at an orphanage in the Philippines.  Believe it or not, Lindsay was still able to cook and bake, sharing food and life on the blog.

Chris' Pumpkin Buttermilk Pound Cake with Caramel Icing was the first item made from The Café Sucré Farine (sans walnuts).  Do you sense a theme? Fall....baking....they get me every time!  Chris is definitely a culinary expert, although I am sure she would humbly refute my use of the term expert.  Her offerings range from simple, basic go-to recipes to more demanding gourmet dishes.  But she makes everything attainable!  You also get glimpses of her life and darling grandchildren.  There are probably more of her recipes on my "I Must Make THIS" list than any other blog I follow.  Like Lindsay, Chris' husband is part of the success; he does the photography.

Take a stroll through both of these blogs.  I'm sure your mouth will be watering and your "I Must Make THIS" list will expand!

Stay tuned for more 'My Favorite Blogs' - next up Sewing.


Monday, July 22, 2013

And my blog-reader of choice is....

In the past month I have been viewing the blogs I follow on both Feedly and Bloglovin to make an informed decision as to the replacement I will choose for Google Reader.  To be honest, I had found Feedly during the winter and had started using it, but so many blogs were promoting Bloglovin, I had to try it out.

Well, the verdict in is, at least for me.  Feedly!  While I really liked the appearance of the feeds on Bloglovin, it was the organization in Feedly which won me over.  I really think it is a personal preference, so try them out for yourself and make your own decision.

I am still using Blogger for composing and hosting this blog, so I have to figure out how to link the blogs I follow.  The list has grown and the entire list in only in my Feedly!

If you have difficulty following me on either site, please let me know.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Short-lived Hiatus

My self-imposed hiatus is probably over.  I have decided that for now I will continue to post a mix of things I love to do as I have time to post!  With a full time job and other commitments and interests, this is what works at this period in my life.

Here are the in-progress photos of my most recent baking session.  Totally forgot to grab a quick finished photo.  Thanks to Food Network for this fabulous recipe: Blueberry Buttermilk Bundt Cake.  Because it was traveling to church to be eaten, I did not make the macerated berries; I just made the glaze.  It was gone in a flash!!

Enjoy the day!


Monday, July 15, 2013

My June Quick-sew

My great niece had a birthday in June - her sixth!  She developed her own sense of style by age four, so it can be challenging to create for her.  Her favorite thing to wear is dresses and she loves a lot of bright, vivid color.  She does not like things scratchy against her skin.  Enter this version of the pillowcase dress from The Purl Bee. There are no raw seams; not even a surged seam.  Here is the result in a wonderful seersucker fabric purchased at JoAnn's, on sale of course!  I used only 3/4 of a yard of fabric and about 2 1/2 yards (or less) of ribbon.

The dress is a bit long right now, but a quick hand stitched hem that can be removed as she grows will fix it.

Now to find more time to sew!


Thursday, June 20, 2013


I am taking a hiatus from the blog as I decide the direction it will take. Also, I am playing around with Bloglovin and Feedly with the shutting down of Google Reader.  Check back in late July! Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Friday, April 26, 2013

We Interrupt This Program...

In my last post I was enamored by my Tuscany socks.  There was no stopping me...don't change the channel on me...I was going to finish them quickly.  Then this happened.

Leftover fabric and a friend's stash of trims became a 'pillowcase dress'.  (Please forgive the flat-on-the-table shot.)

We are the home church for a missionary who is part of TEAMS for Medical Missions in Jamaica.  She came home from one of her regular trips last year and asked if we would consider making 'pillowcase dresses' for them to take along and give to the girls they see.  Our Stitchin' Sisters group has taken up the task.  Members of our church have been sewing at home and we held a special Saturday event where people could learn how to make them.  For this group, each person started with an actual pillow case and turned it into a dress.

It has been fun to see the same basic pattern recreated by a number of different people into a variety of cute dresses which will serve a need in Jamaica.  Some are using fabric in their stash, others are using pillowcases which are still in good condition.  They have added ruffles, used appliques, add contrasting fabric for the bottom, and trimmed with everything from rick-rack to lace.  Our bin has been filling quickly in time for the next trip to Jamaica in May.

There are plenty of YouTube videos and written tutorials on the internet which you can use if you need guidance.  My one warning would be to make sure the armhole is not too small.

As for my socks, they have been patiently waiting for me to return.  Soon - I hope!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Picking Up Speed

Immediately after finishing my Simplicity Socks (read here and here), I started these:

And promptly didn't knit for a week!  However, things are moving along at a much better pace now. This pair of socks is again from Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes.  The pattern is Tuscany; the yarn is KnitPicks Stroll Tonal in Kindling; and the needles are KnitPicks Options Nickel Plated Size 1 (2.25mm) 40" fixed circulars.

Why are things moving more rapidly?  The needles!!  I was using a different brand with thicker cables on the Simplicity socks.  The KnitPicks cables are thinner and much more flexible.  This means much less time is spent rearranging the stitches and the cables bend when and where you want them to bend.  KnitPicks also offers these in Harmony Wood and Sunstruck Wood.  I enjoy using those as well, depending upon the yarn.

In the next post, I'll share another picture of my progress as well as information about some of the sock yarns I have tried.

P.S.  I have not received any compensation for endorsing KnitPicks products.  Having tried other brands (you should see my needle collection!) they are simply my favorites.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Out of the Tunnel

I did it!  I am out of the tunnel!  The socks were finished this evening about 8:30 pm EDT.  The best part is they fit.  They are also very soft and will get their first wearing tomorrow.  I did have yarn leftover and had thought about making them longer, but I probably would have had to increase to go over my calves and that would have thrown off the pattern.  The length is good as is.

Not sure I have ever been this thankful to finally finish a project.  Now the debate begins...start another pair of socks or finish some of the many UFOs I have.  I confess - I want more socks!

Oh, and I made it through a second tunnel this evening. The tunnel known as ironing my husband's long sleeve shirts.  Any tunnels you are working through?

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

There is light at the end of the tunnel - the tunnel known as my socks.

A while back I had started a pair of socks in my attempt to improve my sock knitting skills, find the perfect fitting sock, and add to my lonely, single pair of handmade socks in my sock drawer.  The pattern I chose was Simplicity socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes from her book "Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks".  And by a while, I mean about a year.  It's been a really long tunnel.

I started them sometime in the first three months of 2012.  The sock pattern had directions for Small or Large; my foot fell somewhere in between.  Attempting to get "the perfect fit" I went with 2.75 mm circulars (one long, magic loop method) and used my own calculations for the foot length.  WRONG thing to do!!  In late June, I was ready to increase for the gusset, so I tried them on.  They were too long.  If I had continued, the heel would have been at my knee.  Not really, but they would have come close to fitting my older son's size 13 feet.  No big deal, I'll run a lifeline through a safe spot closer to the toe, recalculate (using Melissa's directions this time!) and continue on my merry way.   Mistake number two.  I had messed up on the pattern often enough that I couldn't follow a single row to put in the lifeline.  So, I ripped them out and started over.

Now, eight months later, I can see the light at the end of this tunnel.  The only thing left to knit is the 2x2 ribbing at the cuffs.  Maybe, just maybe, I will get them finished in time to wear them before it is sandals weather.

The bright side is there have been some really valuable lessons learned in this tunnel: 
Lesson #1 - Trust Melissa Morgan-Oakes - she really knows her stuff.  Use her calculations!
Lesson #2 - I have learned to read the knitting!  This is very freeing.  The pattern has a two row repeat.  I knew which row I was on by looking at the wrong side of the sock.  No more need to be keeping track of which row I was on by marking it down on a piece of paper which is what I was doing when I made all the mistakes!
Lesson #3 - It would have taken a lot less time if I didn't do a billion multiple projects for others which stopped the sock knitting for weeks at at time.  (Let's see if I remember this lesson!)

Time to put the pedal to the metal and get out of this tunnel!  Stay tuned for pics of the finished socks, on my feet, in the not-too-distance future - I hope.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Catching Up #2

I have been looking back over my knitting projects and have come to the realization I am not very good at remembering to document them.  And when I do remember, it almost always appears as if I just took the photo to get it over with; no thought to presentation or aesthetic.

Case in point: great niece's scarf and hat set which I made for her Christmas gift.  Here is the hat, made from Bernat Pipsqueak in the Candy Girl colorway using no written pattern, just cast on and knit, knit, knit until I decreased for the crown.

The hat is just plopped, I'm not sure where, and I didn't even stuff it to make it look like it would on a head. Where is the scarf you ask?  I forgot!!!  And my kitchen creations fare no better.

Guess I have two new goals: better document my creations with pictures, no matter what sticks and string I use, and display them in a more attractive way.  Tips welcomed!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Baking and Chemistry

I love to bake. Cookies, cakes, pies, breads, muffins - it doesn't matter - I'll make them.  Part of my enjoyment comes from family legacy: my sister enjoys baking, my grandmothers were great bakers, and my great-grandmother baked pies well into her 80s.  But the other enticement?  It's chemistry.  All baking relies on a chemical reaction between the ingredients.  It is fascinating watching it happen.

Today I made Shoo Fly Cake, a sweet molasses cake that is a staple in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where I lived almost half of my life.  This cake is truly a testimony to the marvelous reactions that occur when certain ingredients make contact.  Here is the chemistry in action.

Dry ingredients: 4 cups flour, 2 cups light brown sugar, 1 tsp salt, 3/4 cup shortening.  Mix to make crumbs. Reserve 1 cup of this mixture for later.

Next, some of the wet ingredients + the magic dry ingredient: 1 cup Grandma's Molasses (yellow label), 1 egg, 1 tablespoon baking soda.

Now for the catalyst: 2 cups boiling water. 

And reaction!  Love the foamy bubbles!

Add the dry ingredients to this mixture and pour into 9x13 pan, sprayed with cooking spray.

Top with the reserved dry mixture.

To complete the chemical reaction add heat!  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

This cake is delicious served warm or cold.  In fact, this is the cake my husband has requested I make for him to take to work on his birthday.  One catch - I'll need to make two of them!

So today my Sticks and String were a wooden spoon and my apron.  Hope you enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Catching Up #1

So...what have I been working on in these long breaks from blogging??  Well, I have a great niece who is part fashionista, part tomboy, part princess.  She is fascinated by my knitting and has made some attempts at doing it herself, but usually can't sit still long enough for more than 5 stitches.  Last fall I promised her a knitted scarf, so I found some pink and purple chunky yarn and made her this:

If you look closely, you will see some very sparkly beads at the top of each strand of fringe.  After all, a princess needs here bling!  My husband helped me find these wonderful baubles that picked up on the colors in the scarf.  We had one very happy great niece!

Stay tuned for more catching up!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Resuming blogging....I hope

I have decided that I will attempt to resume blogging in the spring, probably sometime in April due to my schedule.  My goal is to post once a week with a wider range of 'sticks' and 'string' subjects.  Because my hobby interests are not limited to knitting, by limiting my blogging to knitting I was frustrated with keeping it going.  

What are the other 'sticks' in my hobby life?  Sewing needles.  Quilting pins.  Wooden spoons and knives count too in my mind.  So I will be sharing from all my hobbies when I resume.  As glimpse into other things I enjoy, here is the picture of the stocking I made for one of my daughters-in-law in December.  I knew she wanted a gingerbread man and my course was set when I found the gingerbread print fabric.  The buttons came from my mother's button box, the shape of the gingerbread man from a free printable on the internet, and the rest was my own pattern.

See you in April!