The Best Sweet Potato Casserole (a.k.a My Thanksgiving Must-Have Side Dish)

If you are looking for an easy side dish for your Thanksgiving gathering, I’ve got just the casserole for you.

I know that I may be in the minority, but I’ve never been a fan of the marshmallow-topped concoctions or those syrupy, too-sweet bakes. That’s why I never really ate sweet potatoes until well into adulthood. I tweaked my mom’s recipe until I not only had a great side dish, but also look forward to it every year.

This recipe has citrus zest to brighten up the potatoes, and a spiced pecan topping to bring texture and crunch. Best of all? You can make it ahead and just pop it in the oven while the turkey rests.

The Best Sweet Potato Casserole

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 10

Ingredients
  

Casserole

  • 3 29-ounce cans sweet potatoes, drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup sugar granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons butter melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • additional butter for greasing casserole

Topping

  • 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

Instructions
 

Casserole

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place sweet potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Add remaining casserole ingredients. Using an electric hand mixer, beat mixture until fluffy.
  • Pour into a buttered 9x13casserole, spreading mixture evenly.
  • Bake casserole at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove casserole from oven, top with pecan mixture, and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Topping

  • In a medium mixing bowl, add brown sugar and all seasonings to melted butter, stirring to incorporate. Stir in pecans until they are well coated. Top casserole with pecan mixture in last 10 minutes of baking.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Off The Shelf–Cookbooks I Bought This Month

It’s no secret that I have a severe cookbook hoarding issue. I have zero impulse control when I am at the bookstore, and usually never walk out empty-handed. So, here’s what I bought this month:

Image result for fifty pies fifty states

I purchased this book after hearing the author on a podcast, and I’m glad I did. This book is absolutely fantastic, and I highly recommend it. Great stories and photographs, and some of the recipes are just bananas, like the Jersey Breakfast Sandwich Pie and the Pulled Pork Pie topped with Hushpuppies. She also includes stories and facts about each state and dedicates the pies to friends from those locations. This would make a great gift for the baker in your life.

Paula Deen’s quote about Southern Plate! | Southern Plate

This book is exactly as described. A lot of the recipes are similar to old southern staples that you would find in Junior League and church cookbooks. They are simple, straightforward, classics from the author’s upbringing. If you are just starting out with cooking, or need easy southern recipes, this might fit the bill.

This book is an absolute treasure, not just for the recipes but what it represents. After Hurricane Katrina devastated our state, families lost everything, including treasured family recipes. The Times-Picayune newspaper’s food column became a way to swap recipes and seek out those that were lost. This book is a compilation of incredible recipes that are part of our state culture.

Southern and Smoked: Cajun Cooking through the Seasons, LA - Picture 1 of 1

This book is from the owner of a south Louisiana smokehouse and highlights some genuine Cajun cuisine. I love the seasonal approach to the organization of recipes, and the photos are excellent. If you are looking for authentic south Louisiana recipes, this is worth the purchase.

So, checked out any good cookbooks lately?

 

My Ooni Karu Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven Review

So, I mentioned that I got a new toy, the Ooni Karu multi-fuel pizza oven for my birthday, but with everything going on, I just finally got around to playing with it for the past two weeks. Now, before I get into my review, I want to be clear that ingredients and process matter for success, so there is a learning curve, especially concerning dough. I have a few pizza cookbooks, and settled on the 60% hydration Neapolitan dough from this book:

I highly suggest this book if you want a pizza science deep dive, but even if you don’t, here’s why I love it. It gives dough recipes for various Italian styles (Naples, Rome, etc. which are different), and the regional recipes are also adapted for home ovens, grills, and pizza ovens. It explains why the dough needs to be different for each. To put it simply, the dough needs to be adjusted for how hot and fast your oven can cook. Most home ovens can only go to 500 F, while grills and pizza ovens can heat to 700-900 F. The cooking temperature affects how much water dough needs to cook properly. The author has it laid out in extensive detail, so on my first try, my 3-day fermented dough turned out perfectly and to rave reviews. It’s becoming part of my daily routine to keep dough on rotation so we have weekly pizza nights. I also recommend The Joy of Pizza as well.

Let’s talk about the oven itself.

This is a wood-fired oven with an optional propane insert, which we chose to purchase as an additional feature. I knew that I would make pizza more often with the convenience of instant-start gas versus building/managing a wood fire every single time. I know that’s not as authentic, but I want to use this pizza oven regularly, and not as a special occasion when I am willing to babysit a wood fire in 105-degree weather in summer. Because my outdoor counter space is limited, I ended up buying a rolling kitchen cart so I can move it around as needed for both cooking and storage.

Thoughts on Accessories/Support

  • The two main accessories we purchased that I can get behind are the oven cover, and the pizza peel. The cover fits perfectly and is low-effort to use. The peel is easy to work with and maneuver for the oven size and shape.
  • The freaking door….So, they advertise the oven with no door, and suggest consumers purchase one. Well, we bought a door only to find out our oven came with a fully-installed door. So, I now have a very expensive door in my closet. Rather than return it, I’m just going to hang on to it in case of emergency, but I HIGHLY suggest you talk to customer service before ordering a door to see of it is included.
  • I’d hold off on the laser thermometer suggestion until you play around with the built-in thermometer. They obviously want to upsell ad nauseam but it’s up to you on how “Alton Brown” you want to go with it. I don’t think it’s necessary for starting out.
  • I like the app and find it to be very helpful. Outside of the video tutorials, I found plenty of recipe inspirations, more so than I expected. The company seems to have good consumer support for their products. The app is worth downloading.

After playing around for a bit, I can say that I really love this oven. Yes, it was pricey, and there is definitely a learning curve if you’ve never made pizza before. But it cooks beautifully (in two minutes or less) and is easy enough to use on a weeknight. The Heathens love getting creative with toppings outside of the norm. It’s also useful way to transform leftovers, for example, we used the leftover food from our weekend barbecue to make pizzas the next day, which reduced food waste. Overall, I think it’s a great product and I am learning a lot.

So, we bought the thing, we love the thing, two thumbs up.

**A note/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**

 

Roasted Tomato Paste for a Lazy Canning day

The garden is in full swing, and while I’m doing the best I can, production is quickly out-pacing me.

I typically offer up the extra bounty to our neighborhood, but I think we’ve reached the point where even they groan when they see my text messages pop up. I have been canning every week, but it’s difficult to get the energy to stand over a hot stove with record heat blanketing Louisiana. I ordered a dehydrator with the intention of broadening my horizons and saving the gigantic herb garden before this heat does it in. But that doesn’t solve the problems of today.

Yesterday, I still had a ton of tomatoes in need of processing, and I didn’t have the time or mental energy for lots of hands-on prep work, so that excluded Roasted Tomato Lime Salsa, though I did make some last week. I also did not have enough tomatoes to make marinara, so I turned to my cookbook library and found Roasted Tomato Paste in The All-New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving. I initially balked, because 12 pounds of tomatoes for four, 4-oz jars? Psssssh. But with a Heathen home to help me, I could knock out prep in 20 minutes. However, because both the tomatoes and resulting paste slow roast, it’s still a seemingly longer project, but it was also 90 percent was hands-off. I reckoned that the tomatoes needed to go, so a paste experiment it was.

We started by coring/seeding and quartering the tomatoes, then roasting them in the oven:

Then we pureed them in the food processor, spread the puree on sheet pans and roasted that, stirring every twenty minutes or so until we reached the right color and consistency (following photos are 1-freshly pureed, 2-halfway through, 3-final paste):

Finally, we water-bath canned per the recipe.

It worked out well, but by all that is holy, learn from my mistakes. Line your sheet pan with heavy duty foil. Mine is currently on a fourth round of soaking and I’m about to take the oven cleaner to it. Le sigh.

So, overall, this recipe is long on time but short on hands-on effort. Sure, the yield was small, but those tomatoes were destined for the compost bin if I didn’t figure out a plan that worked with my timeframe. That’s the key for me for successful canning; pivoting when you need to and managing your time. I salvaged the tomatoes but didn’t wreck my other goals for the day.

As always, I will include my usual canning advice, which can be found in this post, and this one. Canning is the very essence of science of food safety, so unless you want to live on the edge via death-by-botulism-roulette, follow professionally developed and tested recipes from trusted sources.

And just when I finished this project, the Husband announced his intention to harvest another round of tomatoes tomorrow, in the 105 degree heat. That dehydrator can’t get here fast enough, I’ll tell y’all that.

Roasted Tomato Paste

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Servings 4 4-oz jarrs

Ingredients
  

  • 12 pounds Roma tomatoes, stems removed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more for taste
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove seeds and pulp from tomato halves with a spoon, then cut halves vertically. Place tomato quarters on three rimmed baking sheets lined with foil. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Bake tomato quarters for 1.5 hours, checking every 20 minutes after the 40-minute mark to prevent burning. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
  • Process tomatoes in a food processor in batches until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in citric acid. Add more salt if needed for taste.
  • Return the puree to one sheet pan and spread out evenly. Bake at 350 F until tomato mixture is deep red and very thick, stirring every 20 minutes (could be anywhere from 2-3 hours based on your oven and water content of your tomatoes).
  • Spoon mixture into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space, remove air bubbles as best you can, wipe rims, and apply lids and bands. Process for 40 minutes in boiling water, adjusting recipe for altitude. Remove jars from heat to cooling rack and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Inspect seals and refrigerate any jars that failed to seal for short-term use.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

**A note/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**

Finding Joy When It Feels Impossible

There are very few times when I’m at a loss for words. The past month has definitely been one of them. On Mother’s Day, which also happened to be G-Man’s 21st birthday, we woke up to the unimaginable. We lost our nephew in a tragic accident; he was also 21.

The days that followed were exhausting, with lots of travel, phone calls, logistics, and heartache, while still trying to keep up with school events for the last days of Bean’s elementary school career. Thanks goodness we have a village that kept the proverbial gears turning so we could be where we needed to be. While we got her across the fifth-grade finish line, the missed birthday celebrations for G-Man and the Husband will be on hold for a while.

It’s hard to think about celebrating and gratitude when the people you care about are going through the worst tragedy imaginable. Our nephew was incredibly kind, ridiculously humble, and was taken from his siblings and parents far too soon. I just don’t have any words for the kind of pain they are going through. How do you process a beautiful life cut short?

But, in spite of all of this, I can still find gratitude this summer. When I woke up G-Man that Sunday to tell him the news, and that Husband and I were leaving to head south within minutes, he understood. I’m sure losing your 21st birthday party is disappointing, especially knowing there’s no back-up plan anytime soon. Yet he simply said, “I’m good, y’all go.” Bean understood when I told her that we would be there for graduation but would have to miss most of the other school events that week. Bear let it slide when I blew up at him over the lost guest bathroom hand towels (because at the time, I convinced myself the lack thereof was the end of the damn world when we had family coming to stay). When the crap hits the fan, I’m grateful the Heathens have perspective beyond their years when it comes to crap like this.

Once the dust settled, we went down to my uncle’s camp and the fishing was both therapeutic and fantastic.

Spending mornings on the water and nights on the porch brought both joy and peace. That was both welcome and difficult. Trying to resume “normal” life after loss always is, because when you are caught in the gravity of grief, you often feel like time should have stopped. There’s a certain sense of guilt that lingers until you remember that we honor those we lost by telling the stories, keeping the memories alive, and not by stagnating on principle.

It’s hard to imagine not seeing him, teasing him, or watching him get married or starting a family. Our nephew was an avid fisherman, hard worker, and a gentle soul. Senseless loss cuts deep.

So, for now, we will focus on finding joy, cherishing those we love, and putting one foot in front of the other.

But damn. This f-ing sucks.

 

 

 

 

Cultivating an Ever-Expanding Skillset

So, this week, I wanted to talk more about the how’s and why’s of my reasons for leaning into new homemaking/cooking/”old-fashioned” skills. In my recent 20% Better post, I described the basic rationale as to why we are baby-stepping our way toward improvements around our home toward  supporting local economy and sustainability.

Ok, but before we get there, I do want to emphasize that there is no right or wrong way to approach homemaking (well, unless you believe Miracle Whip is mayonnaise…well, then, we need to stage an intervention on your behalf…I’m just sayin’ is all). I think any conversation about homemaking, sustainability, slow food, shopping local, etc. need to eject the tendency to assign dichotomous value systems. If we start labeling things as good or bad, right or wrong, all or nothing, we often end up with a myopic viewpoint that sanctifies one idea while demonizing another, and we end up being exclusionary and unattainable rather than inclusive and accessible.

Let’s be real for a second. The ability to try new recipes, bake fresh bread, learn about pasta, canning, knitting, sewing, gardening, entertaining and countless other things all come down fundamentally to privilege. The privilege of time, access to resources, or both. I’m at a season in life where I have more time; I no longer have colicky babies, terrible-two’s toddlers, or full-time employment. I have the PRIVILEDGE of time in a way I did not have in the past, so I can devote it to experimenting and learning. Likewise, I have the resources or access to resources to learn, reliable sourcing to fresh, quality food, and ready transportation. Many people do not.

So, what’s my point here? I think when I talk about the value of growing in homemaking skills to ME, I never want to insinuate that it has some warped universal intrinsic moral value. If we romanticize “old-fashioned,” or elevate “handmade” in such a way that we are alienating others or creating a one-right-way mentality, we’ve missed the forest for the trees. To me, homemaking means cultivating a relatively happy, reasonably healthy, personably hospitable place where you want to be and to share with your peeps. To cast any homemaking endeavor as an all-or-nothing, good/bad thing means that we are probably missing the point entirely.

So, now that I’m off my soapbox, I want to recap some of my efforts so far, and what’s on the horizon. This year, I’ve tackled my sourdough phobia, and it’s going fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced quite a few abject failures, but I learned something new each time. Once I got into the grove, I’ve worked bread baking into my weekly routine and let’s just say, the others in this household are quite happy with this.

Going with the “ever-expanding skillset” mentality, I have also baked sooooo many new-to-me cookies and cakes, experimented with fresh pasta, and am giving an embarrassingly poor effort at spinning wool into yarn. I am about to venture into wood-fired pizza, curing meat, and pressure canning. Now, I’ll go ahead and say it now; I do not see myself expanding into sewing anytime soon. I can sew a reasonably straight line, and I managed to crank out dozens of face masks for friends and neighbors in 2020, but sewing is not my jam. At all. Too much precision required for my chaotic ass. Take that disclaimer as you will.

Back to the hows/whys. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this initiative is that nothing occurs in a vacuum. In a predictable turn that surprises no one but me, learning about one thing opens doors through which, by extension, lead to more. When I became obsessed with barbecue/smoking a few years ago, I ended up learning about sustainable meat production, butchering and cuts of meat and how they are best used, geographic flavor profiles in barbecue, the science of various smoker constructions, etc. This is what first led me to look locally for sustainably produced meat. So, my point is that small steps continue to lead me to new skills.

As I continue with these projects, I feel more connected to our home, the community, and the importance of traditions. Personally, I feel a lot of satisfaction in understanding the how’s and why’s, in being able to create, and knowing that when the zombie apocalypse comes, I could probably land a safeguarded spot in the survivor’s camp. Just kidding, but it’s a nice fictional perk, don’t ya think? Also, the kids see me researching, doing, and sometimes failing; I hope the takeaway for them is an attitude that they can figure out new things, “hard” things, if they really want to.

Well, that’s enough homemaking musings for today. I’ve got a pork belly that’s about to become bacon, and doesn’t that sound like fun?

 

 

 

From the Cookbook Library–Recent Reads and Reviews

It’s no secret that I have a cookbook problem…in that I will never, ever have enough. However, I am also guilty of being lazy AF when it comes down to meal planning for this circus. Rather than taking the time to go through my library of cookbooks throughout the week for inspiration, I often spend Sunday mornings scrolling online for fast ideas so I can get my grocery order in on time.

Well, as this year-of-improvement trucks along, I realize that expanding my culinary skillsets also means that I really need to spend a little less time on my phone, and a little more time amongst my bookshelves. So, I’m slowly attempting to build into the routine time to look to my books each week when it comes to meal planning and experimenting. Since I also vowed to cut down on my phone usage (a wee bit harder than I thought), this goal is doing double-duty for me.

Here are a couple of books I cooked from this week, or dove into for future planning:

The Woks of Life Cookbook Cover

The Woks of Life came to me via my Hardcover Cook subscription, and dang if I wasn’t the last to know about the authors’ fantastic food blog. I absolutely love every part of this book, from the family history and stories to the recipes that feel completely accessible to home cooks. On my first pass, I flagged at least 20 recipes I can’t wait to try. This weekend, I made some pork dumplings and chicken curry pockets, along with the ultimate dipping sauce. I wanted to keep going, but alas, we were all full at that point.

My dumpling assembly technique remains woefully inadequate, but everything was still dang tasty and I have plenty more dishes that I want to make soon. This book is a welcome addition to my library, and you should totally check it out at least the blog. I foresee pork buns in my future very soon.

I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve been baking up a storm, but picky eaters are still gonna pick. So, in addition to cake and pie experiments geared toward broadening my culinary skillsets, I’ve also been working my way through this King Arthur Essential Cookie Companion. This book has PLENTY of cookies that are easy to make and frequently utilize items I already have in my pantry. More often than not, I can flip through and find a new cookie recipe to crank out in a pinch before one of the boys gets home for the weekend. So, while I toiled away on a 2-hour caramel frosting that could not save a bone-dry caramel cake (from another cookbook I won’t mention), I at least whipped up a back-up bunch of chocolate-peanut half-moons (post-dip in chocolate not pictured).

Yeah, I am definitely putting some miles on this one, and I also recommend it if you like easy cookie recipes with clear instructions that have been thoroughly tested. I just finished up a batch of Chocolate Wake-Ups in between typing this and working on this weekend’s sourdough.

So, I technically have not tried any of the recipes in this book, but I still think it’s worth a look before summer’s bounty starts rolling in. I cannot for this life of me remember where I heard about it, but I am always on the lookout for books to add to my canning/preserving/skill-building library. This volume covers a lot of bases, from water bath and pressure canning to meat curing and beginner cheesemaking. I have been wanting to branch out into pressure canning for a while, and after reading this, I feel a somewhat less intimidated to get started. Also, after perusing the chapter on curing/smoking, I am about to start the process of turning a lovely pork belly I got at the farm into bacon, so I’ll follow up in a later post on how that goes. Overall, this book is very well-written and thoughtfully laid out, so check it out if you are so inclined.

Well, that about covers it in the time I have before the dough needs more attention. Hopefully, Operation Cook the Books continues, because my habit for acquiring new cookbooks will probably never be tamed. In fact, I wonder what’s new at the bookstore this week……

Finished Knit–The Chilton Cowl

Pattern: The Chilton Cowl by Bobbi IntVeld

Yarn: Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok Worsted in the Cast Iron colorway and Holiday Frost bundle (October Sky, Spring Ice, Thermal Spring, Driftwood, Highland Fleece, Grew Harbor, and Storm Cloud).

Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm)

Notes and Mods: I made this pattern as written for a quick gratification knit after my last two projects. All the yarn came out of my stash, thus continuing my goal to knit as much from stash as possible this year. This cowl has great squishy texture, so I’m hoping for a couple more cold days so I can wear it, but alas, the pollen blanket resting over NW Louisiana suggests otherwise.

February Goals Round Up

I am a little late getting this post up but it’s time to review how the month went.

Health/Personal

  • I only lost about four pounds this month and definitely was not as consistent with my fitness, but with reason. Unfortunately, I caught a nasty virus, but luckily, it was not covid, flu, or strep. The downside of having asthma, however, is that colds/respiratory illnesses hit me like a ton of bricks and linger forever. We also had an appendicitis scare (false alarm) with one of the kids, who also ended up needing a CT and was diagnosed with mild pneumonia, so February and health were not getting along at all.
  • Overall, I think my biggest take-away from the month is that I need to stay on track mentally and physically, even when the train gets derailed. We had quite a few unscheduled events and detours from our usual routines, and I need to not let those subdue momentum. But, progress is still progress, and I am feeling good.

 

 

Kitchen

  • Baking: Another NINE new recipes tried, so I’m calling that a success for baking practice. I made: Copycat Biscoff Crumbl Cookies (kids really liked them), Cinnamon Sugar St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake (meh, just like a basic coffee cake but more work), Copycat Crumbl Snickerdoodles (a bit dense but good), Copycat Crumbl Red Velvet Cookies (also a bit dense), Red Velvet Cake (good, basic recipe), and the following cookie recipes from the King Arthur Cookie Companion book that I could not find exact matches for online: Fudgy Brownies (kids loved big time), Tender Toffee Rounds (husband liked, kids thought they were bitter from the dark chocolate), Soft Oatmeal Cookies (weird, ends up more like rounds than cookies), and Sugar and Spice Drops (interesting and perfect for fall). I am loving this book, but most of the recipes from it have not been published online by King Arthur, so I can’t link them. The book is worth purchasing, in my opinion.
  • I rebooted the sourdough starter after Bear murdered the last attempt, and it was a success! I still have a long way to go and much more practice ahead, but I think I now understand the fundamentals. The Pantry Mama website gave me a lot of good info and insight, so if you want to jump on the bandwagon, that’s a good place to start.
  • More pasta practice went down this month as well. I ordered a ravioli tool to make the process a wee bit faster for me, and it was totally worth the $13 I spent. I can’t tell you how much easier it was than the trying to fill individual mezzalunas. I made a filling of ground chicken, ricotta, parmesan and herbs, then served the ravioli in a tomato sauce with just a touch of cream to mellow it out. It’s also still a learning process, but I love cultivating new skillsets when it comes to carbs.
  • I tried six new recipes this month, and two were simply me freestyling dinner like a madwoman. The others included BBQ Chicken Fajitas (everyone liked this, and it was a nice spin on taco night), Lemon Butter Dijon Chicken and Orzo (It was descent; I liked it more than the kids and husband but not by much), Skillet Beef Enchiladas (this was a “meh” all around. They didn’t like the texture), and Creamy Italian Sausage One Pot Pasta (This will be a weeknight keeper. Everyone liked it and it’s very easy to prepare).

Books

I read another six books this month:

  • Twisted Hate by Ana Huang (not pictured)-Basically this was an enemies-to-lovers romance, and honestly, I felt like I slogged through it. The hero had the personality of a fencepost, and seemed immature to the point of unlikable. Definitely not my favorite.
  • Twisted Lies by Ana Huang (not pictured)-Yes, I am a glutton for punishment. I was intrigued by side characters she set up in the last book, so I decided to check out their story. It was better than the previous, but still just one-note for me.
  • To Boldly Grow-A non-fiction work that tells the story of Tamar and her husband as they work to source as much of their food locally as possible through gardening, hunting, foraging, fishing, etc. Kind of like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I enjoyed it. She really highlights the learning curves, successes, and failures in a relatable way.
  • In the Middle of Hickory Lane-I confess, I am a huge Heather Webber fan, whose works remind me of Sarah Addison Allen, and this book was just as good as her last. I love modern magic realism, so this one got a big thumbs up.
  • Home to Cypress Bayou-Ok, I have a soft spot for this soapy little book, mostly because it’s set in the fictional Cypress Bayou, which is based on my former home of Natchitoches, Louisiana. It’s more like cotton candy for your brain than compelling fiction, and because of the setting, it charmed me more than it probably should. The writing could be more polished, but I still liked it.
  • The Vineyards of Champagne-Honestly, as much as I wanted to enjoy this one, I thought it was terribly slow, the plot contrived, and the main character and her lack of self-awareness grew tedious quickly. While it was very well-researched, I don’t get the glowing reviews (although many others agreed with me).

Fiber Arts

  • I finally finished the damn sweater! Scottish Ale sat on the needles forever because I hated knitting it (have learned that seamed sweaters are not my thing). G-Man loves it, so that’s what counts, but man, am I happy to see that thing done.
  • I also finished The Shift Cowl. This was an easy pattern to knit, but I’m on the fence about my yarn choice. Both the sweater and the cowl are projects that have been sitting in my UFO bin for a while, so getting these finished definitely ticked off a goal on my fiber arts to-do list.
  • I started and am about 3/4 of the way through the Chilton Cowl using a set of Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok Holiday Frost mini-skeins from my stash, so I am still sticking to my knit-from-stash goal for the year. I also have three more from-stash projects in the pipeline.
  • As for spinning, I confess I haven’t made much progress. I continued to struggle with the Malabrigo Nube fiber, so I finally abandoned it, and have switched to practicing with Ashford Silk Merino Silver. I’m still can’t get my drafting under control, and my attempts are getting seriously over-twisted. I know it’s going to take time and lots of practice, but even after watching a bagillion YouTube videos, I still feel like it’s just not clicking with me. I’m going to keep at it though, because I know it’s going to be like learning to knit–time, practice, muscle memory, and education.
  • Finally, I haven’t put as much work into the needlepoint stocking for Bean, and I think both that and spinning practice are areas where I need to focus more time.

So, that was February. Good forward progress all around, but I see room for improvement in a few areas. Now it’s time to gird the loins, because guess what this week is? Regional Science Fair. Y’all……there’s not enough margaritas in the world shine a light at the end of that tunnel. Pray for me and send tequila.

Finished Knit–The Shift Cowl

Pattern: The Shift Cowl by Andrea Mowry (available for purchase on Ravelry).

Yarn: Spincycle Dream State in the Heart Sigh, Verba Volant, and Neveruary colorways.

Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm)

Notes and Mods: Another abandoned WIP out of the UFO bin! I knit this as written. However, I ran out of Neveruary about 2/3 through the pattern and finding a replacement was a pain in the butt (hence the abandonment). I realized that, when I ordered this yarn specifically labeled as a kit for this cowl, the yarn I received was Dream State rather than Dyed in the Wool. As it turns out, Dream State is only 150 yards compared to Dyed’s 200 yard put-up.

Overall, easy pattern and glad to free up those needles.