Monkeys and Tulips and Greystone, Oh My!

March 27, 2014 13:37 by Suzy

2014 continues to be productive on the knitting front...4 more projects finished since my last post!

Last fall, Shalimar Yarns offered a Monkey Jacobus kit using their Enzo Sport yarn. I had never made knitted toys (called "softies") before, but the monkey looked so cute I couldn't resist! Shalimar yarn has always held a special place in my heart, as my first-ever knitting project was made with their Homage fingering weight...my first taste of luxury yarn! Plus, they are Maryland-based, not far from where JD and I used to live.

When I received the kit, I was a bit intimidated by the lengthy and complicated-looking pattern (10+ pages!) so I was hesitant to get started. So the kit languished in my WIP bin until I finally got the nerve to give it a shot in February. Surprisingly, the pattern was not nearly as difficult as I had feared...just very detailed...I just followed the instructions and before I knew it, I had an adorable monkey, ready to stuff.


Isn't she cute? I named her Bernadette!

At the same time, I started a new pair of socks, with the awesome pattern name of Monkey, designed by Cookie A. I had some yarn in my stash that I thought would be perfect for this project...an indigodragonfly club yarn from last year. The base is called Filament o' Squid (70% Merino/30% Seacell) in the colorway Squalor Amongst the Ankles. I must admit, I wasn't in love with the yarn when I first received it...the color is kind of a muddy green with a bit of yellow/gold in it, and the fiber texture is different...not unpleasant, just different. Every month or so I would take it out of my stash bin, give it a look and a squeeze, and I started liking it more and more. I think it looks great with this pattern, don't you?


This was my first lace pattern sock, and I just love it. I also used a different cast on method, as I noticed the cuffs on my first two sock projects were a little tight. I used the slip-knot cast on and I really like how it turned out. The edge has an almost folded-accordion look to it.

Next, I made the Greystone hat with my first Bare Naked Knitspot club yarn. The yarn is Kent Worsted (60% Merino/40% Romney wool) in the Driftwood colorway. I love this color...completely from undyed natural wools. It's a beautiful blend of browns and greys with a great sheen. The texture seemed a bit rustic at first but softened up considerably after a soak and blocking.


The cables look great in this yarn, don't you think?

Finally, our good friends back in Maryland were about to celebrate the first birthday of their daughter, and I knew I had to make her something special. She is the lucky recipient of my Baby Girl Blanket and Sproutlette Dress, so I had to top myself, you know? Enter the Tulips Cardigan pattern...simple and practical, yet oh-so-cute and in such beautiful colors! The Coldwater Yarns online shop has a great selection of kits in different color themes...I chose the Anita's Rainbow kit. The kit comes with enough yarn of each color (9 colors in all!) to make the cardigan...so you don't have to buy full skeins of each. The yarn is Dream in Color Classy, which is a worsted superwash wool. The colors are amazing...not boring solids but beautiful and rich and complex.


(Note the picture above is pre-blocking) Various project notes on Ravelry for this pattern indicated that the cardigan runs small, so I made the 24-month size and also modified the pattern to have 10 rows in each color vs. only 8 rows. Luckily I didn't run out of yarn!


Isn't she adorable? And don't the colors look perfect on her?

I currently have another pair of socks on the needles, as well as my first project using lace yarn. My brain is already two or three projects ahead and I can't wait for my next club packages to arrive!

Happy knitting!

Ravelry project links:
Bernadette Monkey
Monkey Squalor
Greystone: The Legend of Romney
Birthday Tulips



Vegetarian 3-Bean Chili

March 9, 2014 19:17 by Suzy

JD has been "gettin healthy" in 2014 and so far the results are amazing...he's lost 20 pounds and his cholesterol dropped from over 200 to 134! We're basically going with a plant based, whole-foods diet. This recipe was a great find, and with our modifications, it's been a favorite for both of us.

The flavor in this chili is amazing...smoky and rich and with just the right amount of heat and bite. You won't even miss the meat!

Vegetarian 3-Bean Chili
adapted from blog.fatfreevegan.com

2 large onions, chopped
2 large bell peppers (red and yellow), chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
4-6 cups vegetable stock (preferably salt free)
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
a few dashes of Cholula sauce
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and dry-saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add diced bell peppers and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 more minute.

Add beans, 4 cups broth, spices, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add more broth if chili seems too thick/dry for your tastes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least 1 hour.

Taste and add salt, pepper, and more Cholula or chili powder if necessary. Add corn and quinoa, stir and cover.

Simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Enjoy!



Keeping Warm With Two Sticks And Wool

February 13, 2014 08:48 by Suzy

I'm off to a great start for 2014!

In January, I completed 3 projects...my Charades in the Acid Rain socks, Sweet Rizzo hat, and Mars Attacks! socks.

For my first pair of socks, I used my Giftapalooza yarn from indigodragonfly...the colorway is called "Acid Reindeer" and it's a beautiful mix of rich blues and violets in the MCN Sock base. I didn't want to make a boring stockinette sock, but I also didn't want to make anything too complicated for my first sock project, so the Charade design was a great choice. Plus it's a free pattern!

Then I went on to use my December club yarn, also from indigodragonfly...Merino Silk DK with the aweseome name of "Light The Lamp, Not The Rat!". This is one of those colors that I probably never would have chosen myself, but once I received the package I fell in love with the shiny spun gold...it looks like it's glowing! This is why I join this club...so I get to try new colors and yarn bases and get me out of my comfort zone.

In case anyone is confused about the color name...here is a link to the inspiration from the holiday classic "A Muppet Christmas Carol"...I love Rizzo!

The Sweet William pattern was already in my queue and I thought it was a perfect match for the yarn and the gorgeous color. This is the first hat I made for myself, and I love it. It's much warmer than you would think so it has been a regular fixture in my bundling-up routine each morning.

Finally, I tackled another pair of socks.  This time, I wanted to try Susan B. Anderson's simple stockinette sock design, and used Wisdom Yarns Saki Silk in the "Mystery Mars" colorway. Blues and greens mix with orange for a fun, random-stripe look. I got the yarn from Webs when I ordered my sock blockers (I needed something to add to the cart to get free shipping) and I liked it even more than I had hoped. Very soft and easy to knit with, and I can tell they will wear well with very little pilling.

At the moment, I am working on several monkey-related projects (can't wait to share pictures!) and hope to finish my CustomFit cardigan soon as well. My first Bare Naked Knitspot club shipment should arrive any day now, as well as my next indigodragonfly club package, so I will have no shortage of goodies to fondle and get on the needles. Good thing, since it looks like spring will never come!

One particularly cold morning this month...

 



2013 Recap and Goals for 2014

January 5, 2014 14:21 by Suzy

2013 was my first full year of knitting, and I was surprised when I checked my Ravelry projects page and found that I completed 15+ projects in 2013...I had no idea I had completed so much!

 

 

  1. 1. Baby Girl Blanket for Lauren (started in December 2012 but completed in 2013)
  2. 2. Aspen Shawl (started in December 2012 but completed in 2013)
  3. 3. JD's Waffle Scarf
  4. 4. St. James pullover sweater
  5. 5. Aspen Scarf for Mom
  6. 6. Sproutlette Baby Dress for Lauren
  7. 7. Color Block Alpaca Wrap
  8. 8. Swirl Baby Hat (never got around to gifting it, so it's for the next new baby girl that arrives)
  9. 9. About 6 dishcloths, in various patterns and colors
  10. 10. Left Bank Cardigan
  11. 11. Show Me Your Boutons fingerless mitts
  12. 12. JD's Dude Hat
  13. 13. Pop's Watch Cap
  14. 14. Princess and the Canoe Shawl
  15. 15. Fall Flower pullover
All in all, a pretty productive year!  I'm very proud of myself, not only for the total number of completed projects but also in the quality of my knitting. I can definitely see improvement from my earliest projects to those just finished. I tackled quite a few new techniques in 2013 as well...using double-pointed needles, short rows, adding beads, and different types of cast-on methods. I also used all different types of fibers (wool, cotton, silk, alpaca) and weights (fingering, DK, sport and worsted).

As for 2014, I can already tell that this will be the Year of the Sock. I finally tackled my first pair of socks in the last week of December, and I absolutely love knitting them. I have so many new sock patterns in my Ravelry favorites it's getting ridiculous...if I didn't knit anything but socks this year I still couldn't finish them all. Here's a hint of my first sock project...full pictures to come when they are finished.

I plan to renew my membership in the indigodragonfly Smart Ass Knitters club when it comes up in February...can't wait to see what Kim and Ron come up with in the new year! In addition, I have signed up for the Bare Naked Knitspot club for 2014. Anne Hanson's patterns are so beautiful...classic without being boring, and I love the idea of natural fibers in their undyed state, so I can't wait for that first shipment as well.

One phobia I hope to overcome this year is my aversion to seamed sweaters. I have never been one for sewing, and the idea of having to assemble pieces to complete a sweater has always scared me off. But with Amy Herzog's new CustomFit program, I am challenging myself to get over this fear and just do it. It has really helped me to read Amy's blog and participate in the various Ravelry discussion boards for the CustomFit program.  Amy emphasizes the idea that you are Making Clothing and not just random knitting. Real clothing should be properly constructed (i.e. in pieces and seamed) and be an integral part of your wardrobe. I have nearly all the pieces completed on my first CustomFit sweater...an open-front cardigan. With any luck, my first seamed project will be completed by the end of this month!

Finally, I hope to connect with more knitters in 2014.  Not just on Ravelry, but in person and more regularly. I plan to attend my LYS knit nights and other events whenever possible, and there are a few fiber-related events that are on my calendar for 2014: Toronto Knitter's Frolic in April, Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in May, and maybe even Rhinebeck!

So that's my wrap-up of 2013 and plans for 2014...what projects did you complete this past year? Any exciting goals for 2014?



The Princess and the Canoe

December 16, 2013 12:24 by Suzy

This is, hands down, the most beautiful thing I have ever created.  I've made some pretty desserts and fine-looking main dishes, and I was very happy with my Left Bank Cardigan and fingerless mitts, but this by far surpasses them all.  Can you believe I made this myself???

I discovered this pattern back in March, when I had only been knitting for a few months.  I drooled over it and favorited it in Ravelry, and even went ahead and purchased the pattern, but I don't think I really believed that it would be something I could, or would ever, be able to make.  A few months later, indigodragonfly released a special edition colorway in their Merino Silk 4-ply Sock base that I thought would be perfect for this project, so I splurged and bought the yarn, and soon after found just the right beads.  The pattern and the yarn sat, waiting patiently, in the background while I continued to work on simpler projects and gained confidence in my knitting.

Towards the end of September, I decided I was ready, and with one false start, cast on (509 stitches!) on September 29.  And surprise, LilyGo's pattern is so well written that I really didn't have any problems at all.  I just kept plugging away, learned how to read my work and made sure the stitch counts were right after each repeat and the end of each row.  Slowly but surely, the gorgeous design started to emerge.  I was driving poor JD nuts every night, insisting on showing him my work in progress as soon as I finished a section, but I couldn't help it!

A little over a month later (much sooner than I had expected), my shawl was finished.  A good soak and careful pinning later, and I was holding my greatest knitting achievement (so far!).  I really felt that I had done LilyGo's wonderful pattern justice.  The yarn is perfect...gorgeous colors and with the sheen of the silk and the drape of the wool it really shows the design well.  

The lesson here?  Don't assume something is too difficult or out of your reach...make a goal and work towards achieving it.  It was great having this as a "dream project" on my radar for this past year.  Every time I looked at it, the goal seemed more real and more achievable.  The pattern became less complex as I learned more and more with my other projects.  I'm so glad I took the plunge!

About the name...the pattern is called Princess and the Pea (see those pea pods throughout the design?) and the colorway is Canoe Up To The Beer Store (there was severe flooding in an area of Canada this past spring and indigodragonfly was donating money from the sale of this yarn to help those affected) so I came up with The Princess and the Canoe.  

Thank you thank you so much to indigodragonfly for coming up with such wonderful yarn and colors, and BIG thanks to LilyGo for designing such a beautiful pattern that is written so well and is easy to follow!!!

Link to my Ravelry project page here.



Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

October 27, 2013 13:11 by Suzy

I'm looking out at a gorgeous Ohio fall Sunday...bright sunshine, cool crisp air and falling leaves.  And football on the TV.  Life is good.

These muffins are the perfect treat for a late-October weekend.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
adapted from The Loopy Ewe

Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar

Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

Muffins:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

Beat together cream cheese and powdered sugar until well combined.  Scrape onto piece of plastic wrap and form into a log, 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least 2 hours.

Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl.  Mix with clean hands or two forks until crumbly.  Keep in refrigerator until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease muffin tins, or use paper liners.

In large bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil until well blended.  Add all of the dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Do not overmix.

Slice cream cheese log into 24 equal pieces.

Put a small amount (barely 1 tablespoon) of batter in each muffin tin well.  Top with piece of cream cheese mixture, then spoon batter on top, completely covering the cream cheese.  Sprinkle each muffin with topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool on wire rack for a few minutes before serving.  Makes 24 muffins.



These Still Count As Goodies, Right?

October 7, 2013 21:54 by Suzy

These still count as goodies, right?

No, I haven’t completely given up cooking and baking goodies…I've just added knitted goodies to my repertoire!

JD and I moved to southern Ohio this past spring, and we’re loving the quiet, small town life. Definitely don’t miss the traffic, crowds, and high prices of DC. I was lucky enough to find a really good job fairly quickly, and JD is spending his days working outside with his grandfather…taking care of the house and 70+ acres of property, including a lake! We are both truly blessed.

So, in between my job, enjoying the peace and quiet of rural Ohio, and getting into Big 10 football in addition to the NFL (there go my Saturdays and Sundays!), I have been making food goodies in the kitchen and knitting goodies in the living room.

Most recently, I finished my Left Bank Cardigan and Moutons' Boutons fingerless mitts…

The Left Bank Cardigan is a design from Linda Wilgus of Wooly Mammoth Knits. It’s a great pattern, completely seamless, knit from the top down in an easy but distinctive rib pattern. I will confess, I did get a bit bored towards the end but the end result was so worth it! After finishing the body (whew!), the sleeves are knit in the round with a bit of the rib pattern at the cuffs. Then stitches are picked up along the edge and a seed stitch button band and collar is added.

The rib pattern is lovely, and gives the cardigan a nice fitted shape. I was very pleased with how this project turned out and it’s a perfect go-with-everything piece for my work wardrobe. I was also flattered and thrilled to hear from Linda Wilgus after I posted my finished project on Ravelry…she complimented my finished cardigan and asked if she could include my pictures on her pattern page! Wow!

I used Fyberspates Scrumptious yarn, in the Water colorway. Beautiful blend of Merino wool and silk.

Link to Ravelry project here.

Back in August I received my club yarn shipment from indigodragonfly yarns and OH MY GOD it was so gorgeous…a beautiful mix of purples, greens and blues in their super-soft-super-squishy MCN Sport base. I immediately began searching for the perfect pattern to match up with this treasure. A complex stitch pattern would get lost in the variegated colorway, so I looked for something simple and elegant.

Enter the Moutons' Boutons pattern. I loved the idea of surrounding my hands with the glorious Merino-Cashmere blend, and I even had the perfect buttons left over from the Left Bank Cardigan project!

The pattern is simple but not boring, and the sport weight helps make them a very quick knit…I finished them in 2 days! I love having the button band to add a little visual interest, plus you can get creative and a little wacky with your button choices. These would make great gifts that you can personalize.

Can't wait for the cold weather to get here so I can start wearing these mitts!

Link to Ravelry project here.

So that’s what’s going on here…I’m hoping to do some baking now that fall has arrived so you should see posts of that nature coming up. I’m planning to have regular posts to update “What’s On My Needles” and “What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’,” as well as make some general updates to the About Me and Index pages and other stuff.

Stay tuned!



So What Has Suzy Been Doing?

January 7, 2013 11:29 by Suzy

124 days since my last post...what's been going on with Suzy?  Is anyone wondering?  Do I have any readers left?  Well, for the remaining three of you, here's a wrap-up...

JD and I got "re-married" at our church...

We made several road trips to Ohio...

And celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with great family and friends.

But the real culprit in my lack of posts?

Knitting.  I took a beginner's knitting class on November 3, and that has consumed nearly all of my time ever since.  Poor JD rarely gets a decent meal any more, and I even skipped my usual crazy Christmas Cookie-Palooza, for the first time in many many years.

I was hoping I would like knitting, but I was really unprepared for how much I love it.  I find it so relaxing and so satisfying...not at all stressful or frustrating.  In the past I've tried sewing, counted-cross stitch, and several other crafty-type things, but nothing hit me like knitting has.  I'm officially obsessed.

So far I've made myself a scarf...

A cute beanie-style hat...

Started a hat for JD...

And a shawl for me is currently in the works.

So, my future posts may either be few and far-between, or be knitting related.  That still counts as goodies, right?

As for kitchen goodies, I made Giada's turkey and this peanut butter pie for Thanksgiving, my usual standing rib roast for Christmas, and just last night, this yummy baked ziti.

Wish me luck in getting back on the cooking bandwagon!



Football is Back!

September 5, 2012 12:09 by Suzy

After a looooooooooooooooong boring summer, football is finally back!  Kickoff starts tonight with the Cowboys and the Giants...can't wait!

My prediction...it will be a Packers-Ravens Super Bowl come February!  I love both teams so much I won't know who to root for, but that's a problem I won't mind having...

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers?

Ray Lewis

Or Ray Lewis?



Homemade English Muffins

August 20, 2012 20:45 by Suzy

With all of the yummy homemade jam goodness around the Suzy and JD household lately, we've been addicted to English Muffins.  For whatever reason those crumbly round muffins are the perfect vehicle for gobbling up said jam.  Unfortunately, store-bought "nooks and crannies" don't come cheap, so I started wondering about making them from scratch.  I had never seen a recipe, nor had I known anyone who made homemade English Muffins, but a quick search on Google and I was in business.

Many recipes did not look promising...the finished muffins looked more like biscuits.  Others looked like hockey pucks and just as dense.  Then I found this recipe at She Simmers and Eureka!  She was looking for the same perfect English Muffins that I was, and she found and honed the recipe it so all I had to do was follow along.  Perfection.

English Muffins
adapted from She Simmers, who adapted a recipe from Alton Brown

1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1 tablespoon sugar, divded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening, melted
1 cup hot water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine nonfat dry milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, shortening, 1 cup hot water in large bowl and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved.  Set aside to cool.

In smaller bowl, combine yeast, 1/8 teaspoon sugar, and 1/3 cup warm water.  Set aside until yeast is creamy and bubbly.

Pour yeast mixture into milk mixture and add flour.  Beat with wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed.  Cover and let rest in warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat nonstick plan over medium-low heat.  Spray with nonstick cooking spray.  

Stir 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda into the batter.  Place English Muffin rings in pan and spray with nonstick spray.  Before you ask, no, I don't have those either.  Another Google search gave me a sneaky work-around:  I folded heavy-duty foil into a strip, one quick staple and bam!  Instant English Muffin ring!  You can also use empty tuna cans with the tops and bottoms removed.

Using an ice cream scoop or large ladle, scoop batter into each ring.  Cover pan with lid or cookie sheet and let cook 5-6 minutes.  Remove the lid and flip each muffin, still in the rings, with spatula.  Cover them up again and cook 5-6 minutes, or until nice and golden brown.

Let cool completely before splitting.



Foodbuzz