WIP Wednesday & Kitchen Musings

Well, the good news is that I’m half-way across Sleeve Island! I finished up the first sleeve of my never-damn-ending Scottish Ale pullover.

I’m so dang sick of this sweater, it’s unreal. But I am not allowing myself to touch another project until it’s finished, because if I don’t get it done soon, I never will. I am ready to put this one in my rearview mirror for sure. I can already tell the sleeves are not sized very well, and it looks like other knitters had similar thoughts based on project notes in Ravelry. I don’t care at this point, though. I will finish it, and if it doesn’t fit, oh damn well.

In unrelated news, we’ve been going strong on our 20% better initiative. I put in an order to the farm that included beef, pork, chicken, sausage, and local butter (Morrell Dairy Farm) and honey (Hummer & Son).

These quiet January days let me slow down and be a little more methodical with cooking and menu-planning, which has helped keep the waste to a minimum and given our budget a break from the frenetic entertaining of the holidays. I’ve been leaning into all the comfort foods. I used the smoked ham hocks for a big pot of purple hull peas, the sausage for Monday red Beans and rice with cornbread, and the ground sausage for Saturday morning biscuits and gravy (with bacon, eggs, and cheese grits…well, because). At the Husband’s request, the chicken took a decadent gravy bath and landed on a pile of buttery, fluffy mashed potatoes, while the honey added sweetness to a new roll recipe that I test-drove during a baking binge. I’ll smother the pork chops in a mushroom mustard-cream sauce tomorrow night, and the local butter will jazz up carrots that need to evacuate my crisper drawer. Overall, I would say our kitchen energy feels both cozy and intentional.

Speaking of the kitchen, my goal to bake more this year is in full swing, and I’ll give an update at the end of the month, but here’s what was on the menu this week:

I made this Brownie Cake with Cookie Butter Frosting, which was a big hit with everyone. I will note that the brownie took a wee bit longer to bake than the recipe stated, but otherwise, anything with cookie butter has my vote,

I also baked these Nutella Cookies, leaving out the chopped nuts so the kids wouldn’t riot. The Husband absolutely loved them, and I think they will make the permanent rotation.

Finally, my local botanical shop released a special edition Mardi Gras candle, and you can bet I did not pass Go on my way to snatch that up.

So, that’s the Wednesday update. I’m off to get dinner started. Oh, and guess what? Good thing Bean and I did not murder each other in the making of her science fair project. That booger won first place. Will wonders never cease…

 

WIP Wednesday

So, as I talked about earlier, one of my goals this year is to knit projects using my current yarn stash, and only purchase yarn from our travels or fiber festivals. However, before I dive into new projects, I decided I needed to address my unfinished objects (UFO) bin and finish up some items that fell by the wayside for one reason or another. As much as it feels like a chore, I know I’ll feel better clearing the proverbial deck a bit. I ended up happily frogging my 2022 West Knits MKAL shawl and recovering the yarn to repurpose. I was not a fan of the knitting process or the finished product, so that was an easy decision. As for what I’m trying to finish up:

I’m on the first sleeve of the Scottish Ale pullover in Cascade Eco + in the Lichen colorway. I started this WAY back in 2018. I finished the back and promptly decided that I should have known myself better than to pick a seamed sweater. I am not a fan of the construction, but I promised G-Man I would make it, so here I am. I knitted up the front, and now I live on sleeve island for the foreseeable future.

The second project I dug out was The Shift Cowl in various colors from Spincycle Yarns. I ran out of one color completely, reordered it, and it looks like I will be playing serious yarn-chicken with the other two colors. Based on my gauge, I don’t think I should have run out with a full section and a half of pattern left, which makes me wonder. I also do not want to spend more money on the other two colors, as this yarn isn’t my favorite, so hopefully I can eeek it out with what I have left.

Finally, I picked up Bean a needlepoint stocking canvas a couple of years ago, and considering she’s about to be 11, I need to suck it up and get it done. Needlepoint is not my favorite thing to do, so I’ve designated a few times a week to put the knitting down and pick this monster back up.

So, while I am currently slogging through a few forgotten WIPS, I’m also planning and kitting-up new projects. No big blankets, no baby knitting on the horizon, and no MKALS. Rather, I have several sweaters patterns I’ve been eyeing, a cowl that I have been waiting to cast-on forever, a shawl or two, and a massive lace beaded project that I may try to knock out this year.

In the meantime, however, I’ll still be here, on sleeve island, cursing my way through it.

 

It’s Time for Some Quiet

Whelp, it’s 2023, for better or worse. 2022 flew past like a wild wind, and while I didn’t accomplish many of my personal goals, I can’t say that we didn’t have a pretty full year. So, here’s the recap of the highlights:

Books Read: 43

I read a little bit less than my goal, but I did better than I thought I would. My top three G-rated reads were:

  • Paperback Crush. This is a non-fiction work that takes a retrospective look at the teen novels of the 70s-90s. If you grew up on Babysitter’s Club, Fear Street, Sweet Valley High, etc., this walk down memory lane is definitely worth it.
  • Kitchen Front. I’m not usually a fan of historic fiction, but I ended up really enjoying this one. Set during WWII, it follows a group of women, each trying to win a recipe contest, but the recipes must be based on the government’s wartime rations.
  • The Sweet Taste of Muscadines. A southern coming-home story with rich characters, scenery, and family secrets.

As a side-note, I read plenty of trashy romance novels this year, but that’s between me and my Kindle.

New Baking Recipes Tried: 14

While I am a pretty confident cook, I’ve never been much of a baker. I have plenty of recipes I grew up with, but I tend to get terribly impatient with baking. I did not attempt nearly as many new recipes as my set goal, but something is better than nothing, I suppose. My top two favorites were the Basque Lemon Ginger Cheesecake I saw on Food Network and the Jam Thumbprint cookies from Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking. (Yes, that sounds basic, but I ate those damn things for breakfast for a week)

Finished Knits: 9

Obviously, that is way lower than my usual year, but this queen-size beast of a blanket damn near killed me. My finished objects included two baby blankets, one sweater, two hats, one pair of slippers, one pair of mittens, and a novelty business card holder. I also won five first place ribbons and one second place at the state fair.

Places Traveled: 7

This was certainly the travel year because we celebrated a lot of milestones. G-Man graduated in 2020 amid Covid so he missed out on all the things, Bear graduated, and the husband and I celebrated 20 years. I loved the Italy Trip, and DFW Fiber Fest. Cancun was an impromptu but super-fun. Bear finally got to use the concert tickets he received for his 16th birthday…in you guessed it, 2020.

We had so many other things going on throughout the year that by the time we hit this week, I think we were all feeling ready for some quiet. Or maybe the past week of Hell has me thinking so. Yep, it’s science fair project time, my friends. That veritable torture chamber for parents. In related news, I’ll never get ice from a fast-food ice machine again:

As for 2023, I have set some goals and have my planner in order (Commit30 if you are wondering):

Kitchen:

  • Continue expanding my baking skills, both savory and sweet. I hope to try at least 30 new recipes this year.
  • Expand my pasta skills. Italy inspired me soooooo much and I would love to dive deeper into this one.
  • Finish the family cookbook revisions and re-print it for everyone. This will be a big project. Now that my favorite software is defunct, I’m struggling to find one I like.
  • Be a little more adventurous in recipes and cuisines.
  • Source more locally (I’ll talk about this in a future post).

Fiber Arts

  • Say it with me: KNIT FROM STASH. My yarn stash is ridiculous, and I’m committed to knitting from it exclusively. However, my husband is taking me to Rhinebeck this year, so…
  • Learn to spin. I received a spinning wheel last year and have been too intimidated to really get into it.
  • Finish at least two UFOs that have been languishing away.
  • Finish Bean’s needlepoint stocking.

Health/Personal

  • Fix this trainwreck. ’nuff said.
  • Less phone time. I did not realize just how much time I waste scrolling when I could be doing things that actually bring me joy.
  • Realize skincare is a thing.
  • Not use profanity during my mammogram. (yeah….we can dream, can’t we?)

So, there ya have it. I’ve posted before that I actually like setting resolutions/goals at the beginning of the year. Some years were complete busts, but some actually worked out. It doesn’t hurt to try. 2022 was amazing, but now that I’m past the busiest year I can remember, I’m ready for some quiet time to focus ahead.

After I get past this science fair bull$**t.

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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?

 

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.

 

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.

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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.

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.