Finished Knit–Bounce Baby Blanket

As much as I now fall into the “selfish” knitter category (otherwise known as “knit-worthy peeps are few and far between”), I make an exception for babies. One of my cousins is due with her second baby soon, so it was blanket-knitting time. Since I was in the mood for color, I opted for this pattern from Tin Can Knits, using a mini-skein kit from Rainbow Heirloom. Now that I finished it, I’m ready to settle into West Knits MKAL.

Pattern: Bounce by Tin Can Knits, available for purchase on Ravelry.

Yarn: Rainbow Heirloom Sweater in the Sunshine and Storm Kit

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: I followed the pattern as written but reordered the kit stripes to my preference. Rather than dark to light, I wanted a dark-light-dark effect. Otherwise, this is a super-easy pattern that is infinitely customizable, and a great way to use up mini-skeins. Tin Can Knits are known for their well-written, trusted patterns, and as always, this delivered. Overall, two thumbs up on this project.

DFW Fiber Fest 2022 Recap

Last weekend was amazeballs. After wanting to attend DFW Fiber Fest for years, I finally decided that we would finally go this year. Bean was onboard, and the husband agreed that he was not adverse to being my proverbial yarn mule for an afternoon (as long as there would be Wi-Fi at the hotel and cocktails for the remaining days).

So, knowing that we only wanted to pull Bean from school for one day, we opted to head out Thursday afternoon and attend Friday and Saturday. As such, I planned on taking classes in the mornings, meet up for lunch both days, and head back to the convention center for market shopping and socializing.

The festival was held at the Irving Convention Center, and I have to say, you could feel the joy in the air when we arrived. From the yarn-bomb decorations to the cheerful volunteers, everything added to the atmosphere of excitement of finally coming together. I felt like it was well-organized all around as a festival.

Let’s start with classes. I opted for a class called “I Hate Color Theory” by Peggy Doney, which was supposed help students learn more about color theory and complementary colors, which would culminate in the class dying a personal skein of yarn. Overall, the class had potential but seemed to suffer from technical difficulties, missing equipment, and loss of structure. I still had fun, but I think it missed the intended mark.

For my second class, I took “Love Notes to My Future Self: The Art of Keeping a Crafting Journal” by Alissa Barton. The instructor is big into artistic journaling and passed around many examples and offered materials suggestions. I’d say it was more inspirational than instructional, and we finished up with over an hour of class time left. Regardless, I had a good time and will definitely take more classes next year.

After classes and lunch, it was market time! The festival featured a huge and diverse vendor list, and I believe there was something for EVERYONE. On day one, the husband came with us and that’s when we did the most of our purchasing. Without further ado, here’s our fiber haul:

Bean picked up this bag and the matching shirt from Sharpin Designs.

She also picked out this yarn from Black Cat Fibers.

Finally, she chose stitch markers inspired by Harry Potter and Hamilton respectively. I don’t have a picture of it, but she also ended up with a skein of sock yarn a kind knitter was de-stashing during our social time.

As for me:

These gloriously Halloween-feeling skeins from Whimzee Stitches.

This set from Suburban Stitcher.

A sweater’s quantity, also from Suburban Stitcher.

A Peace, Love and Knitting kit from the Bead Biz.

Spinning Fiber from Frabujous Fibers.

Legend of Zelda and Horror Movies stitch markers.

Stranger Things-inspired project bag from All with Love. I snagged the last one. #sorrynotsorry

And somehow, the husband wandered off and came back with an Alpaca in a Christmas hat from Rancho Inca Alpacas, proving that you can’t leave him unsupervised for long.

We also picked up graphic socks and I tucked away a drop spindle for Bean as a holiday gift.

Aside from classes and the market, the festival featured other events and meet-ups, and plenty of places just to stop, knit, and chat with fellow fiber artists, which Bean and I enjoyed. However, since I didn’t want to wear both her and my husband out, we kept our days balanced.

As for hotels, we stayed at the Omni, which was not a festival hotel, and I won’t stay there again. The Westin across the street would have been a better choice, but I was late to the game in booking.

So, that barely scratches the surface of how much we enjoyed DFW Fiber Fest 2022, and we will be back next year. We ate good food, met lovely people, and got to pet all the fiber. What more can you ask for?

 

Easy Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls for Game Day!

It’s the first Saints’ game of the season, so like a lunatic, I let everyone have a pick for snacks/appetizers. Both of the boys came home this weekend, and since I’m still on the struggle-bus after sending Bear off to college, I went a little over-the-top by committing to this endeavor. Luckily, the drinks were strong and the “Who Dat” energy electric.

The Husband requested these Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls, and I made so many, the boys’ roommates will certainly be happy when they get back to campus. These egg rolls are bacon-y, cheesy, beefy delicious bombs, with a hint of dill pickle to cut through all that richness. Serve them up with your favorite burger condiments and enjoy game day. I sure did. Now I’m going to drink cocktails in the bathtub and decide how soon is too soon to decorate for Halloween. Spoiler alert: you already know the answer.

Easy Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls

Meaty, Cheesy, Bacon Deliciousness Fried to Perfection.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Course Appetizer
Servings 12 rolls

Ingredients
  

  • 6 slices bacon chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 8 ounces Velveeta cubed
  • 3 tbsp dill pickle relish
  • 12-14 egg roll wrappers
  • vegetable, canola, or peanut oil for frying
  • ketchup, mustard, fry sauce, or favorite burger sauce condiments for serving

Instructions
 

  • Cook chopped bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crispy. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Remove all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease from the skillet, saving it for another use.
  • Add ground beef to the skillet with the bacon grease, break it up with a spoon, and cook until browned. Drain any excess fat. Season beef with salt and pepper.
  • Add Velveeta to the skillet and stir until melted and evenly incorporated. Remove skillet from heat and stir in the cooked bacon and dill relish. Let beef mixture cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, heat a couple of inches of oil in a cast-iron skillet or pot to 325 degrees. Place an egg roll wrapper on a clean work surface so a point faces toward you like a diamond and set a cup of water next to your work area. Place 2-3 heaping tablespoons in the center of the wrapper, and using your finger, wet the top edges of your diamond with water. Fold the bottom section over the filling, fold in the sides, then roll it up toward the top (the wet edges will seal it up). There's plenty of tutorials online that are WAY better than these rolling instructions, FYI.
  • Fry the egg rolls in batches (about 5 at a time will fit in a 12-inch cast iron skillet with room to cook evenly), turning every 30 seconds or so until golden brown to your liking, roughly 4-5 minutes in total. Remove to a rack or a paper towel-lined sheet pan to cool.
  • Serve with your favorite burger sauces, like ketchup, fry sauce, mustard, etc. NOTE: these are like molten cheese volcanos fresh out of the frying. Let them cool off for a couple of minutes before consuming, unless you live for burnt taste buds and misery. You do you, Boo.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

 

Finished Knit: Little Red Riding Slippers

Bean has been hounding me for some slippers, so I went to my default Little Red Riding Slippers since I knew I could crank them out quickly. After the Never-Ending Blanket, I’m happy lean into some instant-gratification projects, especially since I have some larger items planned for my Fall knitting.

Pattern: Little Red Riding Slippers by Drops Studios (available for free on Ravelry but SEE MY NOTES).

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick in the Succulent colorway.

Needles: US 10

Notes and Mods: So, Drops patterns once had a reputation for being about as clear as mud. Luckily, other knitters brought clarity, so I skip the pattern and use these resources:

Finished Knit: Llamalove Beanie

Pattern: Llamalove Beanie by Asha Arun (available for purchase on Ravelry).

Yarn: Petite Woll from We Are Knitters in the Spotted Blue, Ochre, Natural, Black and Cinnamon colorways.

Needles: US 9.

Notes and Mods: The pattern called for US 8, but I went up to 9 because my colorwork knitting can be pretty tight, despite my best efforts to the contrary. Easy, well-written pattern, that includes step-by-step photos of the duplicate stitch. I will say that I’m not a big fan of this yarn. It has minimal twist and reminds me of a roving texture. It’s easy to snag, and I’m skeptical on how it will hold up long-term. Other than that, I’m very happy with this project.

Finished Knit–“Feel the Bern” Cropped Sweater

Well, would you look at that. I convinced two of the Heathens to model a sweater. Will wonders never cease.

Pattern: “Feel the Bern” by Caitlin Hunter, based off of the infamous mittens that Bernie Sanders wore to the inauguration. Available for free on Ravelry with the request for charitable donations toward organizations that address food insecurity (Meals on Wheels, local food pantries, etc.).

Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca in the Cream, Duncan, Steel Cut Oats, and Potting Soil Mix colorways.

Needles: US 5 and US 7.

Notes and Mods: No real mods on this one. I wish I had gone up a needle size because my colorwork knitting can be pretty tight, but that’s what happens when you don’t swatch. I had cast-on-itis after the queen-size Slipstravaganza blanket, so I dove in headfirst. If I can’t wear it this winter, one of these two clowns gets a sweater.

 

Yearning for Italian Food and My Favorite Pasta Books Right Now

Well, in fairness, I was warned. When we started planning our trip to Italy, our friends explained to us that, once we had really good food there, it would haunt us (and possibly ruin us on the US versions). Ever since we got back, I have been dreaming of those meals. It doesn’t help matters that we are knee-deep in hell, otherwise known as August in Louisiana. Cooler weather will not hit until late October if we are lucky, but many a Thanksgiving have passed with shorts worn at the table as well. Yep, clutch those pearls. Anyway…

I had this truffle and mushroom pasta at Cafe Gilli in Florence, which showcased an obscenely decadent amount of truffle.

While it appears deceptively simple, this Sacchettini pasta was in the top three of my favorite dishes. It was stuffed with pears and covered in a gorgonzola cream sauce, and I cannot wait to replicate it at home. We found this at La Martinicca in Florence.

Here are some of the other amazing dishes we ate:

I loved learning more about each region we visited and their culinary histories and traditions. I seriously cannot wait to go back and discover more, because we barely scratched the surface of all we wanted to see and try.

So, naturally, as I’m pining for the many pastas that got away, I decided to get back in the kitchen and dust off my limited pasta cookbooks. Now, I have made fresh pasta in the past, but never really got too into it because, well, I’m incredibly lazy. But after leaving no carb behind in Italy, I realized it’s time to dive back into it, because I am yearning to recreate some of the dishes that captured my heart. I love cooking, and now that both boys are about to be off to college, I’m not juggling quite so many preferences/palates, schedules, and nuisances. And honestly, it really is worth doing, especially on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

So, I can’t remember if I blogged about it before, but a staple in my kitchen is The Ultimate Pasta and Noodle Cookbook by Serena Cosmo. She includes incredibly detailed instructions, for both by-hand and using the KitchenAid, and I think it’s a comprehensive resource for beginners and advanced cooks alike. I highlighted so much of this book, and it was perfect for my initial foray into handmade pasta. I also love her pierogi dough, and overall, the book is a nearly encyclopedic. Two thumbs up.

Lately, I’ve also been cooking with Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of Italy’s Greatest Food, With Recipes by Missy Robbins. I made her egg pasta and Bolognese this weekend. The unbelievable amount of egg yolks for her basic dough (24 for one batch!) was a head-scratcher, but it worked up beautifully (after some struggles during the kneading). Despite my initial learning curve, the flavor and texture of the cooked pasta won everyone over. I also appreciated the combination of regional classic recipes and modern spins in this book. While I will probably stick to the basic pasta recipe from UPNC for everyday use (and reserve the 24-egg dough for special occasions), I’m eager to work my way through this one and experiment with new-to-us dishes.

Overall, I think what I’m missing most about Italy is just the quality of ingredients, and how that quality elevated the simplest of dishes into an entirely new experience for us. It’s really got me thinking about how we, as a family, shop/source and cook. That’s going to be a post for another day, but it’s sparked some small steps that are yielding delicious results.

So, that’s a snapshot of some good grub, and the cookbooks I’m using for inspiration. I’m thinking pasta for dinner, tonight?

**Usual disclaimer: This blog is not monetized in any way. The links I provide ARE NOT affiliate links, they are just for your convenience. All reviews are of products I pay for with my own money, and I have no problem telling you the truth about them. If you see an ad on my site, that comes from WordPress, my site host, as the toll of free blogging. I have no control over the targeted ads they display to you**

Finished Knit–Slipstravaganza Blanket

It took nearly a year of on-and-off knitting, but I finally finished this beast of a project. By the end, there were over 1500 stitches per round on the needles, if you can believe that. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the blanket ended up being over six feet in diameter and can fit my queen-size bed. As soon as it was off the needles, I immediately cast on a sweater rather than pick up one of my many UFOs. Yeah, hopefully my mojo for those projects will come around again, but for now, I yield to burning urge to cast on all the new things with all the pretty yarn. I’m ready for cooler weather, cozy nights and relief from this endless heat.

————————————————————————————————

Pattern: Slipstravaganza Blanket by Stephen West (available for purchase on Ravelry or Stephen’s site).

Yarn: West Wool Tandem in the Norway, Glass, Aquamarine, and Brackish colorways.

Needles: US 6

Notes and Mods: As always, Stephen’s pattern is incredibly clear and well-written. The only change I made was following the option to not repeat the chevron section. I was so sick of working on this and was unsure I even had enough yarn to do so anyway.

Summer’s End and Our Italian Vacation!

Y’all. It’s been a summer, albeit a short one (thanks, school board for shaving off nearly a month of it). We started with Bear’s graduation and threw an epic graduation party at the house. That one was so big, I called in reinforcements, and had it catered. I usually can handle the big parties, but sometimes, I want to enjoy them too, rather than maintain food and logistics for over 50 guests. So, cheater, cheater pumpkin-eater, I guess. No shame in that game.

Next, the husband and I were supposed to jet off to St. Lucia for out 20th anniversary, but thanks to American Airlines cancelling our flight as we were checking our luggage, that’s pushed back until next year. Air travel is the fifth circle of hell this year, I swear.

Finally, we departed on our epic Italian adventure that was over a year in the making. Thanks to my handy-dandy travel maven, we settled on a plan that really was seamless from start to finish. She recommended the Private Tour offered by Adventures by Disney, which included our private guides in each city, all transportation, and unique activities…oh and excellent hotels. Basically, they handled everything, including tickets to venues, scheduling access times, and even put us on/off the trains so there was no way to mess up getting around. Overall, I highly recommend. They also offer a group option, but that’s not really our cup of tea.

First stop: ROME!

After the rest day at the hotel (which wasn’t really a rest day, because I drug everyone to the Cappuccini Museum and Crypts on a whim), we ventured on a tour of St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museum.

The pictures do not do the Basilica justice whatsoever. The interior is larger (2 football fields plus) and more magnificent than you can ever imagine. I could have spent several hours inside, because there is so much to take in at every angle. Side note, I did not get pictures inside of the Sistine Chapel, because they are forbidden, but it was breathtaking as well. Photos are allowed in some areas but not all.

During our tour, our guide Simone mentioned that you can actually climb to the top of the dome to the overlook, but it’s oh, a ba-gillion stairs. Hearing a challenge and the potential for bragging rights, the Heathens demanded we take on this endeavor…in the 100-degree heat.

This isn’t even the halfway point. Those stairs lead you into the real deal. It was small, cramped, hot, and I had to use my rescue inhaler, but we made it.

Totes worth it, as they say. The Vatican Museum section of our tour was like walking through history, and though we did have access to some areas not open to the public, we still didn’t see it all. Our guide said that if you only spent 2-3 seconds looking at each piece in the museum, it would take you more than two weeks to see everything.

As we wrapped up, we did pick up several items and gifts, which were sent to the Vatican offices to be blessed and delivered to our hotel.

After a much-needed lunch break, cocktail, and gelato, we toured the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and our tour guide added in some scenic stops, with a coffee granita grab for the adults.

The next day, we our guide gave us a tour of the Coliseum before we boarded the train to Florence.

Once we arrived in Florence and made it to the awesome hotel, we had a private tour of the Pallazzo Vecchio, including the secret passages.

That night, we discovered that our hotel had a bar and terrace with the best views in the city and really good cocktails.

The next day, we visited the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David, then the Uffizi Gallery to see incredible Renaissance artwork.

Then we basically walked all over Florence to see the sights.

Our guide, Leonardo (no joke), made sure we didn’t miss anything, and we fell in love with the city. We will definitely be back.

The next day, our driver took us through the Tuscan countryside to Fattoria Poggio Alloro farm, where we learned how to make fresh pasta, toured the farm, then had a delicious lunch and wine tasting. We ended up shipping two cases of various wines back to the U.S. while we were there. I loved everything about this day, and it gave the Heathens a little break from the very museum-heavy aspects of the itinerary. This was Bean’s favorite part of the trip, with the exception of our guide in Rome who she loved.

That afternoon, we made a quick stop to the San Gimignano for snacks and cocktails.

The next morning, we boarded the train to Venice, and hit the ground running with a tour of Piazza San Marco and the Doges Palace.

The next day, we received private mask-making lessons at a tiny local studio, which ended up being way more fun than I expected. The husband and Heathens really got into it, and our guide brought us some Buranelli cookies to try while we worked. We learned about Venetian traditions and the artists were incredibly kind.

Afterward, we took a gondola ride, which I do not recommend. There are so many of them that you basically sit in a traffic jam of bumping gondolas. We enjoyed the hotel ferry more than that, so I’d say skip it unless your heart is set on it. Another rooftop bar of cocktails later, and we were packing it up to come home.

While that is the bare bones of our tip (because I could write a book), it covers the highlights. We made it home safely and full of memories, though United did lose all of our luggage and even sent one bag to a different state, never to be heard from again…until a friend had to pick up and drive it back to Louisiana while on business.

Overall, this vacation exceeded our expectations. I think our only regret is not building in a rest day mid-trip, because every day was a packed itinerary and I wish I had more wandering time.

Now, it’s back to school and the hell that is carpool. I’m already dreaming about our next trip and counting the days till fall.

 

Finished Knit: Leafy Baby Blanket

I took a break from my gigantic Slipstravaganza blanket, well, because I just need one. It’s up to about 900 stitches per round (true story) so it needed a timeout, or rather, I needed a break from the endless slog. I have cast-on-itis, but I have so many projects on the needles in various stages that I have to exercise some self-control.

Meanwhile, my cousin announced an impending new arrival, which, of course, means baby knitting. I broke my self-imposed project limit, because babies knitting doesn’t count. There’s a finite timeline for that kind of project, ya know? So, I narrowed down some patterns on Ravelry with similar attributes and let G-Man pick amongst the final contenders. Here’s what we got:

Pattern: Leafy Baby Blanket available for free on Ravelry.

Yarn: Yarn Bee Soft & Sleek Solids in the Viridecent colorway (I used about 2.75 skeins).

Needles: US 10/5.0mm

Notes and Mods: I totally forgot to start my project page in Ravelry, but I know I CO more stitches because the pattern, as is, comes out narrower than I would like, per other knitters’ project notes. I looked through other projects, and I’m pretty sure I CO at least 130 stitches. As for length, I just kept knitting until I thought I was getting close to the size I wanted, then continued out the current pattern repeat before moving to the final steps. This pattern is both written and charted, fyi. Overall, beautiful, easy pattern, especially for a freebie. I pinned the completed blanket out with my Knit Blockers and aggressively steam blocked it to “kill” the acrylic. Sending this off to my cousin, then it’s back to the blanket of doom.

Le sigh.