Charcoal + Teal = Lovely New Hat

My boss needed a new hat since he must have shrunk his other one. He usually goes for what a small group of us calls "hot-boy green," but this time he wanted a turquoise and grey hat.

Yarn used: Bernat Roving, flint color
Loops & Threads Charisma, electric blue color

Made on size 10 needles, 72 stitches in the round, six rows of K2P2 ribbing, 32 rows tall before decreasing.


Gyoza with lemon ginger sauce

This is home cooking at its finest.

Click here for my homemade gyoza recipe. The following is a lemon ginger sauce I made.

Juice of 1/2 lemon
a few tablespoons of Ponzu (orange-infused soy sauce)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. grated ginger
a couple of teaspoons of rice wine vinegar
2 scallions, chopped finely
several dashes of chili sesame oil

Comine all the ingredients. Serve alongside gyoza. SO GOOD. Here is a picture of Stephen full of gyoza:


Orange Honey Pork Chops with Green Beans and Israeli Cous Cous

This is a modified recipe from this month's Bon Appetit magazine.

Serves 2 really hungry people

2 thick pork chops
3 Tbs. honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon orange juice
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup white wine (I used Chateau Ste. Michelle dry riesling)
Herbes de Provence (or thyme and rosemary)
1 cup dried whole wheat Israeli cous cous
2.5 cups chicken stock
1 tbs. Wondra flour (or regular flour)

In a pie pan, combine the honey, OJ and garlic. Add the chops to pan and flip over a couple of times till they are coated. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of chops, cover, and marinate for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat an ovenproof frying pan with olive oil and turn to medium-high heat. Add the chops (reserve the marinade) and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Move pan to the oven and cook for 20 minutes, flipping chops once halfway through.
When 10 minutes remain, heat 2 cups of chicken stock in a small saucepan till boiling. Add 1 Tbs. olive oil to another small saucepan and place over med-high heat. Add the cous cous and stir for two minutes. Add the boiling chicken stock, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Steam the green beans.
When chops are done, remove them from the pan and add the flour to the juices over medium heat. Stir and cook for one minute, then add the rest of the chicken stock, herbes de Provence and the white wine. Stir till sauce is thickened.
Top the chops, cous cous and green beans with the sauce. Serve with the bottle of white wine.

Shrimp Cocktail with Creamy Horseradish Sauce

This was really easy and totally satisfying.

1 lemon, halved
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2-3/4 pounds of raw unpeeled shrimp
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry white wine (I used Chateau Ste. Michelle dry riesling)
2 cups water
salt and pepper
1/4 cup light sour cream
1 green onion, chopped finely
1 tablespoon horseradish sauce

Combine water, wine, 1/2 lemon, bay leaf and a pinch of salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile fill a medium bowl with ice water. When water is boiling, add the shrimp and immediately turn heat to low and poach for 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to ice water. To the poaching liquid, add the juice of the other half of lemon and bring to a roaring boil. Boil for about 20 minutes till there's only a couple of tablespoons of liquid left. Meanwhile, peel the shrimp leaving the tails intact. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, horseradish, salt and pepper, zest, green onion and 1 tablespoon of the shrimp reduction. Hang the shrimp on the edge of the bowl and serve.


I am SO ready for mexio -- my homemade swimsuit

I'm a knitter, not a sewer. Sewing frustrates me. Bobbins, pins, cutting, cutting, cutting....sigh. I wanted a two-piece bathing suit for Mexico, but I don't have the right proportions for the cute bikinis at Target and Old Navy. It's frustrating. So I decided to sew myself a swimsuit. Finding a good pattern wasn't easy. Jo-Anne's only had three patterns in all of their books. Two were triangle tops, not supportive enough, so I went with the third -- a conservative two-piece with a built-in shelf bra.

I only had one meltdown, thanks to my patient husband.

The pattern is Butterick #B4526. I haven't sewn from a pattern in years, so I forgot sizing is wonky with patterns. I bought the smaller size, but I didn't want to drive back to the store so I just went for it. It turned out really well:


Packers vs. Steelers -- how to feed a hungry crowd

It was a good six hours of football today. Both Packers and Steelers fans had a good day. Good thing we had provisions!

Speedy Guacamole

Two ripe avocados, smashed
Two small tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup salsa
dash of white wine vinegar or a squeeze of lime
salt and pepper
a couple of dashes of hot sauce

Toss together all of the ingredients. Serve with corn chips

Gotta-have-it Cheese Dip

1/2 block of velveeta
1/2 cup salsa
1 small can of diced green chiles
2 tbs chopped jalapeños (from the jar)
a few dashes of hot sauce
1/2 lb. ground pork
smoked paprika
chili powder
salt and pepper

Season the pork with a couple of shakes of paprika and chili powder. Add salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Brown the meat and break into small pieces. Add pork and all the other ingredients to a medium sauce pan and cook over medium heat till the cheese is melted. Serve with corn chips.

Seaweed Hat

Another hat made with my favorite Universal Yarn, Classic Shades. This hat brings out her green eyes like I've never seen. Made using my time-tested Ear Flap Hat

Not to Brag, but....

I'm a little excited because this morning, I checked out my favorite craft Web site, craftster.org to see what new knitting projects were posted. As I scrolled down, I noticed my Braided Winter Headband was near the top of the list, meaning someone must have commented on it. When I opened it up, I found this little picture:

I've been a member of this site for seven years and few people have even commented on my crafts. Thanks to the girl in Seward for letting me spy on her headband. I wouldn't have won this award without her.


Left-handed hat video tutorial

My husband's mom, I recently discovered, knits left-handed like I do. She knows how to make scarves and blankets, but she wanted to learn something new. Since I don't spend much time up in Fairbanks, AK (I like things to be above -33 degrees), I decided to make a video tutorial. iMovie rocks!


My Heart Goes out to Fairbanks Hat

This is one of my loveliest hats to date. It's based closely on the From Norway With Love pattern from www.pickles.no.

I first followed Pickles' pattern exactly, but I must have bought too thin of yarn because it turned out baby. 

It is a very very cute baby hat, but I wanted one for me! So I went with my gut, which I should have done in the first place, and tweaked the pattern to fit my own hat patterns. The biggest problem I had with Pickles' pattern was the heart chart. When I thought less about the chart, the hearts turned out perfectly. I used the chart as a guide for where to place the hearts and how many stitches they were made of, but I stopped counting row by row and it worked out better. Somehow her chart didn't seem quite right.

The hat is made in sets of 10 stitches. The base of the heart (one stitch) occurs every 10 stitches, so when you start the first row of hearts, start the pattern by knitting 4 in the main color, k1 in the heart color, k9 in the main color, k1 in the heart color, k9 in the main color, k1 in the heart color and so on. When you get all the way around you'll see your first heart color stitch. With the heart color, k1 before that stitch, k1 on top of that stitch, and k1 after that stitch. Row by row you add one heart color stitch on either end of the heart till there are 7 stitches (so, 1, 3, 5, 7). Knit two rows of 7 heart stitches and then the rest of the heart chart will make sense. 

Once you've finished the first row of hearts, you immediately start the second row by knitting 9 in the main color, K1 in the 2nd heart color, 9 in the main color and so on. Basically the heart pattern alternates every 5 stitches so they fit in between each other.

This pattern is a great introduction to Fair Isle patterns because you carry the unused colors along with you as you knit. In other words, if you knit 4 stitches in the main color and then switch to the heart color, you carry the heart color on the inside of the work. Here's what the hat looks like inside out:

The most difficult thing about knitting hats like this is making sure to keep the unused yarn loose in the back of the work. If you carry over the yarn too tightly, your hat will be super scrunched up and won't fit over your head. My solution to this is when I'm carrying yarn over more than three stitches, I place my finger under the yarn so it leaves a gap and knit a couple of stitches with my finger in place behind the work. It might look really loose, but it will tighten up when you wear it. If you're carrying the yarn over 1-3 stitches, just try not to knit very tightly. It just takes practice, so you might end up knitting a beautiful baby hat for someone.

Whew! At long last, here is the pattern

My Heart Goes Out to Fairbanks Hat

Size 7 circular needle, 16" long
2-5 colors of Lamb's Pride worsted yarn, one skein each
one set of size 7 double points
darning needle

Important Abbreviations:
MC = Main Color
HC1 = Heart Color 1
HC2 = Heart Color 2
K2tog = knit two stitches together

Heart Chart:

Note: I honestly believe the tan heart in this pattern is not correct. The second row from the top, on the far right, that should be a white square, not tan

With MC, cast on 100 stitches. Place a marker and connect the round without twisting the yarn. K2, P2 for two inches, or till brim is a width of your liking.
K 2 rows
Next row: With MC, K4 stitches. *With HC1, K1 stitch. With MC, K9 stitches.* Repeat * till you get back to the place marker. 
Next row: With MC, knit to two stitches before the first HC1 stitch. *With HC1, K3 stitches. With MC, K7 stitches.* Repeat * to end of row. (NOTE -- this is a very visual project. It's hard to write out the directions. Just keep in mind that once you see the first stitch of the heart, that you'll be expanding the size of the heart in the following row. My written instructions may not be exactly correct.)
Next row: With MC, knit to two stitches before the previous row's first HC1 stitch. *With HC1, K5 stitches. With MC, K5 stitches.* Repeat * till end of round.
Next row: With MC, knit to two stitches before the previous row's first HC1 stitch. *With HC1, K7 stitches. With MC, K3 stitches.* Repeat * till end of round.
Next row: With MC, knit to the stitch before the previous row's first HC1 stitch.  *With HC1, K7 stitches. With MC, K3 stitches.* Repeat * till end of round. (This row you aren't expanding the heart. You are knitting the same heart stitches as the previous row.)
Next row: With MC, knit to one stitch before the previous row's first HC1 stitch. *With HC1, K3. With MC, K1. With HC1, K3. With MC, K3.* Repeat * till end of round.
Next row (top of heart): With MC, knit to one stitch before the previous row's HC1. *With MC, K1. With HC1, K1. With MC, K3. With HC1, K1. With MC, K5.* Repeat * till end of round. Cut HC1 leaving an 8-inch tail.

Immediately the next round: *With MC, K9. With HC2, K1.* Repeat * till end of round. Follow the same instructions above for creating the HC2 hearts. Refer to the chart, keeping in mind it's flawed in the second to the last row from the top of the heart.

Create 4 sets of heart patterns. Make 5 sets if you want a tall sort of floppy hat. 
K 2 rows using the MC yarn.

Decrease pattern:
First, you need to change your hat to be in multiples of 8, so in the next row, K2tog four times somewhat evenly through the row. Every 20 stitches or so I K2tog. You won't be able to notice this row in the end. You should end up with 96 stitches. 
Next row: *K2tog, K6.* Repeat * till end of row.
Next row: K one round 
Next row: *K2tog, K5.* Repeat * till end of row.
Next row: K one round
Next row: *K2tog, K4.* Repeat * till end of row.
Next row: K one round
Next row: *K2tog, K3.* Repeat * till end of row.
Next row: K one round and transfer to double points while knitting this row.
Next row: *K2tog, K2.* Repeat * till end of row.
Next row: K one round
Next row: *K2tog, K1.* Repeat * till end of row.
Next row: K one round
Next row: *K2tog.* Repeat * till end of row.
You should have 12 stitches. If you have 24, repeat the last round again.
Cut yarn leaving a 12-inch tail and loop through the remaining stitches. Cinch it up and weave in the ends. I tied the heart color ends together and snipped them instead of taking all the time to weave them in.


Zesty Black Bean Salad

1 can black beans, drained but not rinsed
1/4 block of extra firm tofu, cubed
1/2 roasted red pepper, diced
1/4 cup feta
1-2 green onions, chopped
3 Tbs cilantro, chopped
1-2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lime
dash cayenne powder
salt and pepper
dash Cholula

Mix all the ingredients together. Eat right away or refridgerate (that way the salad will marinate a little more and get tastier).


South Beach Morning Scramble

Eggs eggs egggggggggs! That's the central part of our morning diets on this South Beach Thing. Here's what I came up with this morning:

Serves 2
3-4 eggs, lightly beaten with 1 Tbs water
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 bell pepper, color of your choice, diced
1/4 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
4 crimini mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup chopped frozen spinach
1/4 cup feta cheese
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet. Meanwhile, place spinach in a bowl, add about 1 Tbs water, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 2 minutes. Drain out the water as best you can. When oil is hot, add the pepper, onion and mushroom and cook till onions are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 more seconds. Remove garlic if you don't like to chomp down on it while eating your eggs.  Turn the heat to med-low and add the eggs. Don't stir for about 20 seconds, then mix it up. Add the spinach and mix it up again. When eggs have just become firm, turn off the heat, transfer to plates and top with feta. Don't forget the Cholula!

South Beach Taco Salad

Stephen and I need to shape up and changing our diet is of the upmost importance. After devouring a half pound of mac and cheese in bed the other night, we decided to try phase 1 of the South Beach Diet for a week or so. This is how we trained ourselves to be healthy in the first place, but the holidays took their toll....

Here's a recipe for taco salad that uses no rice or tortillas. Black beans are super good for you and ground pork isn't super fatty.

Baconated Black Beans
1 bell pepper, color of your choice, sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
1 pound ground meat (beef, turkey or pork)
romaine lettuce
sour cream
salsa (optional, since South Beach doesn't recommend it)
shredded cheese (low fat preferred)
cilantro, chopped
1 lime
1 taco seasoning packet

Brown the meat and add the taco seasoning according to package. Meanwhile, slowly cook the pepper and onions in olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. When beans, meat and veggies are ready, combine on a plate and top with cheese, lettuce, sour cream, cilantro, and squeeze on some lime juice. Top with Cholula!

Manyghetti and cheese

My family makes most everything from scratch. That means as a kid we never had Kraft macaroni and cheese. My dad would make a big batch of "manyghetti" -- that is, all the leftover pasta shapes in the cabinet with sharp cheddar cheese, garlic, parsley, and maybe some parmesan. I'd top my mac with Tabasco sauce to ward off any little siblings who might want a bite.

To this day, manyghetti remains my favorite comfort food, but I also like to make my own version.

Since Stephen and I are going to do the South Beach Diet until Mexico next month, I wanted to say a big "GOODBYE PASTA" and make something cheesy, peppery and gosh darn delicious.

About 1 pound of whatever pasta you have lying around. In this case, bowties, little O's and elbows
about 1/2 cup milk
about 2 Tbs butter
about 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar
1 clove of garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
about 1-2 Tbs Wondra flour
salt and pepper
dash of Tabasco sauce

In a salted pot of water, boil the pasta in order of longest to shortest cooking time. While pasta cooks, place the milk, garlic and butter in a big serving bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Mix in the flour and microwave another 30 seconds. If sauce is too thick, stir in a little more milk. If too thin, stir in a little more flour and microwave another 30 seconds. Stir in the dijon, salt, pepper, Tabasco and half the cheese. Drain the pasta. Add pasta to the bowl and combine. Stir in the rest of the cheese.


Sweet and tangy popcorn

No photo, but I'm sure you can imagine what popcorn looks like. OK, here's a stock Google photo:

I wanted to make some popcorn that was super tasty but not as unhealthy as smothering it in butter.

Pop some popcorn and drizzle it with:
Olive oil
Raspberry balsamic vinegar

Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Homemade Whole Wheat Pancakes

Makes about 8 pancakes. Folding in beaten egg whites makes these pancakes nice and fluffy.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
some freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs, separated 
2 Tbs melted butter
2 cups milk (I used soy milk for my lactose intolerant friend and it turned out great)

Combine all the dry ingredients. Beat the yolks in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, beat the whites with an electric mixer till stiff. Add the yolks, butter and milk to the dry ingredients and stir till combined (there will be lumps). Fold in the whites.

Heat up a large skillet and make some flapjacks, ya hear!


Reknit Chunky Mitts

In case you don't know me, I'm somewhat of a thrift store guru. For instance, yesterday I found $378 Frye boots at the SPCA Thrift Shop for $70 and I talked them down to $20. In addition to that brilliant find, I also found a 50 cent scarf that I thought would look better as mittens.

I made up this pattern, but I would only use it for irregularly shaped yarn like the kind I used because otherwise the top of the mitten might come out with gaps (it's not mathematically sound). But it sure knits up fast!

Scarf being unraveled

Chunky Mitts
1 thrift store scarf, about five feet long, unraveled and wound into a ball
four size 10 double points
scrap yarn
darning needle

Useful Abbreviations:
M1FB -- make one stitch in the front and one in the back of the same stitch, thus increasing your work by one stitch.
M1 -- Make one stitch between two stitches
K2tog -- knit 2 stitches together

Cast on 24 stitches (8 on each needle)

K1, P1 for 10 rows
Next round: knit the first needle, M1FB into the last stitch of the first needle. On second needle, knit 4 stitches and M1FB into the next stitch. M1FB into the last stitch of the second needle. On third needle, knit 4 stitches and M1FB into the next stitch. Knit to end of needle -- 28 stitches.
Knit 3 rounds
Round 15: M1, K1, M1, knit to end of round
Round 16 and all even rounds: Knit to end of round
Round 17: M1, K3, M1, knit to end of round
Round 19: M1, K5, M1, knit to end or round
Round 21: M1, K7, M1, knit to end of round
Knit 3 rounds
Next round: Transfer the first 9 stitches onto some scrap yarn. Cast on one stitch and knit to end of round.
Knit until work reaches the top knuckle of your middle finger
Next round: *K2tog, K3* repeat * till end of round, where you will K1 stitch on the third needle.
Next round: Knit
Next round: *K2tog, K2* repeat * till end of round, ending with K2tog.
Next round: Knit
Next round: *K2tog*, repeat till end of round.
Cut work leaving an 8-inch tail. Weave in all ends.

Transfer the 9 stitches onto two needles. With third needle, pick up 4 stitches. Knit around and K2tog two times evenly throughout the work so as not to leave gaps in the crotch of the thumb. You should have 11 stitches. Knit around till just the tip of your thumb barely peeks out.
Next round: K2tog all around, ending with a K1. Cut yarn leaving a tail and weave in ends.

Repeat with second mitten.


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